Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Making Seedlings Happen for a Price.

Since the cool months are Vetiver down time,I thought I'd invest any surplus energy into seed raising.

The scenario planned was to maybe hold a seedling  garage sale day once per month. I've done events like this before but without much success. This time -- in COVID times -- I thought the service was more likely to be community functional.

In effect, I planted more seeds than my own needs with the aim of distributing the surplus.

Given them chilly mornings it has been hard yakka outdoors to get seeds sprouting and growing. While I made my own seedling mix, it amazed me what my outlay  was in expenses and time.

Given the price of vegetables in the supermarket I am impressed on how little must be getting back to the grower. Warren and family, who run the seedling stall at the Caboolture Mkts, offers veg seedling and herbs at obscenely cheap prices.

But when I do it there is no way I can match them given my limited scale of production.

Cost of seed + Cost of Soil Mix + Attending to plants & Watering.

We know Bunnings' seedlings are expensive-- and I can certainly do cheaper than that outlet. But you have to respect your local market farmers  for their ability to grow and  supply cheap quality food.

They must juggle:

Cost of seed, Cost of irrigation, Cost of nutrient inputs, Cost of Labour for maintenance and harvesting, Cost of transit and marketing if they don't have a contract...

As you know, growing plants from seed will require almost the same investment of labour  for 5 as it would for 25 seeds you plant.

So I figured: why not share the potential largess?

My hack is to distribute the plants bare rooted. That way, my outlay for pots and cell trays becomes an ongoing resource that I don't have to replenish. Plastic pots for seedlings aren't expensive but you want to be able to recycle your own.

Even then I would not give up your day job to become a seedling raiser and seller...

A mate here used to do a good business growing and selling herbs. Perennials in the main. Supposedly you can get more for them as folk expect to pay more. But no way does it make economic sense to buy a cabbage seedling for $1 when you can purchase the completed vegetable for $3.

Just saying. A tomato seedling, yes -- but not a single root or stem veg.

For your $1 you really need more than one seedling.

So come Saturday morning I'm running a stall in my front yard as an experiment. I used to grow veges to sell at our once-per-month market (no longer going), but really it is far more convenient to convert your own front yard to retail.

That is, if you can get the word out. Nowadays though, most suburbs have a local online gardening network of sorts.

Given the recent COVID run on seeds I suspect that front door selling of seedlings may be a great way to serve your local community and network. 

I reckon that in urban areas, seed raising -- rather than food raising -- may be a great way to sponsor a CSA neighbourhood system: people tell you what seedlings they want and you grow them from your stock of seeds for an agreed upon price.

'CSA' means Community Supported Agriculture.

To commit to harvested vegetables means you commit to and deliver despite many variables such as storm, bugs and other weatherings.

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Comment by Sophie on July 21, 2020 at 8:30

Sounds good Dave, good on ya. Yeah I've seen that video about mass producing seedlings, intense! I think the point with the small size/less medium is as you say, quick distribution a-plenty. They always sell out. One tray per type; a dozen types for the season. What they don't sell they plant. I asked a lot of questions over the years because was curious whether it was a viable revenue option. After successfully growing lots of seedlings in Covid it has been on my mind though not to the point of costing. Have been largely giving away the excess and learning to manage quantities better. All the best with your nursery endeavours!

Comment by Dave Riley on July 20, 2020 at 20:49

I wasn't hoping on a big outreach as I was experimenting. But you've nailed it,Sophie: cost. Seedling producers I buy from can do the plant for 40c. For the backyarder option, you'd need to not only produce on a huge scale, but also have the means to distribute your seedlings quickly. The fewer seeds you plant, the more expensive is the sale price.

Ironic, isn't it? 40c isn't worth my while at all. But selling Vetiver at 75c is -- and I'm the cheapest in the country for point of sale slips.  Some producers are charging $3 or $5! So I guess I'm being evangelical rather than just plain exploitative.

I am better served by growing mixed salad greens and selling bags of that. I've done that in the past too. As a garage sale option, that's probably more feasible and likely to be popular.

But I'll meditate on this and continue to experiment.

FYI the cell tray I use is this one: We use it to bring on the Vetiver slips. Then I switched my  seed to seedling growing to these 40 cells/tray. We have many trays. I suspect that with the 198 cell tray, you really do need  controlled environment/protocols to grow the seeds in such a very limited volume of growing medium.

Here's a video of how my preferred seedling family plants so many seeds so quickly and cheaply. None of this by hand stuff.

Just on nurserying, here's an image of our new V-plantation.

As the weather warms we're sure to be busy. Nothing planted as yet. Our nursery is still a backyard enterprise. I may be cumbersome with the veges but I do know my way around Vetiver grass.

Comment by Sophie on July 20, 2020 at 9:13

Good initiative Dave and interesting comments re cost to produce. Yours are probably a bit bigger than the cheapie per cell seedlings I would see at markets (Witta markets 40c per cell) which might explain less cost (less growing media needed) - this looks like the one they use and we just wrap them up in newspaper. Buying potting mix in bulk also makes a bit more affordable/including your own sifted compost +sand etc. I've had some chats with semi-retired folk how do this well.  Perhaps try advertising on your suburbs local Facebook buy/swap page and also Gumtree - you might get a broader reach?

Comment by Christa on July 19, 2020 at 11:21

If I lived closer, I would have visited your stall, there will be big changes in our garden soon. Easy smaller plants that are easier to control and water.

Comment by Jeff Kiehne on July 19, 2020 at 10:04

Covid19 is not over  and the problem with seedlings is they have a short shelf life but could possibly do seedling that have a longer  term like chili eggplant  and Rosella plants   but need to have others who can sell the plants but then have to sell at wholesale prices  and if do as a garage sale going to have complaints from neighbors and get reported to council.

Comment by Doug Hanning on July 19, 2020 at 7:06

Yes most folks are reactive not proactive. I refuse to live like that and love it when people tell me something cant be done or shouldnt be done - fuel to my fire.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on July 18, 2020 at 23:22

Well of course.  Covid19 is over now, so I guess the rush on home grown is slowing.  *head plant*  I'm struggling with spelling here... is it "fickle" or "thickle?" 

Comment by Dave Riley on July 18, 2020 at 22:12

Easy to run but a waste of time. Hardly any interest. I'll do it again though. Maybe I miscalculated the reach out and here you really need signage like Garage Sale mode. But since I only had limited stock I wasn't promoting off line.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on July 18, 2020 at 21:08

Yeah, how did it go?

Comment by Fiona Ryan on July 18, 2020 at 17:01

Did you run your stall this morning Dave? If so, was there any interest?

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GrowVetiver

Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.


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