SEEDS: RAISING, THINNING & TRANSPLANTING

Since most vegetables, with the exception of the perennials (rhubarb and asparagus) are treated as annuals or biennials, the raising of seedlings is a most important factor.

SEED TERMS

i) F1 Hybrid

Recent developments by plant breeders in producing F1 hybrid seed help to ensure unformity, vigour and pest and disease resistance. The seed is very costly to produce.

Open-Pollinated Seed

Most varieties in catalogues are the standard type. No specialist hybridisation has been carried out, but the parent plants of the seed-producing stocks are well rogued to ensure that the seed crop is true to a standard set by the grower.

iii) Pelleted Seed

These seeds have been coated with clay or other material to make them easier to handle. It is a useful practice for tiny seeds, as one can sow them at wide enough intervals to eliminate the need to thin. The main advantage is for the commercial grower, who is able to drill seeds at pre-determined spacings by machine.

iv) Dressed Seed

Seed which has been coated with a fungicide or fungicide/insecticide before packing by the seed merchant.

v) Pre-aerminated or Chitted Seed

Seed which has been germinated by the grower and sent out in waterproof containers. Such seed must be sown immediately.

vi) Graded Seed

Seed sizes vary in their viability and vigour. Cheap seeds may be of the less desirable sizes.

SEED RAISING

Seed can be raised in two ways:

i) Sown under glass in pots or boxes and transplanted out

ii) sown direct outdoors into seedbeds or into the cropping position.

1. Sowing seed indoors

It is usually easier to get a high proportion of seed emerging rapidly and simultaneously raising them

under glass, in seed trays or soil blocks?, and then

transplanting them into the garden. This method offers a greater degree of control, fewer pests to deal with and (usually) warmer growing conditions.

Brief notes on seed-sowing

Compost

A seed compost should be used for germinating the seed e.g. John Innes Seed Compost, which is loam-based, or a soil-less seed, compost e.g. Leyingtpn’s_Seed Compost.

Temperature

A temperature of 13-18° C (55-65° F) is needed for speeding germination.

Containers

Large seeds, e.g. sweetcorn and broad beans, can be sown singly in pots. The range of suitable containers includes pots, seed pans, seed.boxes, seed trays, peat blocks, plugs and Japanese paper pots.,

Sowing Seed Outdoors

For sowing outdoors choose a fine spell of weather when the ground is dry enough to allow treading the soil without it sticking to one’s boots. It must also be moist enough. A classic guide – if the soil is dry enough to sit on it needs water. This is best done a day or so before sowing, but if the urgency to sow is great, drench the empty seed drill and allow water to soak away before sowing. Work the soil to produce a fine_tilth. When soil is prepared sretch out a garden line to mark the position of the row, and make the seed drill using a draw hoe or dibber. The depth of the drill varies.

Cover the seed with soil by shuffling down the row with a foot on each side of the row. Finally firm the soil, either by treading gently or by using the back of a rake. Rake over to remove footprints, tidy and even up the surface. This helps with hoeing later on.

THINNING

Once the seedlings are through, thin them out to the spacing recommended for each crop. It is wise to thin twice, the first time to one half the required distance between plants, the second time to the final distance. This allows for some lossjErom pest damage; also some seedlings may do better thanH hljIr eighbours, and it may be useful to keep the best. However, to stagger a harvest of, for instance, lettuce, there could be a case for preserving some of the smaller seedlings, which may come into heart a week or two after the main flush of the crop.

PROTECTED CROPPING

The sowing and planting of many vegetables under cover can take place weeks earlier than that in unprotected ground. There are three main choices of covering material:

1. glass

2. semi-rigid clear plastic

3. polythene

1. Glass

Advantages – permanence

maximum heat-retention resistance to blowing over

2. Semi-rigid plastic

Advantages – lightness safety economical

3. Polythene

Advantages – cheap

flexible in length, width and height

easy to handle

safe

The polythene tunnel cloche is one of the most useful tools in the garden. It protects crops from birds and wind; ±t£ will bring the harvesting time forward; it helps to keep crops such as lettuce clean from soil splashed by rain and it is easily taken up, rolled and packed away. Irrigation presents no problems, as rain running over the sides will

spread sufficiently for plant roots to take it up. When it is particularly hot and dry it is easy enough to raise one. side of the polythene and water the plants.

It is best to use U.V.L. (ultra-violet light) inhibited polythene sheeting. The thinnest gauge (500) will give use for one full summer and two winters. The 600 gauge is thicker and will have a prolonged life-span.

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