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Preparing Successful Seedlings

Growing your own seedlings is very gratifying and far more economic than purchasing them. It also gives you far greater control over your existing growing conditions.

Vegetable seeds need a light, friable soil that will hold moisture, to grow. Seeds must absorb 40-60% of their weight in water to trigger germination. They also need air. When they sprout, they take up moisture from the film of water around the soil particles, they take up air from the space between those particles. So soil quality is extremely important. Compacted soil will not allow your seeds to sprout.

A good seed raising mixture could be the answer if you are unsure of the quality of your soil. Individual 'peat pots' are a great invention because the whole pot goes into the ground without disturbing the roots of your baby plants.

Warmth is also important to growing from seed. Most garden seeds will germinate if soil temperature is around 20C. For colder climates seed beds must be kept warm either by having them in a sunny protected spot in or near the house (like a porch or garage, out of the elements) or in a glass covered cold frame.

For most vegetable seeds you can expect a germination time of 6-20 days. In another 4-5 weeks, those seedlings should be transplanted into your outdoor no dig garden bed.

It's a good idea to treat seeds with a good, all purpose fungicide (something like a Rose Dust or Tomato Dust will be fine) before planting. Place a small amount, just the tip of a knife end, into the packet, reclose and shake until the seeds are covered. This will protect them from 'damping off', a common problem with very young plants.

Care of Seedlings

Seeds must be kept moist but not wet until the seedlings emerge. This may take between 1-3 weeks, depending on the plant type.

As they grow stonger, thorough but less frequent watering is required. They will need shade when young but should be increasingly exposed to the sun so they become used to conditions in the garden. Water in the morning rather than at night.

Your no dig garden bed should be prepared about one week before you are ready to transplant. That will give it time to settle.

Transplanting

Mark where you plan to put each of your plants. Use a trowel to make a hole large enough to take the root system. Gently prise out the seedling from its container taking as much of the soil as you can with it into the garden bed. Firm the soil around the plant in its new position, cover the area with mulch and water in gently.

It is best to transplant in the late afternoon or evening to give the plants time to settle in less stressful conditions.

Judy Williams (http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com) splits her time between being an executive and an earth mother goddess. No Dig Vegetable Gardens represents a clean, green way to grow your own food. The site covers all aspects of growing, cooking and preserving your harvest.

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