Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

(1) Seed raising practices

I'm sure folk are familiar with the business of planting seeds...but there, of course, are a few options. 

Since I've upped my reliance on many different seeds I'm exploring and adapting my own habits. I've just started using flats rather than moulded cells primarily because I find the flat trays more sustainable than the cell packs. The cells split and fall apart. As well as easily bent, they are often limited to the one size per plant, often with a narrow surface opening. With flats you have to 'prick' out rather than squeeze out the seedlings but I like the option of having a lot of different seedlings growing together.

Flats are also easy to move around to shade and sunshine as required..or bag up for micro climating. I grow my seedlings outback and move them about according to the weather before I plant them in the garden beds

Whats' your habit and preference?

An earlier discussion posted here is very useful...

(2) Salad mixes

I'm growing a range of salad greens and I'm a keen cut-and-come again person. I'm always unwilling to harvest a whole lettuce. So I'm asking how do folk harvest in their salad garden? Early on I drowned myself in Joy Larkcom's The Salad Garden and she has influenced  so much of my gardening perspective.

What's your procedure?

A standard Mesclun mix is straightforward --albeit by way of sacrifice -- but as the weather heats up the salady plants start to bolt so it becomes harder to harvest when small.So the leaves get bigger and bigger and when the seed heads begin to form, bitterness kicks in.

The irony is that  having a kitchen veg garden should be about harvesting for immediate use...but really with salad greens in our sub tropical climate management is much more complicated. Keeping ahead of the harvest is a race with nature.

I just got myself a serious spinner in order to keep ahead of the growth, but if there are any salad junkies out there I'd love to hear how you manage the garden bed to table (to storage) here in  SEQ. Obviously the weak part of the harvest is the torn or cut edge of the 'picked' green...and the challenge is to protect your salad from that tear if you seek to store it, even briefly....and protect the living plant that remains in situ (this begs the harvest tool question).

Obviously the supermarket salads and mixes are primarily hydroponic and, as we know, the range of plants used is very limited....so what you see in the cool cabinets aren't necessarily the last word in  possibility.

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All salads are a choice of weeds on a plate. Joy Larkom's The Organic Salad Garden is a game changer  in that regard. Absolute essential salad reference. Massive array of options. Now re-issued.

When you go through old gardening and herbal text books -- back to Elizabethan times 'salade' is an assortment of weeds --just as the Italian tradition today is based on roadside gathering of leaves.

All salad greens go better in the cool...and bolt in  the heat but I've found that chicories are slower to bolt in the Summer although the leaves may toughen up.But shading is essential.

Thats' the Australian contradiction: we prefer to eat lettuce and other salad greens in the middle of Summer heat.

Don't we just … also Radish and Celery.

Since I've been fiddling with my seed planting habits (thus my original question) -- this is my current protocol.

  1. Refrigeration: I store my seeds in a bag in the refrigerator and find I can grow from some seeds that are many years old...
  2. Cost: Aside from the options of seed saving my primary cost is buying seeds so I realised that the more care I take with each seed  I 'own' will pay off in the future.
  3. Tweezers and Seed Sower: Each seed I sort through the seed sower 'funnel' and pick up and plant using a pair of surgical tweezers.Works great for almost all seeds -- no waste -- except the tiniest (such as oregano).
  4. Flats: Rather than cells I use flats -- plastic trays I fill with seed raising mix (I'm open to recommendations there as to prefer seed raising mixes). I press down a grid frame and plant in rows then mark my date and plant on a  long white tile I rest against the back of the flat.I store these seedling flats outside in a shaded spot. Flats have the advantage that they are sturdy, easily wetted,  and can be moved around from table to bench to shelf for direct working on. The  thin walled plastic cells sets were always a cause of pain for me.Short lived. Easily crumpled and split. With the flats you can repair any crack with masking tape. Laid out in flats is a great way to plan you gardening planting schedule.They're like mini maps of the whole garden to be.
  5. Pot Maker: Since I use a lot of paper in the garden I love the DIY pots  you can make out of newspaper with the Pot Maker roll system. So I've started to grow some seeds in these, including some  -- like beans -- you'd normally direct sow.
  6. Potting Up: I'm thinking of transferring some of my seedings at the two leaf stage into these paper pots en route thereafter to be planted in the garden--paper and all -- rather than sow directly into the garden from the flats. The mix I'm using for these is a potting mix plus some seed raising mix.(Again I'm keen for suggestions).Potting up also 'stores' seedlings while you wait or create space for them to be planted if waiting on a harvest to proceed.
  7. Planting in the beds: Since I prefer to plant densely I've decided that I have more control over the concentration of my plants and their polycultural mix if I grow to a good seedling height before I plant them in the garden soil...paper and all.

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