The Berry Cottage Gardener

The Berry cottage gardener

for gardens pretty and productive

SARAH’S GARDEN JOURNAL

Growing Fruit And Vegetables From Seed

"A love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies" - Gertrude Jekyll

Growing fruit and vegetable from seed is a source of immense satisfaction for me, and at times, enormous frustration!

The appeal of growing from seed is many and varied.  It’s cheap, challenging and rewarding.  And there’s an amazing array of produce to choose from, including heirloom varieties, such as the crookneck pumpkin, or fat bastard asparagus.  I don’t fancy your chances of finding these at your local hardware store!

Growing from seed definitely requires a bit of effort and the results can be a bit hit-and-miss (at least in my hands!), however it’s so cheap to do, I urge you to give it a try.

Many fruit and veges are best raised in punnets, to enable germination and keep the delicate developing plants protected from the elements, until they are strong enough to cope with the great outdoors.  Examples of produce best grown in punnets include tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli and cauliflower.

What do I raise seeds in?

This is is where all those old punnets lying around your shed come in handy.  Just be sure to wash them thoroughly before use.  Another eco-friendly alternative is egg cartons.  Once the seedling is ready to be planted out, the degradable egg carton can buried into the soil, avoiding any root disturbance.  Genius!

You’ll need seed-raising mix to raise your seeds.  You can buy this ready-mixed, or if you’re keen, you can make your own with a mixed of sieved compost and vermiculite.  It’s important the mix is light and porous.  Using regular potting mix is likely to be too heavy – the poor seed will likely rot away before it has a chance to germinate.

The rule of thumb for sowing seeds is to sow at the depth of the diameter of the seed.  Too deep and it may never see the light of day, too shallow at it may dry out before it can burst open.

Where do I raise seeds?

Seeds needs warmth, light and water to germinate.  Often it’s best to provide a cloche to maintain constant warmth and protection from the elements.  This can be as simple as a plastic bag, or recycled milk bottle.  When watering your new seeds, remember just to keep the soil moist, not bogged.  It’s often best to use a spray bottle for watering initially, to ensure you’re not too overzealous!

What can I expect?

Fingers crossed, sprouting seeds within a week or so of planting.  The first true leaves are what we’re waiting for.  These actually resemble the leaf of the plant you’re attempting to grow.  Once these appear, it should be onwards and upwards.

When can I plant it out?

This is the exciting bit.  You’ve worked really hard to get to this point, so it’s important not to falter now.  When your seedlings resemble those you’d normally buy for $4 or $5, it’s time to get planting.  Prepare the bed well, dig over for weeds and maybe add in some compost.  When planting, handle the seedlings gently, preferably by the leaves, never the stem as this can crush it.

Then feed, water and stand back and admire what you’ve created (with a little help of mother nature of course!)

If all this seed raising sounds like a bit too much hard work, I have good news!  Some seeds actually do a lot better planted directly into the ground.  In fact, it’s recommended, so who are we to argue?

Below are some examples of vegetables which will actually be better planted direcly in the ground from seeds

Carrots

Carrots grown from punnets are rarely a success – often spindly, more leaf than the root vegetable we’re looking for.  Carrot seeds are tiny, so to help spread them evenly and avoid overcrowding, it’s best to mix them with sand, then scatter them along a line.  Because they’re so small, they only need a light covering of seed raising mix.  Despite your best efforts, carrots may still need thiining out as they emerge, to prevent stunted twisted roots.

Beetroot

Beetroot seeds are actually a cluster of seeds.  They are encased in a hard shell.  You can encourage germination by soaking the seeds in a weak seaweed solution for about half an hour prior to planting out.

Rocket

Rocket by name, rocket by nature.  These seeds will germinate almost before your eyes. It’s a fun, tasty salad green to grow, and so cost-effective.  You’ll never buy a wilted bag from the supermarket again.

Peas and Beans

Peas and beans are cheap and cheerful.  They shoot readily.  Just water them after planting then forget them . It is possible to kill them with kindness, as too much water will cause them to rot.  The emerging shoots are very attractive to birds, so it may be best to net them in the early stages of life, or get creative with cd’s, windmills, reflective tape-anything to keep our feathered friends away.

Like most things in life, gardening is best approached with a sense of humour.  I remember pain-stakingly planting out rows of perfectly straight, evenly spaced lines of seed only to find my two year old nephew jubiantly playing in Aunty Sarah’s dirty “sand pit” three days later.  I thought all was lost, as the soil was scattered everywhere and deeply dug. I left the bed vacant, and to my surprise, in a couple of weeks, it was a mass of newly sprouting shoots.  The jumble of carrots, beetroot and radishes were, to this day, the best I’ve ever grown.  So it seems, no matter what we do, nature really does know best!