Methods of Sowing Seed and Suitability of Sowing Method
Here at Ballybeg Greens we primarily sow our seeds in to a modular tray which is then placed on to the heated bench. We sow Mizuna, Mustard, Red Kale and many other types of salad crops in to a 1.5 inch modular tray. This size is ideal for salad crops as it develops a strong root system and can be planted out after 15-20 days.
A tip to remember
If you forget to mark the date of seed sowing and you are unsure when to plant out, remember that there should be enough strong leaves on the young plant to withstand any shock or damage that the plant may be exposed to. Some crops such as basil that can be planted in to modular trays need to have free draining plugs so the roots can dry out. In order to ensure that the compost drains well we use a 50/50 mix of vermiculite and peat compost. The vermiculite is an expanded crushed rock which adds bigger spaces in the compost allowing water to pass through. Something similar is used when planting microgreens. We did a few trial runs of various compost mixes when growing microgreens. Here at Ballybeg Greens we use a 60/40 mix of compost to vermiculite for the microgreens growing media. A 1inch flat tray is used to grow the microgreens as root development is not the main concern with this crop. As the seed is sown at a much heavier rate than a normal crop, the media needs to be able to drain well or otherwise there is potential for disease or bacterial build up in damp conditions.
Seeds can also be sown in to seed trays and then pricked on. The seed is generally grown to its true leave stage and the moved in to a bigger size tray. Here at Ballybeg Greens, we prick seedlings on into 2 inch modular trays. This ensures a uniform crop which is beneficial for maximising space. The only issue with this method is that it can be time consuming when a larger quantity of seedlings need to be produced. Larger seeds should be planted into plug trays that have six or nine plugs per tray. This is a deep 2 inch plug that allows good root development and space for the plant to develop strong leaves. They can be sown quite deep with this type of tray and can then be transplanted into a bed.
The benefit of transplanting seedlings is that you give the seedling the best conditions at the start of the growing stage to develop a strong healthy plant. Also, you can choose to only plant the strongest of the seedlings which ensures a high yield and uniform crop. Some seeds grow better when directly sown in to a seed bed as they don’t transplant well and are susceptible to shock when the soil around the roots is moved. Here at Ballybeg Greens, there are radishes, carrots and beets directly sown into raised beds by the LTI students. During Summer and Autumn, we will grow spinach for the salad mix. This crop benefits from being directly sown thickly into drills in a seed bed.
Another tip to remember
When directly sowing seed, sow into a seedbed and sow it thickly as when the plant develops the rows can be thinned out. Thinning out is when you create space in a row by removing smaller or weaker plants. If big enough, this can be eaten otherwise they make a good addition to the compost pile.
Seedlings generally don’t need to be fed with any nutrients or feed, just make sure they are watered regularly. As mentioned before with other crops, compost or farmyard manure should be added to a the soil that the seedlings will grow in as this will provide the necessary nutrients for the plants throughout its lifetime.