Seeding is a critical aspect of running a successful market garden, and it is essential to keep seeding all year round. The practice of seeding ensures that there is a constant supply of fresh produce, which is vital for meeting the demands of customers and allows for the rotation of crops, which helps to maintain soil health and prevent the buildup of pests and diseases.
By continuously seeding, we as market gardeners, growers, allotment holders or veg patch owners, can ensure that there is always something growing in the garden, reducing the risk of fallow periods and maximising productivity.
Additionally, starting seedlings at different times of the year can help to stagger harvests and extend the growing season, providing a more consistent supply of produce throughout the year.
Keeping up with seeding all year is crucial for the success of a market garden, and it should be a top priority for any market gardener, but it can sometimes feel like a bigger task than it needs to be if you aren’t set up to be as efficient as possible.
Here are our 10 tips for efficient seeding:
1.) Plan your seeding schedule: Start by creating a seeding schedule that outlines the dates for starting each crop. Consider factors like weather patterns, temperature, and growing time to determine the best time to plant each crop.
This plan can be as detailed as you need it to be however you can turn this plan into a fully planned out activity diary, as well as a map for where everything is to be planted if you want that level of detail.
Our partners at The Food Grower Academy have an entire course and spreadsheet on crop planning, you can join the academy here.
2.) Use high-quality seeds: Ensure you use high-quality seeds that are suited to your climate and growing conditions. Using quality seeds will increase your chances of successful germination and yield. This is why it can be so important to use tried, tested and current seeds. When your time is limited, a lot of time and effort can be wasted by focussing on seeds that are old or won’t germinate… or trying to save plants that are weak and not going to survive being transplanted.
Your own saved seed can be super resilient as it has already built up a season of being in your soils and surroundings, however ensure you either test germination or double up on seeding to ensure success.
3.) Label your seed trays: Label your seed trays with the name of the crop, the date of planting, and any other relevant information. This will help you keep track of the progress of each crop.
It can be a real time saver later in the season if you have mapped out where seedlings are going to be planted and add this to plant labels too. Our seed labels include: Crop, Variety, Date Seeded, Amount of seeds, Block / Bed Position.
4.) Provide adequate heat in early months: Using a seedling heat mat, a manure hot-bed, or window sills in your house will provide the optimal temperature for seed germination during colder months, which will increase your success rate and stop seedlings from being strained early on.
5.) Use the right soil mix: Soil mix is super important when it comes to seedlings, different plant stages require different soil mixes. For germination it is important that soil is nicely sieved so that it can touch as much of the seed surface as possible, vermiculite can be a handy addition to keep moisture in the soil too.
Later on plug plant stage seedlings will require nutrients from the soil mix and therefore potting compost with the right mix of these nutrients and with enough volume will be required.
6.) Water properly: Water your seedlings properly by using a watering can or a misting nozzle. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to fungal growth and root rot. However drying out seedlings can be just as problematic too.
Bottom watering can be an efficient way to water seedlings in trays as it allows the plants to take up the water they require, and encourages roots to grow down towards the water. You can use bottom trays such as these Neversink Indestructible Bottom Trays or Microgreens Reservoir Trays. You can also put capillary matting straight under your seed trays which takes up water through the mat and allows the roots to pull from it.
7.) Provide adequate lighting: It is often a misconception that we are waiting until Early Spring for some seeding is because of heat. This is somewhat the case, however it is actually just as important if not more important that seedlings receive a minimum of 10 hours light to not get leggy and weak.
Using grow lights to provide adequate lighting for your seedlings in earlier or later months can provide season extension. Ensure that the lights are close enough to the seedlings to prevent leggy growth, or that you have enough lights. (These light panels have LED bulbs across the entire board providing even distribution and preventing some seedlings getting enough light and others getting leggy.)
8.) Use good quality trays that don’t restrict plant growth: air pruning is a fantastic benefit to plant growth that stops the roots from wrapping around inside of conventional seed plug trays. Soil blocking is one way to air prune, however Neversink’s Winstrip Trays provide air pruning whilst also being in an indestructible long lasting tray.
9.) Harden-off seedlings: Before transplanting, gradually expose your seedlings to outdoor conditions to harden them off. This will help them adjust to outdoor conditions and prevent transplant shock. This is a super important stage of seedling growth that is often forgotten about and slows down production and supply of produce.
10.) Transplant at the right time: Transplant your seedlings at the right time, ensuring that the soil is warm enough and the weather conditions are favourable for your crops. This will increase your chances of successful transplanting and yield. It is also important to not let seedlings get too big for the volume of compost / soil mix that they have, potting on or watering with a natural organic feed can give you a couple more days if the ground is not ready yet.
In conclusion, seeding is an essential practice for any successful market garden. By following the seeding tips outlined in this blog post we hope any size of grower can increase the efficiency of their planting process and maximise their harvests.
Starting with quality seeds, keeping accurate records, and using proper planting techniques are all crucial components of successful seeding. Additionally, diversifying crops, planning for succession planting, and utilising season extension methods can help to ensure a consistent supply of produce throughout the year.