Sowing Spring seeds

My Spring seed collection (as distinct from my autumn seed collection) has been sitting on my shed bench for weeks now, waiting for those harbingers of Spring; the honey bees. Today the whole garden resounded with their humming as they gathered nectar and pollen from the flowering citrus trees and the broccoli, rocket and cabbage flowers in the kitchen garden.

Seeds are sprinkled into a 2/3 deep layer of finely-sieved soil in old seed punnets packed into seed trays. The final 1/3 depth is filled with the same soil mixture. Each punnet is labelled with a pointed wooden slat made from window blinds.

While the plant nurseries have been alive with humans for some weeks now, it’s the activity of these bees that lets me know that Mother Nature has started her Spring engine in earnest after the quiet of the winter garden. It’s time to plant seeds.

For some years past I’ve experimented with various peat pots and potting mixtures into which to plant my Spring seed collection; those seeds, at any rate, that start life best as seedlings, rather than those best sown directly into the garden beds, such as the large seeds of sunflowers, cucumbers, beans, corn, zucchini and pumpkin.

But it’s all too tempting to mistake purchasing stuff with gardening; the natural adjunct to seed saving is to plant out one’s own seed, and it’s quicker too. Why is that? Well, because I’ve saved on all sorts of discarded seed punnets and seed trays, old coffee tins for seed storage, cake trays to stand seed trays on out of reach of earwigs, and flat wooden window blinds that can be cut up and used to label seed trays.

Chicken-made potting mix is made with the most basic equipment; a metal garbage tin lid to catch the sievings, an inexpensive round plastic sieve, and a shovel to fill the sieve with. Because this surface soil layer is bone dry at the moment, this nutitious mixture pours easily and can be added by hand to the seed punnets. But the real work in preparing for seed planting day has been done by the chickens whose breakfast table and toilet both reside under our huge old lemon tree; they have been scratching about for years turning the top layer of soil into a fine and nutritious seed-planting mix. One need only sieve off a shovelful or two of this wonderful natural material to replace bags of potting mix full of coconut fibre and man-made chemical nutrients.

There’s only one small catch – for reasons unknown to me, this great stuff comes out of the chicken yard so dry that for the moment it forms a ‘non-wetting soil’; water beads on the top of it instead of sinking in. So now begins the careful process of turning my seed trays into seedling trays by careful and very regular slow watering with rain water from a watering can.

Seed trays lined with old cotton cloth form shallow trays for bulk plantings of lettuce seed, spring onions and Chinese wombok. This heirloom watering can is used to fetch pure rainwater from the tanks to get the seedlings started; the salt content of rain water (unlike Adelaide's town water) is zero.

This allows the moisture to move in around the seeds and to kick Spring off in earnest.

Seed trays filled with labelled seed punnets are placed out in the sun on old inverted 'cake trays' that allow drainage while providing some mild obstacles to earwigs and slater beetles that would nibble off the young seedlings.

5 comments:

HAZEL said...

I was wondering what would make a good substitute for commercial seed raising mix. I will have a look around the yard. What I want is a list of what you have planted!

Veggie Gnome said...

Hazel, Andrew asked me to reply to your comment (he does not seem to be able to comment on the blog at the moment).
The list of seeds planted can be found on the blog here: http://adelaidegardeners.blogspot.com/2011/08/seed-savers-sunday.html

Melbourne Function Room said...

Those are great.

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Lauren Persiana said...

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