Friday, 26 June 2020

Gardening in Isolation and Beyond and Starting Seeds


Australians are turning to gardening in droves during the pandemic but there are pitfalls for new gardeners.
Help is at hand of course, and there are ways to keep gardening evening when things return to normal and gardeners may have less time to devote to their plants.
Let’s find out all about what to do.
I'm talking with Josh Byrne, presenter for Gardening Australia TV presenterand environmental scientist.

I asked Josh these questions:-
Q1. What are the benefits of gardening? (it’s good to get another voice to mention these-often say it already on my radio show.)
A: Good fun, a great hobby that makes you feel good and great for mental health.
Q2. How much space do you really need to have a garden?
A:All depends on what you want to grow.
 All you need is a balcony with a bit of sun.
Urban block gardens can grow a fair percentage of the fruits and vegetables that you can consume.
Q3. Who are the new, novice and emerging gardeners of 2020?
A:People in the 25-35 age group, the millenials, who are spending more time at home.
Q4. What are some of the common mistakes this new band of gardeners might make?  (eg, choosing the wrong plant for the location, sowing seed in the wrong season-I noticed the one nursery chain had out summer seedlings only last week).
A: Novice gardeners might put a plant in the wrong spot, or buy annual vegetables, either seeds or seedlings for growing at the wrong time of year. Overwatering or underwatering might cause plant death early.
5. It’s easy to get disheartened after a couple of failures, for example seed raising, plants getting eaten by bugs. What’s your advice?
Josh suggests, read the back of the seed packet or the instructions on the plant label.
Ask horticulturists at your local garden centre. There is also plenty of gardening blogs and gardening websites that can help with your gardening question.
Q6. When things get back to more like they used to be, what are the tips/suggestions to keep on gardening?
Don't forget about your plants just because your routine gets back to normal. Keep going now that you have a taste for it. If you hit a bit of a snag, don't worry, keep going and not be disheartened.
Q7. Tell me about Plant Pals. How did it come about?
Greenlife Industry Australia, the peak body for the production, supply and retail of greenlife has launched Plant Pals, an initiative designed to connect new, novice and emerging gardeners with greenlife experts.Plant Pals is a new campaign to keep Australians engaged in gardening as life slowly returns to normal following COVID-19 lockdowns. It's really about making sure gardeners both new and old are getting plenty of support in their gardening journey. Linking gardeners with plant suppliers, expert advice, blogs and podcasts.  Click on the link PLANT PALS
Q8. For those who haven’t started gardening, how can we get them interested? (perhaps join a community garden?)
Perhaps join a community garden, because they're a great place to connect with other like people in the local community. Vist local parks and botanic gardens to get more exposure to plants in wonderful settings.

If you have any questions of course, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Seed Germination

It wouldn't be a vegetable hero without seeds to grow those vegetables.
  • Today a how to of getting those seeds to germinate?
  • You probably would know that all seeds have particular temperature ranges, and light requirements to germinate.
  • All seeds germinate when light, temperatures and moisture are close to what they prefer to survive.
This might mean that although you can germinate peas in Summer, they will struggle through the warm months to produce anything, and most likely will be devastated by insect pests and disease.
  • So know when the best time of year to sow your seeds by checking the information on the back of the packet.
Seeds also have different times when they still remain viable.
  • All seeds have a seed coat that varies in hardness. Some need a little help to germinate faster and you can do this yourself several ways.
  • The process of softening the seed coat is called scarification.

Seed Scarification
One way to do this is by shaking some seed in a jar with some coarse sandpaper or sand for a few minutes.
Commercially this is done in a large box lined with industrial diamonds.
But these seed companies process tonnes of seed every day.
The sand method might be used for fine seed that you can then pour into a row, sand and seed altogether, into the garden bed.
  • Another method is by soaking in water.
    Scarifying poinciana seeds on sandpaper

Some seeds need to be soaked in water first to help them germinate.
Sweet peas for example.
There are a few seeds that require darkness to germinate such as Pansies and Parsley. After you sow these seeds, you need to cover them with damp newspaper or a damp paper towel.
Check on them every few days because you need to remove the paper as soon as they’ve sprouted because that’s when you need to remove the paper or towel.
Most other seeds need light to germinate.
When I talk about planting in Vegetable Heroes, I mention how deep you should plant your seeds.
How Deep is The Seed and Why do this? 
Most seeds don’t need ‘instant’ access to light, they can germinate and push up through the soil by drawing from their own energy reserves.
  • Seeds have a food store for the embryo which emerges. 
  • If you plant your seeds too deep, the food store runs out before the plant reaches sunlight.
  • After that all green plant seedlings need access to light so that they can make their own food (through photosynthesis) and continue to grow.
  • The other problem is if you plant them too shallow, then they’ll dry out and die before they get anywhere.
Sounds tricky, but if you’re having trouble germinating one type of seed, it’s probably because one of the things I’ve mentioned isn’t just right.
Cucumber and lettuce seedlings

  • My tip if you’re having trouble, is to cover your seeds with a layer of vermiculite, and spray that with water to make sure it’s really wet.
  • ***Vermicullite  let’s in plenty of light in and I mostly get success with seeds that way. 
  • I also like to use a mini greenhouse for at least the first week if the weather’s not quite right for the seeds that I’m trying to grow.
When I used to work at Yates, I’d get calls about the seeds being of poor quality because the caller couldn’t germinate them.
That’s rare although it can happen.
I’ve got to say though, seed companies all do germination tests in their laboratories to make sure they get 90% germination rate, before they process and package them.
Otherwise they’re wasting their time and money.

  • In any case, if you buy a packet of seeds and can’t germinate them, you can ring up the company and they’ll send you a fresh pack.
Seeds Coated with Thiram?
Another question I was often asked about, was why are some seeds coated with a fungicide called Thiram? This usually makes the seed pink.

  • This is to prevent the seed from rotting when you put it into the ground. Sometimes seeds are prone to fungal attack and are treated that way because of that, or in some cases, the seed supplier doesn’t have a particular certification and the seed company then coats them.
  • Plants grown from this treated seed aren’t poisonous. The only thing that’s poisonous is that pink coating on the seed.
So what can you do if you’ve got some seed you’re having trouble with, or if you have some packets of out of date seed? Haven’t we all?
How about a Home test for Seed viability?

  • What you need is a sheet of paper towelling, clear plastic bag to fit or one of those plastic take away containers and spray bottle of water.
  • Spray paper towel so it’s completely moist but not dripping.
  • Add 10 seeds from your packet and space them out on one half of the paper towel. This is doing a seed sample. If 7 or 8 seeds sprout then you have 70 -80% germination rate. If you have only 3-4 seeds sprouting, that means a low germination rate. Either use more seeds to get what you want or not use them at all.
  • Take the other half  of the paper towel and fold over the seeds.
  • Spray towel again.
  • Put this in the take away container and close the lid.
  • Put this into a warm environment such as a cupboard or a desk drawer for about a week.
  • Check on it every 2-3 days to make sure that it remains moist.
  • After a few days, fresh seeds will have sprouted if the seeds are fresh.
Growing from seed is the cheapest and most rewarding way of growing plants.
Once you get the knack, you’ll be growing everything from flowers to vegetables.

1 comment:

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