Spring seedling plant-out begins

Seeds saved in previous years were planted out three weeks ago and lettuce seedlings are already far enough along to be planted out - the first of the massive replanting effort ahead of us right up to Christmas and beyond.

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Other seedlings - tomatoes, dill, red cabbage, basil, beetroot, capsicums, chillies and various herbs, are still a week or two away from needing to come out of the seed trays. Bare patches in the seed trays show me where my seed has gotten too old and is now non-viable. Other (rarer) varieties like purple-tiger chillies and chocolate capsicum have germinated poorly but adequately.

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Only two of my thirteen vegetable beds are in fact ready for plant-outs, so I have to juggle with the plan a bit and shift the lettuce into the bed designed for bush beans. As Eisenhower said “Plans are useless, but planning is invaluable”. Plans often go bust in this garden – this one crashed due to expediency.P1030512My main concern when planting soft-leaved seedlings like lettuces is to do all I can to avoid the ‘transplant shock’ that occurs when their delicate root systems are yanked out of friendly potting mix and stuffed into real soil. So I’ve spent the past week wetting up the sub-soil of this one bed ready for this occasion. Now I just hoe in the trenches and bung clumps of lettuce seedlings into the ground along the drip lines at regular intervals.

P1030528A few hours later, and a couple of trays of lettuce seedlings – several hundred lettuce plants – are in and away.P1030537There’s nothing new to me in raising lettuces, but this year I’ll be experimenting with better ways to manage the soil moisture such that these lettuces reach the table as soon as possible with the least stress to them and us. So I’ve added soil moisture monitoring equipment to this bed.

Why go to all that expense? Simply because the cost of water is now by far the largest expenditure in providing home-grown fruit and vegetables to the kitchen. To measure is to know. And as it was me that invented this gadgetry, there are always a few spare units left over and lying around at work, so I bring them home and put them to work in among my own vegetables. Pottering around among them suggests new ways of designing and using them in the broader scene of Australia’s irrigated agricultural regions.

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