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Sowing Seeds: Raising and setting out seedlings in the vegetable garden
Beginners often experience trouble and disappointment in their attempts to raise Vegetables from seed and they assume that the seed is bad. Sowing too thickly, too deeply, not deep enough, or at the wrong season will generally explain the reason for non-success.
For guidance the following approximate depths for sowing Vegetable Seeds will be found useful:
- Two to three inches: Peas, Beans, and seeds of similar size.
- One inch: Beet, Cucumber, Melons, etc.
- Half an inch: Carrot, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Mustard, Parsnip, Capsicum, Turnip, Tomato, etc.
Very small seeds must merely be pressed into the soil and lightly covered with very fine soil, which has been passed through a fine meshed sieve.
The times for sowing the various seeds can be ascertained from the monthly calendar but due allowance must always be made for local climatic conditions.
To secure a greater range of varieties of Vegetables, to provide for a succession and to ensure a continuous supply of Vegetables the whole year round, a seed bed for raising young plants for transplanting is essential. Where possible, there should be a Hot Bed and a Glass Frame for raising tender varieties, such as Melons, Tomatoes, etc., for planting out in the early Spring. In a small garden, the need of a Glass Frame may be obviated by the use of Seed Boxes, and this simple method of raising plants will partially compensate for the absence of a Hot Bed. The latter, however, should be included in every Vegetable Garden when possible. The Seed Box, Glass Frame, and Hot Bed are the gardener’s greatest aids in raising early crops.
SEED RAISING IN THE OPEN GROUND
Never sow seed in the open while the ground is very wet, as the surface soil, unless it is sandy, is liable to form a hard crust as soon as the weather is dry, and so prevent the seedlings getting the light and air so necessary to their existence. Sow Just before or after a shower of rain, and if the soil is mellow the seeds will be sown under the best possible conditions. To facilitate the work of thinning, hoeing, and gathering the various crops, sow in drills or rows in preference to broadcasting. This also has the advantage of giving the garden a neater and more uniform appearance particularly after Spring rains a period of drying winds, accompanied by very hot sun, often follows, and in the subsequent cultivation of the soil to prepare a fine seed bed the ground, at times, becomes exceedingly dry. After sowing, therefore, the soil must be made thoroughly firm by treading or by beating with the back of the spade, afterwards levelling the ground with the back of the rake. If at all wet, the soil must not be firmed as recommended mended above, as under these conditions it will cake to such an extent as to form a cement-like crust through which the tender young seedlings could not break. It is a great mistake to allow vegetable plants to crowd one another, and should the seedlings come up too thickly, thin them out liberally, except for special crops such as Pickling Onions, otherwise, under such conditions first-class results cannot be obtained. For late sowings of Peas, Root Crops, etc., greater depth may, where required, be given to the plants by sowing the seed in open furrows and drawing the earth about the plants as they grow.
THE OUTDOOR SEED BED
Every Vegetable Garden should have an outdoor seed bed placed in a sheltered position, where a stock of young plants can be raised for transplanting out. A good, light, well-drained soil should be chosen. The soil in the seed bed must be thoroughly and deeply worked and the surface brought to a fine tilth. If of a clayey nature, the addition of sand, loam, wood ashes, or decayed vegetable matter will considerably improve it; if poor and sandy, a dressing of peat, loam, Compost or even clay broken up finely, will give it body and greatly increase the vigour of the seedlings. When the soil has been thoroughly prepared as advised, level the surface with a rake and gently pat it with the back of the spade to make it firm; it is then ready for the seed. Vegetables such as Borecole, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Capsicum, Leek) Lettuce (except in the Spring and Summer), and Tomatoes, should always be raised in the seed bed and the seedlings subsequently transplanted to their permanent position. Broadcast the seed thinly and evenly on the surface of the seed bed and cover it lightly with fine soil. After sowing the seed the surface must be mulched with some finely broken up well-decayed manure. The mulch will prevent · evaporation, keep the roots cool, and promote vigorous growth.
While in the seed bed, water the seedlings regularly and efficiently through a fine rose watering can. Any check in the growth of vegetables is fatal to good results, and this is more especially the case with such plants as Cauliflower, Lettuce, and Radish. Guard against sowing the seed too thickly, as the result will be spindly or drawn-up seedlings. Should the young plants come up too thickly, thin out liberally directly they are fit to handle, so as to produce good, strong sturdy plants that will start right away when transplanted.