How To Grow Your Own Seedlings

Have you ever tried to grow your own seedlings but gave up almost immediately? Maybe you stuck with it for a while but the frustration became too much?

At the beginning of my farming journey, I felt every emotion possible when trying to grow from seeds, but the one thing I didn’t do was give up. Although for a period of time I bought mass-produced seedlings while I mastered what I thought was an art. I soon realised growing plants from seeds is easier than it seems! Given the right resources and information, anyone can do it!

Here are my tips and tricks for successfully growing plants from seeds with The Salad Table.

Planting Seeds in Grow Cubes

Growing your own seedlings has never been easier. Even if you have never tried it before, by following our simple instructions you will have ample supplies of good quality seedlings all year round. The grow cubes that we provide are the same as I use on my farm. When you have a growing plan with seedlings at different growth stages, you can seed, harvest, and replant simultaneously - and it only takes minutes.

You can purchase grow cubes in a container from The Salad Table website. Container and grow cubes are supplied with every 27-plant and 60-plant Premium models.

1. Always ensure your grow cubes are completely saturated before adding seeds. The best way to do this is place the required amount in a container, pour in either tap, tank or your pre-mixed water until fully soaked, then drain excess before adding seeds.

2. Place the container in a protected position such as the kitchen bench or a window sill that receives a good amount of natural light. I prefer giving them sun from day one but no more than a few hours. As they mature, give them more sun to harden them up ready for planting after about 4 weeks. This timeframe will vary depending on variety, season, temperature - and of course, your patience. Another option is to use indoor full-spectrum LED grow lights as this also works well.

3. Continue adding small amounts of water and nutrients as the grow cubes begin to dry out. Keep an eye on these so they don’t drown or die of thirst. I recommend adding water directly into the container rather than pouring over the top as this can reduce the chance of disease. The water will draw into and up the grow cube due to a process called capillary action.

4. Once your seedlings are a couple of inches high, it’s time to pop them into a seedling basket (supplied with every model) ensuring the grow cube and roots are pushed to the bottom, then simply place the plant into your Salad Table.

Planting Plan

To ensure you have a steady supply of plants to harvest you should repeat the process above each week and move the plants into your salad tower as they mature. This week they will ripen at different times and you will have a continuous cycle of salad, herbs and vegetables.

When adding seeds to grow cubes, this is the general rule of thumb: If you are planting a bunch-type variety like coriander, chives, or parsley, use a pinch of seeds. This could be 6, 12 or even more. Try not to overcrowd as you run the risk of seed rot or plants that grow so big they will take over the entire garden.

When growing single plant varieties such as lettuce, cabbage, or tomatoes, use one or two seeds only. Adding two will improve germination rate, so if they both strike you can simply remove the weakest later.

For varieties such as kale or choy, use 3-4 seeds to create a bunch. I always grow 3 choy in the same hole and harvest when mid-sized as this is (in my humble opinion) the best time to eat. Why not try multiple varieties in the same grow cube? You can mix red and green lettuce for a combo, or coriander and parsley to get parsiander. One of my favourites is dill and watercress together, but that's just me.

Tips for Successful Seedling Production

Always use seeds that are in date or you may find germination rates will be disappointing.

Storing your unused seeds in the fridge will help with maintaining quality. Seeds require moisture, heat and light to trigger germination, so refrigeration will keep them dormant for longer. Lack of germination is probably due to the seeds themselves and not you doing something wrong.

Try different varieties of seeds including cheaper brands. You may find the cheaper ones work best for you. Ensure that you grow varieties that are suited to your climate, season and location. It doesn't matter how much of a green thumb you have, you can't grow an iceberg lettuce in the middle of summer in Darwin, or sweet basil in Hobart during July. Most seed packets have information on when and where they can and can't be grown, although this is usually a very rough guide.

You can start your hydroponic seedlings using only water for the first few days, but after the seed leaves (or the true leaves) have developed you will need to add nutrients for the plant to continue growing. These are normally the first two leaves which get nutrition from the seed shell during the germination process. Any other development from here requires nutrients.

Growing Hydroponically Is So Much Better Than Soil Gardening

Starting your seeds in the grow cubes allows you to do things that you can’t do when growing in soil.

1. Reposition your seedlings anytime as they don’t suffer transplant shock like their soil-grown cousins.

2. Easily remove to inspect root development and health.

3. Up to 3 times faster growth due to plentiful supply of oxygen and perfectly-balanced nutrition.

4. Over 90% less water is used.

5. More productive and perfectly suited to small spaces.

If you find growing your own seedlings is not for you, purchase seedling punnets from your local nursery, farmers market, or hardware store and gently wash off the dirt and place directly into a seedling basket. The best way to do this is to dip the root ball gently up and down in a container of room-temperature water. Larger mature seedlings work better using this method as they are less likely to suffer from transplant shock.

In the next edition I'll touch on the growth stage, positions, pests, seasonal varieties, and a whole lot more.