Tag Archive: seeds


Spring is here!

Towards the end of winter I planted out my first round of spring seeds. I’ve been keeping them inside next to a north-facing window and had hoped the warmer temperatures and protection inside would convince the seedlings it was spring. It worked! The seedlings are now a couple of weeks old and are looking pretty happy.

Now that they are larger I’ve been very tempted to plant some out into the garden, but the weather is still a little cool and fluctuating… so I might wait till the weather gets a bit more settled. For now, as with every year, our lounge room has turned into a mini nursery – but it certainly has started the spring excitement at our place!

seed trays 1 seed trays 12 seed trays 10 seed trays 5 seed trays 6 seed trays 7 seed trays 3 seed trays 8 seed trays 9

I think the verdict is finally in on my seedling experiment (see previous posts: breaking the first rule of blogging and seedling experiment update) and now I know what to do in years to come. I’d love to show you a photo of the winning tray – which by far was the tray kept under a sunny window, but I can’t as the tray was so successful most of the seedlings are now out in the garden! Instead here are some healthy looking tomatoes, all grown from seeds from the winning tray and even starting to form fruit.

"Sweetie" tomoatoes

“Sweetie” tomatoes

"Florida Basket" tomatoes

“Florida Basket” tomatoes

"Tommy Toe" (left) and two "Sweet Grape" tomatoes

“Tommy Toe” (left) and two “Sweet Grape” tomatoes

Verdict 4

As the spring weather heated up – I did move this tray outside into full morning sun and then back inside at night for protection, which seemed to work well and the seedlings thrived.

Also a very big thank you to Rosalind (of Just Another Beer Blog) who recommended I try small shallow trays rather than just ready-to-plant paper pots. At first the tray was half demolished by snails in the greenhouse, but after I moved it inside the seedlings have grown really well. Particularly the eggplant seedling – I have never been able to grow eggplants from seeds into full size plants before! Now I know for the years to come how to make it happen – thank you!

verdict 5

Eggplant seedlings growing

verdict 6

Eggplants currently out in the garden

I’ve had a couple of chilli and capsicum seedlings growing – but they have been quite small and are growing a lot slower than the tomatoes and eggplants. Hopefully they’ll get big enough to plant out soon.

verdict 7

Chilli and friend

verdict 8

Capsicums

As for the control tray that was left outside open to the elements – I have planted out a couple of tomatoes from this tray, but that was really all and they haven’t thrived like the others. As for the greenhouse seedlings – it was a complete disaster. I have planted out nothing from this tray, and they barely grew after germination. Once slightly warmer weather during spring kicked in, despite leaving the door open during the day and watering daily, all the seedlings died.

So I may not be the best salesperson for greenhouses or paper pots – but at least I’ll be enjoying my very own tomatoes and eggplants this summer (and still hopeful for capsicums) – all grown from seeds. But I won’t be getting rid of my greenhouse just yet – because apparently I’m not the only one who uses it…

verdict 9 Verdict 10

It’s been a month since I started off my seedling experiment (see previous post – breaking the first rule of blogging), but given the small amount of growth I wish I’d started a month earlier. By far, the winner at the moment is the seedling tray that has been kept inside under the window. The seeds germinated over a week earlier than the other two trays (greenhouse and “control” outside) and the seedlings are now visibly larger as well. A few tomatoes have even been large enough to plant out into the garden, which already feels like a success compared to last year.

Tray 1: kept inside under a sunny window

Tray 1: inside

Tray 1: inside

Seedling from tray 1 planted out in the garden

I was surprised that the seeds in the greenhouse tray took so long to germinate, but I think despite watering them daily they were drying out too much. After moving the tray to the middle shelf (rather than top) they seemed to do better. That was until snails found them…. I would have thought this tray would have been the safe one! But alas, having basil seedlings growing in there too – snails devoured the basil and a few of my other seedlings at the same time. Nightly snail checks over a week found a new snail in there each night, so I’ve moved some of the seedlings into the inside tray to keep them safe.  The seeds in the tray left outside (open to the elements) germinated around the same time as the ones in the greenhouse and growth has been at about the same rate. No snail attacks as of yet, but a few seed pots were obliterated by what appears to be a cat attack. Well I did say they were open to all elements…

Tray 2: greenhouse

Tray 3: outside

Tray 3: tomato seedlings (quite small compared to tray 1)

While I will still be updating on the progress of the three trays, I think I have already discovered why I have been struggling with small seeds – I bought a greenhouse. Two years ago I had a lot of success with small seeds, but I didn’t have the greenhouse then so I would move the seedlings outside during the day, and bring them inside (sheltered from the cold and snails) each night. The seedlings loved the attention and thrived. Last year I bought a greenhouse and grew all my seedlings in there. While it made sense to me at the time, the temperature fluctuations (even when keeping the door open on hot days) was obviously enough to stop the success of my small seeds.

Tray 2: greenhouse – eggplant seedling

I won’t be throwing out the greenhouse just yet though, larger seedlings do really well earlier in spring when it’s a bit too cold to be in the garden yet, and some plants can be moved in over winter to help keep them warm. For now though it looks like our house will be turning into a nursery each spring…

From what I can gather, the main idea of a blog is to demonstrate a passion, projects/ideas and a skill in an area you want to share with and demonstrate to others. Well I’m about to break the first rule of blogging – admit my skill is still growing and ask for help.

Here is my dilemma: apparently I’ve become appallingly bad at growing vegetables from small seeds. I know I can do it – the first year I started gardening I grew dozens of tomato plants all from seed, however over the past couple of years my ability to grow vegetables from seed into full size plants seems to be highly correlated with the size of the seed.

Give me zucchinis, beans, squash, cucumbers – no problem! These easily end up as harvestable plants at the end of the season. However tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums all seem to germinate, but grow so slowly that despite my best efforts they never get large enough to be transplanted out into the garden. I then end up admitting defeat and buy a tray of seedlings.

At first I blamed it on the brand of seeds I was using – but there’s only so long you can keep that up. So help me out – what am I doing wrong???

I’ve set up a “small seed experiment”, which I hope will uncover the solution. I’ve started three trays of seeds – one will be kept inside next to a sunny window, one will be kept in my small greenhouse, and the other will be left outside as a “control” as it will be completely unprotected from the elements…and snails. Each tray has the exact same number and type of seeds growing – a mix of tomatoes (both new and seed saved from my garden), eggplant, capsicum and chilli. I will be updating the progress of each every few weeks, and any advice or tips would be greatly appreciated so that hopefully my skill level continues to grow.

Tray 1 – inside

Tray 2 – greenhouse

Tray 3 – outside

It’s been a bit over a month since I started my experiment to see if leggy seedlings could be saved by planting them deeper than normal into soil – and I have good news! Don’t throw out your leggy seedling, because so far a lot have survived….

The verdict for the veggie seedlings:

 

Kale – huge success! All three types of kale (Red, Tuscan and Blue) that I’ve been growing have continued to grow and do well. Even so large now I transplanted a couple into the garden. While doing this I found than new roots had formed in the section I had planted up.

Red and Tuscan kale leggy seedlings out in the garden!

Broccoli/Cauliflower – mixed success… some have done quite well, others growing slowly. They haven’t died, but when checked hadn’t formed new roots either… will have to keep watching these ones

Purple Sicily Cauliflower

Silver beet/Ruby Chard and Kohl Rabi – all died. Don’t bother trying to save these ones.

Cabbage – will have to let you know for next time, because unfortunately these were all eaten by snails in the first week…

And in the flower department:

Honesty & Stock: Mixed success – still alive but growth extremely slow

Cornflower & Calendula – huge success! Growing well and looking good!

 

So there you have it. Turns out you can plant up leggy seedlings – some will form new roots and others will benefit from a bit of extra support. Overall leggy seedlings are certainly not a waste!

About a month ago I got quite keen and started my first round of autumn and winter seedlings (see Preparing for Autumn and Winter – New Seedlings post). Not long after this I went on holiday…. Most people would have waited until they came back from holiday before starting their seedlings – but I’ve never been known for my patience. I decided not to leave them outside while we were away in case of extreme weather days, so they stayed under a window inside. I came back to an overgrown mess of leggy seedlings!

I was pretty impressed by the amount of growth, but a lot were just too leggy to plant as they were. A quick internet search about what to do lead to mixed results… a lot of people said leggy seedlings will simply die – just start again. There were a few sites/posts however saying it was possible to plant them up (similar to what you would do with tomatoes) and roots grow in the newly planted section. A whole lot else said the seedlings will rot if you try this… As it felt like such a waste to throw my seedlings away, I thought it was worth a try!

I firstly cleared out all the seed pots that hadn’t germinated at all and then I separated out the seedlings that were ready to go straight into the garden and planted them. I then selected out all the seed pots that hadn’t gone leggy and moved them aside. This really helped to reduce the chaos in the seed trays!

With the remaining seedlings I placed them (still in their paper pots) in the bottom of a standard small plastic pot. Then I filled up around the seedlings with soil to what visually felt like a normal seedling size/length (…the real scientific approach….)

Initial....

...after one week....

...Kale seedlings after two weeks...

Unfortunately I lost a few seedlings to snails in the first week (it really is a constant war… forget and lose the battle) but I’ve put some copper tape around the other pots to help keep the remaining ones safe. Two weeks later and a lot are still going strong! While some have died, there are still many alive and doing well. I’d say a successful experiment so far – more updates to come.

I also have the next round of seedlings are off and running! This time I’m moving them daily to get the best of the sun and so far their growth (and even the colour of the seedlings) has been a lot better.

Next round of seedlings

So yes, initial care is the best method – but is seems not all is lost when it comes to leggy seedlings.

Seed saving

Broccoli in flower with a bee helping create seeds

Given my large run of tomatoes lately I currently have pages of seeds all around our house drying, so I thought I’d share what I’ve found about seed saving. When I first started gardening one of my goals was to learn how to save seeds from my plants because it seemed like such a difficult thing to do. How is it done? How can you it’s the right time?  Will I be able to hold/catch the seeds? It seemed a bit overwhelming at first… but it didn’t take long to find how easy it really is! Mainly because the plants tend do all the work for you….

For example:

Nasturtiums: when the seeds are ready to collect the plant literally just spits them over the ground. All you have to do is pick them up. I usually leave mine for about a week on a tray inside to dry out before storing them. Not that I’ve ever needed to use them though – Nasturtiums drop so many seeds and self sow so easily I’ve never had to regrow any since planting my original 2 plants. I tend to give the seeds away as gifts and I even made Christmas bon bons/crackers last year with seeds in them rather than a toy.

Aquilegia: small seeds, however very easy to collect due to the “cup” design of the seed pods. They dry out and you simply tip them upside down and the seeds pour out. Absolutely no effort required for these!

 

Tomatoes: all my gardening books talk about leaving tomato seeds soaking in water/ fermenting seeds/using dishwater liquid to help separate them. I’m not a lazy gardener, but the whole process just seems too complicated and unnecessary given how easily tomatoes germinate out of the compost. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and spread them over paper towel. Leave to dry for a couple of days then rip the paper up to separate the seeds. When it comes time to plant again I’ve been planting the seeds still stuck to a bit of paper and I’ve never had a problem with germination.

Kale seeds forming

Broccoli in flower

Broccoli and Kale: I actually really enjoy letting Broccoli go to seed as I find the flowers really pretty (especially as by the end of winter/start of spring I’m dying to see something in flower). Where the flowers have been, long pods will develop and I tend to leave them until they look a little “bulgy” (I figure that must mean there are seeds in them!) I then cut off sections and hang them upside down. Keep the seeds somewhere dry like on a veranda or inside if the  people you live with are easy going (I find comparing plants/ seeds throughout the kitchen to power tools and renovations very helpful…) and they will take a couple of weeks to dry out (they change colour when they’re dry). Word of warning though, once dry the seed pods really pop open – I’ve lost loads of seeds over the floor before, but I’ve found opening the pods in a bag can help avoid this.

Broccoli and Kale seeds left out to dry (changing colour)

 


Capsicums and chillies: simply scoop out the seeds from ripe fruit (eg red capsicums not green). Make sure you’re saving seeds from non-hybrid fruit as hybrids will germinate and grow but not set fruit. You can tell this by looking at the original seed packet (will state hybrid or F1 on the packet) and most seedling punnets will state if they’re hybrids. Be careful though as I collected seeds from a broccoli I bought in a seedling punnet (no mention of hybrid or not on it) and ended up with lots of leafy growth and no broccoli head!

Chive flower (no seeds yet) and dried flowers that have formed seeds

A lot of other plants seem to be really similar – flower, set seed and pick off/collect the seeds when dry, or for some veggies scoop the seeds out from an over-ripe vegetable. I initially tried keeping my saved seeds in the fridge (again from book advice) but the seeds went mouldy. Instead I now keep all my seeds in envelopes in boxes out of direct light. Have never had any seeds go mouldy/bad. In as short as two seasons I’ve doubled my seed collection not including all the seeds I’ve given to friends and family. Not overwhelming in the slightest and helps save money too!

Lettuce starting to flower

Waiting for autumn finally got the best of me – last week I started preparing my first round of autumn/winter crop seeds. I’ve been using paper pots in the last few months to see if it helps reduce transplantation shock, but I must admit I haven’t noticed a huge difference so far. Some of the seeds I’ve planted are probably a little early, some a little late but I’m hoping for the best (and if you never push the boundaries, you never learn what can work!)

So what’s on my seedling list? I’ve planted:

  • Leek
  • Onion (red & brown) 
  • Silverbeet (standard & ruby chard)
  • Kale (tuscan, red & blue)
  • Parsley
  • Endive
  • Radicchio
  • Cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Broccoli (normal, purple sprouting & romanesco)
  • Cauliflower (normal & purple sicily)
  • Turnip
  • Radish (watermelon & china rose)
  • Kohlrabi
  • Pak Choi
  • Aquilegia (thre types)
  • Freesia
  • English daisy
  • Foxglove
  • Cornflower
  • Larkspur
  • Honesty
  • Nasturtium
  • Stock
  • Pansy
  • Calendula
  • Xeranthemum

 

So with over 90 seed pots on the go I realise I maaaaay have over done it a little… But I really wanted to try some new seeds this year and realistically they’re not all going to thrive.

Like a little kid I race into the “laundry” each morning (it has been a spare room, was then our kitchen and now a make-shift laundry … ahhh, renovations) to check the seedlings which emerge so much faster than first expected! I love checking the progress daily and it’s amazing how quickly they grow. I may have to find a new home for them very quickly though before they become too leggy. Looking forward to more growth & the harvest to come!

 

After reading that Snake Plant/Mother-In-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) can be propagated incredibly easily (in a book by my hero Alys Fowler) – I kept an eye on all my friends indoor plants hoping to find one I could steal a leaf off. Apparently Sake Plants have gone out of fashion recently as none of my friends have it! Although disappointed I did manage to find one on sale which felt like a bearable compromise. I would now really like a new plant for my desk (particularly if I’m going to be spending a lot more time blogging!) so I decided to try the “create your own indoor plant” experiment.

As it goes, all you have to do is cut up a leaf into sections and place into potting mix. Make sure the pieces are facing up (ie correct growing direction) and keep moist.It apparently takes 6-8 weeks for new signs of growth, so no change so far. Keeping my fingers crossed & look out for updates!

In the past week however I have noticed a change in the original pot that wasn’t there before….. A new shoot has emerged from the original plant, so looks like I will have at least one new plant after all!

Other easy indoor plants are avocados. Everybody needs an avocado plant – ask my brother, he has 10 of them!

Creating indoor plants from avocado seeds is incredibly easy!

"Ava" - current avocado plant, with constant new growth looks healthy

"Avie" - last year's avocado plant

All you need is a seed from an avocado which suspended over water (memories of primary school science coming back to me…) will germinate after a few weeks. A new indoor plant is created as easy as that! Seeds from overripe avocados work best and keep them in water until a few leaves have formed. I had one last year that died (& still not sure why) but one I germinated this year is looking significantly more healthy & is a great addition to the kitchen!

My very first tomato seedlings

My first love in the garden was, and still is, tomatoes. One of those original packets of seeds I spoke about in my introductions was cherry tomatoes. Knowing nothing about gardening at that stage I germinated almost the entire packet of seeds and ended up with over 30 tomato plants. Advanced gardeners would have picked out the strongest seedlings, but I was just so excited that I had grown something that I nurtured every single seedling and they all lived and thrived. Everyone received tomato plants for Christmas that year (which I still feel was a pretty good present!) and I received updates on how the plants were doing, and even photos of the tomatoes in salads which was just beautiful. Until then I never realised the pure indulgence and incredible taste of the home grown tomato.

Last year however, despite my efforts I really ended up with minimal tomatoes. (I prefer to blame it on the very wet summer Melbourne had, it makes me feel better…. ) However on the upside the zucchini plants provided us with enough zucchinis to last an entire year (fresh, frozen and preserved).

This year I put my concentrations back into tomatoes, now one of my favourite vegetables. Nurturing seedlings, checking plants every few days to make sure they were growing and supported correctly. Looking back – I may have over done it a tad… my garden now feels like the land of tomatoes!

Regular harvest size

 

I am still not sure why each season results in completely different harvest outcomes (any comments or advice would be helpful!). My zucchini plants look healthy and have grown big, but have produced a disappointing amount of fruit this year compared to last year. The tomatoes on the other hand have thrived this year. Eaten daily in salads or recipes I am nowhere near running out.

Trying my best to eat as many as possible, I have been left with the worry they would go off faster than I am able to eat them. Which only means one thing – preserving! Last weekend I made tomato chutney – a personal favourite of mine. It’s the easiest recipe – put ingredients in a saucepan for half an hour, stirring occasionally. After sitting for a month, the flavour is unbelievable. For me, preserving adds colour to cold winter days, reminding me of the beauty that was the summer garden.  For people that like chutney they make great gifts too.  I also made a tomato soup to freeze for winter, however I doubt it will last that long before I’ll eat it….