One of the most rewarding parts of a gardeners journey is to watch a seed grow in to a full blown plant, but it can also be a time consuming pain in the backside having failure after failure. What works for you may not work for someone else.
There are many factors that can and will affect your success (or lack of success) that include the following just to name a few
- access to direct sunlight
- temperature variations
- nutrient amounts
- the right nutrient
- growing medium
- plant variety
- quality of seed
- pH (power of Hydrogen)
- EC (electrical conductivity)
With all these issues + many more it is crucial to provide your seedlings with the most favourable environment, by choosing the right varieties for your location and climate, by using the best growing medium for you, by finding the best location in or outside your home, by learning when to water (or not to water) and by generally finding the best techniques that suit YOU...
I my opinion, the most consistent outperforming growing medium has to be the grow cubes that come with your Salad Table.
This is my number one choice of growing medium for a few reasons. They give me more success than any other method and the cost is much lower as long as you are getting a decent strike rate. Simple maths says that if you have a 50% germination/success rate then you are spending double what you should be. I will explain how to help you improve your chances.
Grow cubes have a very good capillary action which means water is drawn up the cube toward the roots to provide an even balance of water and nutrient throughout the medium. The worst thing you can do is overwater. By having your seedlings sitting in a pool of still water will almost surely have a negative impact. Less is more.
I have found it is best to let the grow cubes dry somewhat between waterings. This forces the roots to go in search of food, you then feed them and then let them dry again, the roots start growing even more, you then give them more. This constant process will ensure the root system grows strong which is key to the success of growing seedlings. A strong healthy root system means a strong healthy plant.
How to Use
- Break off the grow cubes you will use preferably in a block. ie... if you need 16 seedlings, break off a 4 x 4 section and leave intact until all seedlings are ready to plant into The Salad Table. It is important to thoroughly wet your grow cubes before use. This is simply a matter of placing them on a plate or in a container and applying running water directly from the tap over the entire surface ensuring every cube is saturated top and sides. You must then drain off the excess water to ensure there is no pooling in the plate or container. Note - this watering step may be carried out after placing the seeds into the cubes if you prefer, but be careful not to wash the seeds away if you choose this method.
- Place seeds directly into the predrilled holes. The number of seeds will vary from plant to plant and is listed on the seed packets that we provide you. For example, a lettuce only requires 1 seed but a bunch of herbs will need a few. For plants such as choy and kale you might want to plant 4 seeds and then pick out the weakest once they start growing to create a nice bunch of 3 to place into 1 hole in your Salad Table.
- For something different place various seeds into the same hole to create a mix. 1 red lettuce + 1 green lettuce for a combo lettuce, a small pinch of parsley + a small pinch of rocket for a "rockley"... It's endless. Experiment.
- Now place your grow cubes in a position such as on a window sill that receives about 1-4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Morning or afternoon sun doesn't matter. If you place them outside try to protect from the extremes such as rain, frost and excess temperature variations. Bugs may also cause issues outside so be aware of this as well. You may cover your seedlings but also be wary of the type of cover you use. An enclosed plastic clear top container may cause excess heat and sweating so ensure there are adequate breather holes and a net may damage your very young seedlings if allowed to sit directly on them. Like i said, a sunny window inside may be the best position for you. Once again, experiment...
- If your seedling stems become leggy (very long and thin) this is a sure sign they need more sun.
- It is fine to use just water for the initial wet down but I recommend to use nutrient straight from your nutrient tank for every watering after this. Every seed has the ability to produce it's first 2 seed leaves without any added nutrient but will require a feed after this to continue its growth. When you do water, ensure any excess sitting in the plate or container is drained off.
- It is very important not to overwater. There are a couple of techniques to work out when to water. Pick up the plate or container that your seedlings are sitting in and feel the weight of it. You will soon discover what dry grow cubes and well watered ones weigh and in fact this is the quick and easy way I check to see how mine are going. Another way to determine if they need watering is to tilt the plate or container on an angle. If water drains from the base there is no need to water just yet... They will dry out faster as they grow so ensure to keep an eye on them regularly.
- Continue this process until your seedling are mature enough to put into your Salad Table. Be careful not to damage the roots and stems when separating your grow cubes prior to placing in the holes.
It may take a few attempts to work out what, where and how is best for you. Once you have the knack try experimenting with different varieties or design your own herb bunches using your favourites together in the same grow cube.
Experiment and have fun...
Denis is a QLD farmer and Founder of The Salad Table
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