Getting serious about seeds

Posted by Alastair Otter on October 6, 2009
Posted in Garden

It’s been a month since I launched Project Green, an occasional series of posts on my still-developing gardening skills and things have progressed well. So much so that I have now built a fairly serious “seedling table” out of pieces on wood I had in the garage for another project that never materialised. At first glance the seedling table is … um … fairly large. Even I had my doubts about my ambitions when I first looked at the finished product. But, after just a couple of weeks the table is packed to capacity (at least on the top bird-proofed section) and many of the first seedlings have already been transplanted to the garden, having outgrown their seed trays.

seedtableThe idea for a seedling table was partly from some online reading I did and partly from the fact that the little old table I was using wasn’t really big enough. And that to protect the seedlings from birds I had to rig up an awkward system of netting that just got in the way.

The new seedling table has everything: netting to discourage birds, built-in sprinklers for water and enough room to store a good hundred-odd seedlings. The top shelf of the seedling table stands around one meter high which is a good height to work with without having to bend over the whole time. The bottom shelf is half as high and the table is 1.5m long and 0.8m wide. The two shelves are made from chicken wire pinned to the shelf beams. The chicken wire is not the best decision I made. It has a tendency to stretch under weight and it is surprising how heavy a few seedling trays can become. I will probably replace the chicken wire sometime in the near future, either with significantly stronger wire or perhaps even some wooden slats. But for now I’m going to leave it.

sprinklerThe sprinkler system is piped into the seedling table and uses the common garden sprinkler attachments you find in most hardware stores and nurseries. When I made the table I braced opposite corners of the “shelf beams” with a square block of wood to add rigidity to the table. Only once I’d done that did I realise how handy these would be to mount the sprinkler heads. Drilling a hole into two corner braces I mounted the sprinklers on high-rise poles inserted into the corner braces. With two 90% sprinkler heads the entire table gets a gentle watering in one go.

Successes and failures

The most successful seedlings we’ve grown to date on the new table are sweetcorn and basil. Basil grows just about anywhere and we’ve had to thin it out substantially over the past weekend. The sweetcorn seeds were also highly rewarding. Within days of planting them shoots appeared and they grew so fast that it seemed that if you checked them twice a day you could actually see them growing.

My first lettuce seeds, planted before the protection of the new seedling table, were pretty much wiped out by the birds the moment they appeared. Coriander, watermelon, cucumber and a variety of other lettuce seeds, on the other hand, sprouted quickly on the seedling table and are well on their way to being transplanted to the herb and vegetable gardens.

My attempts at growing lavender from seed are still largely unsuccessful, though I do have one or two promising looking shoots appearing this week. All the reading I’ve done suggests that lavender is an exercise in patience and that they will likely appear when you least expect them. So, I’m holding on and hoping.

The one thing we’ve no shortage of is tomato plants. We don’t actually plant these, they simply appear wherever we use our compost which is obviously laden with seeds. Gradually we’ve been moving a selection of the better of these to their own pots to be grown further.

We also have a selection of chili seeds planted in trays but so far the only chili bushes appearing this season are those that have seeded themselves around the garden.


4 Responses to “Getting serious about seeds”

  1. Alastair Shand
    October 13th, 2009 @ 10:54 am

    A helpful hint with seed trays : Place painters membrane (obtainable from most paint and hardware stores) over the holes inside the tray before you fill it with soil. This prevents soil from falling out when watering, but allows the water to pass through.

  2. Alastair Otter
    October 13th, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

    A, Thanks. Sounds like a good idea. I have some left over from my recent waterproofing adventures, so I’ll give it a try. Should I be worried about what the membrane is made of?

  3. Alastair Shand
    October 13th, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

    I think it is plastic (like the seed trays

  4. Hail setback for Project Green - Treevolution
    October 26th, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

    […] with just a handful of raindrops, I didn’t take it too seriously. I did cover as much of the seedling table as I could with fine plastic mesh that I had lying around, just in case, and left it at […]

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