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Pip's Tips

Getting Started

If you are just starting out for the first time, or needs some reminders, this section will tell you how to get started!

How to get your seeds to grow

Sowing Direct in the Garden

The main things to remember are:

  1. Only sow the seed to a depth which is roughly 2 times the size
    of the seed itself. If it’s too deep the seed will use up all its
    energy just trying to break the surface.
  2. Keep the soil moist where you have planted the seeds but
    not soaking as too much moisture can cause the seeds
    to go mouldy.
  3. Water with a gentle mister or spray bottle as big drops of
    water can disturb the soil and seeds.
  4. Make sure the place where you plant the seeds gets plenty of
    sunshine (4-6 hours is ideal)
  5. The soil you plant the
    seeds into and cover them with should be a light and well drained potting mix.
  6. Sometimes birds like to peck at your garden and eat the seeds. If you notice this is happening, a temporary enclosure can be built out of cane baskets, shade cloth, chicken wire etc to exclude the birds until the seedlings are about 3cm tall.

Sowing in Seed Trays and then Transplanting

The main things to remember are:

  1. Use a good quality potting mix.
  2. Only sow the seed to a depth which is roughly 2 times the size of the seed itself. If it’s too deep the seed will use up all its energy just trying to break the surface.
  3. Plant into shallow seed trays. These can usually be picked up second hand for free from nurseries or tip shops. There are also biodegradable seed pots available which are great because you plant the whole thing rather than disturbing the seedlings roots (see resources).
  4. Don’t plant too many seeds per tray as this will make it difficult to separate them once they are grown.
  5. Try to get 10 seeds per small seed tray (5cm x 10cm).
  6. Press down the soil once you’ve planted the seeds.
  7. Locate the seedlings in a warm and sunny place. Inside is fine as long as they get 4 6 hours of sunlight o try building a cold frame.
  8. Water the seeds regularly, making sure to keep the soil moist but not soaking as seeds can go mouldy.
  9. Water with a gentle mister or spray bottle as big drops of water can disturb the soil and seeds.
  10. When it comes to transplanting the seedlings they should be around 5cm tall.
  11. Plant the seedlings a big enough distance apart that they will not be competing too much for root space with each other but will ensure that the minimum of sunlight reaches the ground. Bare ground = lost moisture and valuable growing space.
  12. It is very important to minimise the damage and disturbance to the root system of the seedling when you remove it from the seed tray. All the seedlings roots will be intertwined and so need to be gently separated. One way is too soak the tray in water to loosen the soil and then gently prise the seedlings apart. Another way is to gentle massage/press on the sides of the seed tray to loosen soil, tip it upside down with your hand over the opening and give it a gentle tap to remove the seedlings, then prise them apart gently.
  13. When you plant the seedlings dig a small hole big enough to easily accommodate all its roots and a handful of compost or worm castings to feed the roots. Then gently sit the roots inside the hole and fill in around it with soil. Press down a little on the surface of the soil around the seedling and give it some water immediately.
  14. It’s also good to create a small depression or dish in the soil around the seedling to ensure that water flows down to the roots and not away from the plant.
  15. Don’t forget to mulch after the plant in transplanted to ensure that moisture isn’t lost from the soil.

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Water is a precious resource and we need to be careful in our garden that we use it wisely. Growing your own food actually uses 1/5 of the water used to grow commercial crops, so you are already doing a great job in reducing your water consumption by growing your own food.

Check out your local councils website or give them a call for more information about restrictions and guidelines for watering in your area.

There are a few simple things to remember when watering your garden which will ensure that the plants get the maximum benefit and a minimum amount of water is wasted.

  1. Drip hoses are the best and most efficient way of getting the water direct to the roots of the plant with minimum waste. These are available widely at hardware stores and are best used on the surface of the garden with a layer of mulch on top. They can also be attached to grey water.
  2. If you are using a hand held hose, get a trigger spray fitting to allow you to only spray water where you need it.
  3. Don’t water the foliage of the plant, try and get the water as close to the roots of the plant as possible. This is where they need the water.
  4. If possible water underneath the mulch so water isn’t lost on the mulch itself.
  5. With careful observation you can tell when the plant needs some water. They will start to look pale and droopy when they haven’t got enough water. This will happen on very hot days. But plants generally recover well with a bit of water in the late afternoon.
  6. Scrape aside the mulch to see if the soil is moist. If it is, you don’t need to water the plant as there is already enough moisture in the soil.
  7. The best time to water is on dusk or early morning as this gives the water the maximum amount of time to soak into the ground before the sun starts to make it evaporate.
  8. Once plants are well established they won’t need a lot of water. The main time they need water is when they have just been transplanted, or when they are flowering and fruiting, but too much water can encourage disease so be sparing.
  9. The more organic matter and compost there is in your soil, the greater its water holding capacity and therefore the less you have to water your plants.
  10. With a little ingenuity you can catch your household greywater and use it on the garden. This reduces your households waste and the strain on the overall water system. See below for more information.

For information on using and implementing grey water systems click here.