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Leafy Planting in Early Spring – Advanced Seedlings

Those of you who have visited here before may recognise these.  They are the seedlings I potted on last leafy planting day, the seed that I planted the leafy planting day before, way back in mid winter. It is now eight weeks since the seed went in, seven weeks since they germinated.  In another three or four weeks, they will be ready to start harvesting.  So for more than half their life, they have not used up or needed any garden space.

They’ve been living very happily in a polystyrene box in the shadehouse.  They’ve had a cushy life so far. They’ve were potted up at the two leaf stage into a mix of compost and worm castings with a bit of creek sand for drainage.  They’ve been fed a couple of times with diluted seaweed brew, they haven’t had to compete for light or space, and in the shadehouse, even if I’m in a mad rush I find time to water on my way out.

I shall plant these guys out today.  Where there is something that has finished bearing, I shall clear a little space just big enough for the mature plant. I shall dig a little hole and plant tube and all, then add a good layer of mulch around it.  It will get one good watering in, but from then on it will be pretty well on its own, unless we get no rain at all in which case I might put a sprinkler on for an hour or so in a couple of weeks.

Individually placed like this, it will be amongst neighbours with different root profiles and different nutrient requirements, so competition should be friendly.

Today I’m also going to pot up the tiny new babies from the seeds I planted last month, and plant a new batch of seeds.  Just a few of each – we eat a lot of salad but four or five loose leaf lettuces at a time is plenty. Getting a nice continuity of supply is one of the main secrets to eating very well out of a garden.

The seed I’m planting  now will be planted out into the garden in mid-November when we can expect to see some frizzle days, so I’m now planting only the hardiest of summer greens – amaranth, several kinds of basil,  endive, aragula,  purple oakleaf and green mignionette lettuces. By the time they are ready to plant out, the garden will be chokka with curcubits – zucchini, squash and cucumers, anyhow.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • nadeeka September 12, 2010, 8:04 am

    Hi Linda – when it comes to watering systems, what (in your opinion) is better? Looks like I’ll have to install something – and was thinking that drip irrigation may be the most efficient.

  • Linda September 12, 2010, 9:06 am

    hi Nadeeka, I’m in Northern NSW, which theoretically has a good rainfall, and still some years we have run right out of water. Makes you realise how precious water is! This year though we have spent thousands of dollars lining our two dams so we have a bit of water security. Still though, over the years I’ve developed a real attitude of water frugality. So, my system is: keep seedlings in a shadehouse and hand water. Grow advanced seedlings so you are not trying to keep water up to babies. Hand water things when you plant them out, and mulch heavily. After that, I water so little that it’s never been worth installing a permanent system. I water individual plants by hand, with a watering can, and I have one sprinkler that I start rotating round the beds if we haven’t had rain for a fortnight or so. I water with it for an hour in the evening around dark on each bed. I have all the house water going to fruit trees, but otherwise they fend for themselves.

  • Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial September 13, 2010, 11:31 am

    Linda, we’ve learnt a lot from you this year about sequential planting and using advanced seedlings. There is a lot to absorb, but your method makes great sense – as you say, we don’t want 50 lettuces all ready to eat at the same time. So each bed has a little of everything, planted several weeks apart. One thing we do need to tinker is the speed at which seedlings grow – we’ve greatly underestimated that, and as a result have had to buy seedlings for bits of the first bed. Not a drama though, as the homegrown ones then go into later beds and everything just moves back a few weeks.

    It’s only very early spring, but things seem to be growing before our very eyes! We harvested our first head of lettuce today – up until now we’ve just been raiding the patch every night for bits and pieces for dinner. There are some sprouting broccoli which will need to come in for tonight’s dinner, an abundance of eggs, and some turmeric to plant out – apparently it grows like a weed here in Sydney! 🙂

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