The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

Striking Seeds

One of the most important skills you can learn in your garden is striking your own seed.

It can appear somewhat of a mystical art, especially if you’ve ever had a go, so heres the Good Oil.

Seeds

Ensure your seed is fresh, viable and of course Heirloom. see Edition #171 (hyperlink this please Alex)

Fresh seed is a great place to start, ensuring higher strike rates and boosting your confidence. Some seeds store better than others and where you store them matters. I use glass jars and keep them out of sunlight in a cool, stable temperature. 

Most seed can be directly sown in the garden, but it’s risky. 

Smaller seeds (carrot, brassicas, parsnips) are easily carried off by ants before they germinate. I’ve wasted a lot of time waiting for seed when they were MIA.

Medium seeds (beetroot & spinach) don’t suffer this fate so much, as they are planted a little deeper in the soil. They will be hard to find for watering, so mark them with a stick, and don’t plant over them.

Larger seed (corn, peas, beans) can be directly sown into the soil, but they are a favourite for rodents. They find the seeds and dig them up to eat. Not when they are planted, nor when they have sprouted, just the bit before you can see it emerge. Again, a lot of my time has been spent waiting for germination of seed that was stolen.

The other problem with striking seeds in our unpredictable Highland Climate is the short summer growing season. Generally summer crops need to be started early in the colder months. I like to start my tomatoes 12 weeks before I plant them out, so I’m often striking tomato seeds in June/July!

I raise most of my seed into seedlings before I put them in the garden. I’ve had good success with esky tomatoes, and this taught me about stable soil temp for raising seeds. Each seed has a striking temperature to initiate the sprouting process. If you put a tomato seed in the ground it will wait until the soil temp is 16C, and so it is with all vegetables, only the soil temp varies.

Before I knew what temps all my veggies preferred, I used eskies to strike my seeds. The soil temp heats up and the insulated walls keeps the temp up for longer overnight. Ive tried many options to keep the frost off overnight, with varying success.

Glass from old windows, the obvious first choice, right? Wrong! 

The glass transferred the cold and melted baby plants. Ive tried blankets, shade cloth, foam lids, wood and perspex. 

Perspex is my favourite because it doesn’t transfer the cold as much and morning light gets in if I sleep in. Wood is a good option, if you are a regular early riser. The wood has enough weight to hold itself down and doesn’t transfer the cold. 

If you can’t find an old esky, try a common foam box. Usually waste, free and they sometimes come with lids. Punch drainage holes in the bottom and now it’s a pot. 

Advanced Seed striking box

Soil

Your seed raising mix is important too. You want a fine mix, with no large pieces, I sieve through a 5mm gauge. Seeds need to be hugged by the soil to germinate. If the large particles are left in the mix the seeds can sometimes be left in a void with no soil or water, making it difficult to strike.

Seed raising mix is low in nutrients, as the seed and new roots don’t want to be overwhelmed by rich active soil. The low activity means that the seed won’t be composted before it germinates or experience fungal issues.

I put 50mm of rich potting mix in the bottom of the box, and 30mm of sifted seed raising mix on top of that. The seed raising mix will hug each seed and the feeder roots will grow into the nutrients below giving you a few extra weeks in the box. The seedlings will stay until they have 1-2 full set of leaves.

Small seeds; place directly onto seed raising mix in rows. Cover with a light dusting of seedling mix. 

Medium seed; make furrows with your finger in lines across the box. Apply seed into these furrows. Flatten furrows and apply light sprinkling of seedling mix.

Large seeds; presoak in skywater overnight (12 hours). The presoak gives the seed a big drink to kick of the process, improving striking times. Fully hydrating the seed in the soil takes too long. Drain in morning and plant into boxes or garden bed. Plant big seed, 3 times deeper than the seed size, to ensure a solid root mass forms and it stands upright. 

For older, less viable seeds, they can be soaked in a solution of kelp, and/or microbes, to assist with higher percentage strike rate. #2 Planting Tonic available from bombayseedtraders.com or from Braidwood Arts & General Store is a combination of Kelp, Aloe and Microbes that can help with this process.

Once the seeds are planted, a light dusting of sugarcane mulch is applied to the soil surface. This will prevent water loss, baking of the soil and it will keep your seeds in place when you water. Most sprouts will push through the mulch within the week.

Water in with Skywater. Keep moist but not wet. Place the box in morning sun and you’ll have baby seedlings in weeks. Now the trick I’m told, is transplanting. 

Transplanting

To get your little treasures out of the box it takes some considered handling, and apparently carrots, beets and parsnips don’t like transplanting, but I’ve never noticed.  

I use my hands, I scoop up a seedling, usually with another seedling in tow. I don’t mess with their roots at all. I just pop the handful of seedlings into a hole in the garden bed directly. If you don’t mess with the roots, they wont notice the move. Water in with #2 Planting Tonic to ensure the move goes smoothly.

This week

Happy to say that Joe Blake has eaten all the rats in the garden, post hibernation, and then moved on. The ecosystem is in full operation as king parrots start to arrive back after their winter away.

And right on cue, Sunday & Monday frosts set back the garden a bit. Emerging Mulberry leaves melted. Self seeding nasturtiums also melted. The Wisteria had just popped a couple of blooms but the buds, they melted off the vine. Sorry bees.

We usually get a few stray frosts as spring departs, but the tomatoes made it and seedlings in foam boxes survived too. My Soil temp is 17C so I’m striking pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis and watermelons and my Tomatoes are going in the ground! 

Next week Raised Beds

Stay awesome, 

The Gordon Gnohm

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