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Lifestyle Collection spring top tip - splendid seedlings

November 2019

Kath Irvine schools us on how to raise good seedlings this spring and summer.

Follow these easy steps for healthy seedlings:

1. Begin with fresh seeds as old ones won’t germinate as well. If you store seeds yourself – date them. Or if you
purchase them make sure the packet is date stamped.

2. Ensure your seed trays are clean and watch out for the corners which harbour bacteria. Clean using water
and a scrubbing brush, followed by drying in the sun.

3. Gather your tools: trays or pots, labels, a waterproof pen, spoons and seed raising mix.

4. Prepare your seed tray: fill with seed mix then place in a tub of water until it is wet from top to bottom. Next,
remove the tray and let the water drain, smooth the top and firm down with your hand. Put in your labels.

5. Sow your seed at a depth of twice its width, so that a two seed high pile will be level with the top of the soil.

  • For fine seed, such as lettuce, sprinkle seeds on the top of the firmed down seed mix, then cover with a sprinkle of more seed mix, then firm down.
  • For middle-sized seed, such as cabbage, turn a spoon upside down and use the end to scratch out a groove. Sprinkle the seeds along the groove, cover and firm down.
  • For bigger seeds, like pumpkin, make a hole with the end of your upside down spoon, pop the seed in, cover and firm down.

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6. Raise your seeds in a sunny, warm, protected area away from birds, slugs and family pets.

7. The perfect moisture level is described by Kath as ‘barely moist’ - not too wet and not too dry. To achieve this dip
your tray of seedlings in a container of water (bath, sink or plastic tray). This is called ‘bottom watering’ and prevents
dampening off, drying out, fungus and mould (as the foliage is kept dry). Fill the container up to around a third
of the seedling tray. Soak it until the top is moist, then take it out. When the top of the tray has dried out – it’s time
to water again.

8. Prick your seedlings. This means when a seedling has grown four leaves it needs to move to a new home. Here’s what to do:

  • Prepare a seedling tray as Kath has already explained above, making holes ready to receive the seeds.
  • Water the seedlings, placing the tray in a tub of water. This will prevent the roots from breaking and helps the soil stick to the roots.
  • Weed out the weak seedlings, choosing only the biggest and straightest ones.
  • Take a seedling by the leaf (not the stem) and using your teaspoon dig it out. Still holding the leaf, plant it into the new hole, firming the soil in around it.
  • This process is best done in the evening, when it’s cooler

To read more of the Lifestyle Collection magazine by click here

Kath Irvine is a permaculture designer and has been designing and managing edible gardens since the late 1990’s. Passionate about growing food and good design, Kath runs workshops from her Edible Backyard. Go to for more info.

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