Whilst going to the nursery and buying seedlings is fun, it's not always the best option. I raise most of my seedlings from seed, and it is truly the most rewarding experience. Poking little seeds into pots is such a relaxing job, and the joy when those seedlings sprout is wonderful. Also, growing from seed is more affordable, and gives you the option of growing from organic or non-GMO seeds. I plant most of my seedlings into pots rather than direct into the garden for multiple reasons, but the main one being that they are much easier to care for during the early stages.
Unfortunately, most homes don't come with a beautiful little English glasshouse or Pinterest-perfect seed raising nursery. Luckily you don't need one. All seeds need to germinate is soil, sunlight and water. The best seedling raising spot I've had to date was in a rental several years ago. The verandah was concrete and over half of it there was no roof but thick shade cloth. This filtered in the direct sunlight in just the right strength for the little seedlings. A spot like this is ideal, but if you don't have one there are several easy and affordable options for making a seedling raising area.
I wrote about my current little area here, and whilst it has some drawbacks I still manage to raise most of our plants from seed every year.
Three key things when creating a potting area are:
- Gentle sunlight. Seedlings don't need midday sun shining directly on them, but they enjoy morning and afternoon light.
- Shelter from the wind and rain. Our property gets very windy during winter, but thankfully our house is in a sheltered pocket, and that includes the space I use for my potting area. You need either a tin roof or thick shade cloth over your seedlings to keep them safe during heavy downpours. Light rain is fine for them, actually they love it, but heavy rain will damage them and bounce the soil from their pots when it hits them - rain lands surprisingly hard!
- Close to the house. If you're on a town block it's unlikely that your seedlings would be very far from the house, but this is a very important point. I check on my seedlings first thing in the morning, and it's easy to remember to do when they are right off the back verandah. This is a good time to see what has shot, make a mental note of what needs planting out and give everything a little drink. It's a lovely way to start the day, especially when pots of blank soil have been covered with the green haze of tiny sprouts overnight. The magic of growing!
You may be thinking right now "I have nowhere to grow seeds!" but everyone has a spot. Look around your backyard. You don't need a huge space. I have a small table that I cram everything onto and a little garden trolley that I use to put plants vulnerable to grubs because it is easy to cover with bug proof net. If you have a porch or verandah or deck - however small, put a table in a spot that receives morning or afternoon light and use that as your potting space. Whilst overhead sunlight is ideal, it's not always possible. I simply turn my pots around every day or so to keep my seedlings growing straight, as they do tend to learn towards the light. It works a treat!
A large shady tree is also ideal - it will provide dappled sunlight in the middle of the day and the canopy will slow down the rain. Just don't chose a poinciana - this tree seems to attract ants and they will quickly find a home in your pots.
With a little imagination and ingenuity I'm certain you'll find a spot and before long be discovering the joys of growing from seed.
Sow Grow Eat is a good place to start if you are new to growing from seed, as this Queensland based website is designed to make it easy to know what to plant when for your specific climate. All the seeds are sourced from organic or non-GMO suppliers too, and Ange is also offering you 20% off storewide right now with the code "vday". Yay!
Also The Permaculture Home Garden is a wonderful Australian book, whether you are new to gardening or a seasoned grower, it's well worth adding to your shelves.
Do you have any tips about growing plants from seed?
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