by Wally Richards
Gardeners are buying and planting plants now for the coming season.
This may range from seedlings of vegetables, annual flowering plants, fruiting plants and ornamental shrubs and trees.
There are a number of traps and tips which if known will make for a more successful growing season and thus more pleasure for yourself.
Lets start off with seedlings which will likely come in cell packs (each plant has its own little growth space with normally 6 cells to a pack.)
Then there is the punnets where a number of seedlings share the same growing area.
The first thing to do when looking for vegetable seedlings to grow is to see how old the plants are?
If they are on the large size in their cell/punnet then give them a miss as more than likely they have been stressed and may go to seed a couple of months after you plant them. A total waste of time and garden space.
This does not apply to flowering/fruiting vegetables such as tomato, capsicum etc as the bigger they are the further advanced they are to maturity the better.
It applies to brassicas, lettuce and such like.
Also dont be silly enough to buy root crops in punnets such as beetroot, onions, carrots, parsnips, spring onions as they will never be any where near as good as the ones you grow from seed, planted where they will mature.
Big seeds such as beans, pumpkin should also only be grown directly from seed.
The results will be ten times better than transplants which for crops such as carrots are laughable as they will never become a nice specimen if they were grown from transplants.
The secret to seed growing in an area that they will mature in; is that they get their initial tap root or roots out and those roots do not get disturbed by transplanting.
With the likes of carrots either buy the seed that is on a seed tape or later on thin out the crop which gives you some baby carrots for salads.
I look for the younger smaller plants that are likely the freshest ones from the growers nursery.
These will likely have been kept moist in their growing medium and hence stress free.
Even if they are a bit too small to transplant that is ok; you can grow them on outside in a sheltered, sunny spot. While they are getting bigger you do not want to over water them or let them dry out.
Over watering makes them soft, under watering can lead to stress.
If you can pick the time and day that you plant out, best time is before rain or later in the day when the sun is going down.
If you are really smart you spray any plants you are going to transplant a few days before disturbing them with a spray of Vaporgard and Magic Botanic Liquid combined. (Spray for total coverage)
How many of you have planted out seedlings to see them lay down for several days on the soil till they pick them selves up and start to show growth? We have all experienced that I am sure.
Well the few days before transplanting spray of Vaporgard means that moisture loss through the foliage at transplant time is minimal and the seedlings sit up like little soldiers and start growing immediately.
This is very important: Before you try to remove the seedlings from their punnet or cell pack you plunge it into a bucket of water and watch them bubble.
This removes all air from the growing medium and also gives the seedlings a nice drink.
You then carefully tap out the seedlings without damaging the foliage.
They should, being so wet, slide out nicely.
Next we inspect the foliage for any pest insects or eggs.
In some cases you may have several seedlings in a cell pack or punnet that have their roots intertwined with each other.
You have two options you can plant the plug with more than one seedling and in a couple of weeks time cut the smaller ones off at soil level allowing the best fellow to grow to maturity.
Or in your bucket of water you can carefully separate the seedlings and have a lot more to plant out.
Down in; under water, they will tease out and separate nicely with minimal root disturbance.
But now maybe you have more seedlings than you need for one crop and one harvest.
No problem you put all the extra seedlings to]gether in a clump and and plant them it the garden.
Being in a clump they will not grow much but will hold so that in say a couple of weeks you can lift, divide under water and plant a second crop. (An old trick which I have held surplus for several weeks in that manner)
Soil preparation is important unless you do what I do.
Clear the area of weeds and then sprinkle what goodies you like to use over the area such as animal manures, sheep pellets, blood & bone, Ocean Solids, Wallys Unlocking your Soil, BioPhos and Wallys Calcium and Health.
Now spread a layer of purchased compost over the area to the depth of 3-4 cm.
I prefer Daltons compost as it is herbicide free and nice to work with.
Into this layer you can plant your seeds or seedlings.
Spacing is important so you do not have over crowding.
Keep moist with daily light waterings and spray the plants with Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) each week.
Lets upscale to plants such as shrubs, vines and trees which once again you are either buying in a pot or plastic bag.
Follow the advise as for the seedlings but when you remove the plant from its grow container have a good look at the root system.
If the plant has been in the container for a while the roots will have filled the container and spiraled around the base of it.
If left like that and placed into a planting hole you may wonder months or even years later why has that plant not grown?
Simple the roots can not get out from the clump they formed in the container.
Some gardeners try to tease the roots out and that can help a little but really a waste of effort.
You take your secateurs and at the four cardinal points you cut the root spiral the depth of your blade.
Roots are like branches, you cut the end off a branch and that branch will create new branches back to the trunk.
You cut the roots and the plant makes a lot of new roots and that is what you want for growth.
It is a busy time ahead so get cracking with small plantings now followed by more each month.