By Jane Barlow
A wonderful turn out of folks came to listen to Andrew Christy give us a talk on raising seeds and the growing mediums that can be used, also containers, tricky seeds and ways to improve the way we raise seeds. Ideas and tools for success.
Andrew started off with how he has ended up working part-time at Bunnings Wodonga, and chatting on gardening talk back radio, taking it in turns with Milton K and now giving of his time to us.
He worked with Dept of Environment for 32 years, heavily involved with irrigation groups such as Murray Irrigation, Catchment Management authorities, Murray Wetlands, producing guidelines for agriculture based industries, prosecuting companies for breaches of environmental legislation and soil/water quality issues. Gardening always as a hobby. Then retired with too much time; so ended up at Bunnings, turning a hobby into a job. Said he always loves to learn new things and trends in gardening. Especially getting children out in the garden with market targeting eg “Butterfly mix”. New varieties and back to heritage varieties etc. He enjoys teaching people about how to grow and get results.
He started by telling us about growing mediums and what he uses. He likes a mix he read about in Organic Gardener magazine (6th June 2012) by Phil Dudman on how to make your own seed raising mix. (Andre said it’s a great magazine he subscribes to). See organicgardener.com.au/blogs/how-make-your-own-seed-raising-mix.
Andrew always sieves his compost before using it. Seed raising mix (store brought) he uses said it is a little coarse, thus adds some sand to it. Also uses perlite, peat moss, vermiculite and coir for different seed mixes, depending on seed or purpose.
Talked about mixing small seeds with a little sand in a jar then sowing the mix to get even coverage and reduce the need to thin the resulting seedlings.
Doesn’t fertilize till the seeds are up and then not at full strength as it can burn the little roots of the seedlings. Better ¼ to ½ strength once a week, not too often. Uses ‘Seasol’ to promote root growth.
Talked about some seeds not liking it too wet when germinating, sweet peas and beans as examples. Then soil temperatures, most important not being too cool. Tomatoes a prime example here with a lot of failures if too cool. Said talk to the neighbours.
Depth is another important item; fine seeds dust the medium on top of them, bigger the seed deeper the planting.
Andrew talked about different light settings when germinating seeds (which I personally knew nothing about), he found this from a Yates article titled successful seed raising on the internet he has followed it’s advice and it’s very correct he has found; especially pansy, beans and moisture. Others are sweet peas, petunias and coriander. Many people at work he said have complained about seed germination and he has explained moisture and light to overcome these issues.
Andrew mentioned re-using the punnets from bought seedlings to grow in. He said never buy punnets of seedlings with high, leggy plants or roots hanging out as they will struggle. If using coconut husks (coir fibre) be careful to wash/rinse, at least three times to remove salts.
He showed us some mini hot/green houses from $10 on. Cheap as good as expensive to start off, Andrew suggests. Even a poly box with glass over the top works well. He uses this method for his small bulbs to grow on, may take up to three years (lots of patience, I think). $50 could get you a heating element.
Believes in planting on, then hardening off before planting out in the garden. In hot weather having 50% shade cloth, up off the seedlings to help combat shock to little seedlings.
Andrew said with all these things, have a go; do your homework, especially with native seeds. Have fun and enjoy. He said he was never too old to learn, and I second that motion.
I personally got a lot out of this talk – Spring here I come, with my new-found knowledge. Just have to be patient and wait till it warms up a tad. – Jane
Big thanks to Jane for both arranging Andrew to be our guest speaker and for sharing her notes from the session. We welcome contributions about any aspect of seed saving, gardening or related topics from our members. If you’ve got news or thoughts to share, please let us know.
For those who read the photo captions the seedlings are:
#1. Red Russian kale #2. rainbow chard #3. snow peas
Thanks for playing!