How to decide if seeds are best raised indoors or direct in the garden?
September 19, 2017
Some of the most often asked questions by Kitchen Garden Box® customers include:
Where do I raise my seeds? Do they go straight into the soil, or should they be raised in seed trays? Should they be inside or outside?
There are a number of things to be take into consideration to help determine the best answer to these questions.
I grow at least 90% of our vegetable garden from seed. My personal preference is to raise the seed in trays rather than sow direct. This allows me to monitor and manage the growth closely. There are many other reasons this is my preference and they are included in the tips below.
In this post the references to raising seed in trays means using a container of some sort to house the seed while it germinates and begins to develop to the point where it is strong enough to be planted into the garden.
I have outlined the considerations to help you determine if you should raise seed indoors in seed trays or if they should be sown direct:
When growing from seed you need to plant them ahead of the impending season. Plant seeds for the coming season at least a few weeks prior to it commencing. This allows time for germination and growth before the season becomes too far advanced.
Seeds raised for summer planting, as a general rule, are best raised in seed trays indoors to protect them from frost and cold overnight and morning temperatures. If you are unable to do this they should be planted in a space that is sheltered from strong winds and gets full sun.
Seeds raised for winter planting are usually best raised in seed trays outdoors in a cool position out of direct heat. They require cool temperatures to germinate and grow.
Tip: If you are unsure of the soil temperature use a thermometer to test and measure it. A heat mat placed under a seed raising tray, or placement next to a window is a way to help the soil warm to the correct temperature in the instance of summer planting.
Some vegetables are best sown direct as root disturbance can impede growth. Vegetables that are best sown direct are root vegetables, and also most bulb vegetables : eg: carrot, beetroot, parsnip, radish, fennel, and turnip.
In my experience, planting seeds in trays allows me to monitor them closely. If they are direct sown it can be difficult to recall what was planted where unless you carefully document or label. It is important for the soil to remain moist. Seeds that are planted and then receive irregular water are unlikely to germinate. A seed tray near the window, or in a designated growing position helps to provide a reminder of their care requirements. Growing from seed in trays allows the plants to germinate and grow to a point where they are strong enough to be planted in the garden. This provides them with a greater chance of survival than if the seed is direct sown. Tender new growth of seedlings is an easy (delicious) target for pests.
Tip: Soil should be kept moist, not wet and not dry to allow for germination. Find a complete guide to seed growing success in this post.
When growing from seed that is not great quality the germinate rate can be low. This means you may not get the same number of plants growing as seeds you planted. If a low quantity of seeds germinate it may not be the number you needed.or planned, to fill the space they are to be planted into. If seed is raised in a tray/container indoors the strong and healthy ones can be transplanted into the growing space allowing you to space and plan the area with more thought rather than having to fill gaps with suitable plants.
Besides direct sowing of the seed of root vegetables, the other time I plant seeds direct into their growing position is when the season is at least half way through. Add more seed to an area growing plants that are growing well and are unhindered by any pests. An example of this is peas, beans and corn. The first seed of these plants is raised in trays just prior to the season commencing. Once the plants have been transplanted into the garden and are growing well (about 4 weeks after planting in the garden) I add more seed in the same area in between current plants. If the newly planted seed germinates and grows well it results in harvests spaced over a long period of time. If the new seed does not germinate or is eaten by pests prior to growing the existing, established plants will continue to grow and produce regardless.
At the start of each season the main seasonal pests operate at their peak. They tend to retreat as the season progresses and the plants are left unhindered for a period of time. Seeds and seedlings make a tasty meal for pests so need additional protection during these periods of time.
One of my customers who grows from seed using the Kitchen Garden Box® has to start her seeds indoors because of an ongoing issue with possums. If the seed raising trays are left out the possums will happily eat all of the tender seedlings before they ever get to the garden. If possums or other garden pests are an issue in your garden, planting and raising seeds in trays allow you to move them to a safe position out of harms way until they are robust enough to go into the garden.
I hope these considerations and tips help you to determine if you should plant your new season seed direct in the garden or into trays, indoors or out.
Two years ago the Kitchen Garden Box® was launched. Since that point in time it has helped lots of busy Australian families grow their own herbs and vegetables from seed. You can begin to grow your own seasonal, organic, meal ingredients easily across a 12 month period. Includes email support to keep you on track. Start to grow your own vegetables this season and I will add a celebratory gift to each box for Kitchen Garden Box® purchases made prior to Monday 25th September. No coupon required.
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