Sowing And Transplanting Vegetables Outdoors.

At first sight, sowing vegetable seed outdoors seems easy enough, but for successful results it is important to remember some simple,but essential rules:

Seeds ideally,should be covered with a layer of soil twice as high as the seed.If you have say, a 1 mm seed, the soil cover should be 1.5 mm.But in reality,this is not always possible,as it depends on your soil,and what sort of crumb state it is in after you have tilled it,or if you have added a lot of organic compost, or made a raised,well-composted organic bed.

So make your drills about 5-6 mm deep,and after you have sown your seeds, rake them well in and tamp the soil down lightly with the rake.We usually walk along the drills and firm the soil with our weight.Your soil should be fluffy enough to take your weight without over-firming it.

It is absolutely critical for the soil to make contact with the seeds and that they are completely surrounded by moist soil for the first ten days of the germinating process.

After planting, give the bed or row a soaking using a watering can. The very best can to use for this is the Hawes watering can. It comes with an exceptionally fine rose, which gives a light, rain-like spray, it doesn’t dribble and is perfect for your seeds. This type of watering will also further firm the soil and remove any air pockets round the seeds. Don’t use a hose, as the water flow will be too strong and will destroy the soil structure.

However, (unless it rains), it is absolutely essential to water the bed thoroughly, but lightly every day for ten days, until the seeds have taken root and can find water themselves. The Hawes watering can is ideal for this task.

In a perfect world,when you sow in rows or blocks,you should be able to sow seeds such as lettuce, so that they don’t have to be thinned when they’ve germinated – but this is pretty well impossible.There are various methods of sowing fine seeds.One way is adding the seed to dry silver sand. You can space the seeds better if you judge roughly how many you might need per row or block and then add this amount to a small bag containing dry silver sand. This gives you more volume and makes it easier to separate the seeds, improve spacing and reduce the amount of thinning after germination.The sand must be bone dry otherwise the seeds get clogged and the exercise is wasted.

Transplanting germinated seed from blocks or trays.

After 21 days or so, the seeds should have germinated and be big enough to be thinned and transplanted to other areas or to places where germination has failed.It is often misunderstood how delicate this operation can be with vegetable seedlings.(Trees and shrubs are tougher and recover faster from leaf and root damage.)

When you dig the seedling out,take care to use a dibber,or a piece of wood about the same length as your finger – we use a piece of dowelling rod about 12 mm long. To avoid root damage,carefully dig around the plant,then using your forefinger and thumb,gently tease the seedling out – getting as much of the root out as possible.

Always hold the seedling gently by the cotyledon leaves(the plant’s first leaves)and never the stem. At this stage the stem and roots are very fragile and easy to damage.A crushed stem or root damage could check the plant and result in a six week delay, and even lose the crop if the cropping season is short.Sudden temperature changes could also check the plant’s development.

Commercial growers of vegetables like lettuce and leeks, will often plant the seeds in small blocks of compost – one per block – which gets planted directly into the soil and reduces damage to the stem and roots.A thing to remember,if you plant your seeds in trays,is to use plenty of vermiculite with your soil or compost,this makes transplanting much easier and there is less root damage.

Again using the dibber,and still holding the seedling by its leaves,plant it to the same depth as the length of its root. Firm it in by watering it.The Hawes watering can is perfect for the job as it has such a fine rose.If the droplet size of a rose is too large,or if you use a hose, you could damage the leaves and stem or alter the soil structure and check the plants which could result in a delay or even crop loss.