Because I'm supplying more of my gardening projects with seedlings I've been trying to tweak my DIY.
At the primary school we have use of a huge shade tunnel.
I do recommend having a tunnel like that as it cuts down labors and anxieties.
I also get to compare my at home habits with a different environment and horticultural abuse from the under 12s.
However, at home I use tables under the frangipani and within the shade drop of the back of the house. I also string shade cloth up willy nilly --depending on the season.
I lay out tiles on these tables over a tarp, not only to protect them, but to generate a clean surface. With the tiles below less water accumulates underneath the pots I plant in.
The tiles are mostly white so they should reflect heat upwards to the pots and while also offering a wee bit of thermal mass.
We drown in tiles here but you can get 'em cheap at tip shops.
I'm finding that tables placed about the backyard area are much more efficient than shelves as the shade is constant and predictable -- while watering vertically down onto the growing medium is more efficient than managing your plants from the side and not being able to see each seedling clearly..
As they grow I move the seedlings about.I also re-soak some pots with a bit of fertilizer added(see below). I'm learning (in my sandy garden at least where rooting matters so much)that seedling progress should be ruled by their root development and not so much by their height above ground.
After a few experiments over the years I've settled on one size fits all:90mm squat plastic plant pots.
We all have a few of these nursery industry standard pots and I have built up a collection over time.
Not enough it seems, so I have ordered another 150 units from HERE. Great deal.
You can use them over and over again. Just don't stand on them.
The size is 'just right' for me and my ways as I plant a few seeds in each pot, then separate the seedlings when I plant out.
The volume gives you a good indication of root development when you check the pot bottoms.Their size is also large enough to sustain the seedling if you fail to water your nursery plants enough.
I've had no major issues separating the plants but I do pot up some plants --like tomatoes -- further if I think it necessary.
In Winter I move the pots further out into the sun and look to shade in Summer.
The tables are high enough to protect seedlings from the savagery of any frosts.
Teaching youngsters every week to grow from seed has lifted my own game.
I buy my own seed raising mixes but I'd like to reduce my costs...
The horticulturalist I used to work with in the school garden had no qualms about blending these mixes with garden soil and I'm thinking of switching to that combo.
I have no recipes to offer -- but we still got seedlings.
When I plant out the seeds into the pots, after labeling I rest the pots (x8) in handy caddies with a central handle.
Eight 90mm pots fit in snugly and after placing the seeded pots in the caddies I add fertilized water to irrigate them for a day or so -- from below the seed depth.
The pots are paddling rather than drowning. Try to buy the caddies with the shallower walls as you want the sun to bask the growing plant.
These caddies are great for this kind of irrigation and are ideal for carrying the potted seedlings from A to B -- especially when planting out.
They make agreat tool for deep watering seedlings at any time: just put the pots in the caddy and add some water.
For fertilizer I use aloe vera mix.I also irrigate with this a few times as the seedlings grow.
I always hope to plant out into mulched beds but that is an option not so popular with root veg.
I now store my seed collection in an old Esky. Previously I refrigerated them but the Esky works fine.
For planting seeds I use a pair of blunt end forceps. I pour any seeds into my little seed sower and pick up each one daintily with the forceps before stabbing the growing medium with it. The advantage of the seed sower is that it is easy to return the unused seeds to their packet.
Maybe I should but I haven't been washing my 90mm pots, let alone cleansing with antiseptic mixes.
Jean Martin Fortier in The Market Gardener just washes them in a little soap and water before rinsing.. Great book worthy of being a bible: LINK
Writing this post got me thinking that maybe I could reduce some of the burden of collecting, paying for and running out of 'seed raising mix'.
Buying perlite, coir and such to recipe up doesn't really delight me -- but i see where suppliers have organic mixes on offer.
Since my garden soil is sandy anyway maybe all I need is a little umph to hold moisture. But then if I maintain a good irrigation regime, that's not necessarily a bugbear.
It always annoys me that a seedling that can grow in any day soil supposedly needs a special blend to spend its infancy.
So maybe a few experiments are in order.
I come from the time of using 'seed raising beds'.
This has been the norm for hundreds maybe thousands of years and is still the practice in most of the world (check out FAO manuals).
So I'm thinking that since I use pots with a volume of 260ml maybe I could get away with soil plus a little something else?
As I study up on Vetiver management, I'm learning a lot about possibilities...and since I've spent so much energy creating my own soil from sand, maybe I could consider using it from sprout to harvest rather than fetishizing the nursery medium.
Also it costs our school project a lot to keep up the seed raising mix supply...when we have such a great shade hub to utilize.
I mean why consider your seed planting in isolation from your garden dirt? If you can plant a seed in the garden why not use your own garden soil to plant it too? Just ensure friability and water holding. Keep the water up. Kick it along with fertilizer if necessary.
Just make sure that when you plant out, some of the growing medium hangs onto the seedling roots.
The seedlings I buy at the markets have hardly any growing medium in their cubby holes. They grow in a mere spoonful of seed raising mix.They are driven instead by good irrigation and fertilization: designed to grow fast and with reduced input costs.-- all for 7 for a dollar!
I gather that sifting your soil is the basic tenet of seedbed making. One spade full at a time. With my sand that's straightforward hard work. On clay, maybe not so sure.
They even have huge machines to do it for farmers, forestry and golf links.
Sodium Percarbonate the ingredient in napisan is a good and easy to get sanitizer.