All posts by adrigen

Project Summary

The last of our 12 month subscriptions have finished and I am going to take the opportunity to end the experiment here. I’ll take this opportunity to share some of my discoveries.

The Positive

  • The subscription has a brute force effect on our planting habits. We don’t normally mark the passage of a month in the garden, but we often found that we were receiving a new envelope of seeds to plant, while the old one was still on the bench – an undeniable indication that we took to long to plant the last seeds. Which sometimes led to positive action!
  • People unanimously thought that this was a good idea, but that doesn’t translate to fat veggies. Which brings me to…

The Negative

  • This solution is rather specific to someone who is already active in the garden. If someone didn’t already have a garden bed to plant the seeds into, that’s a pretty huge barrier that receiving seeds is not going to break down. It is entirely feasible that someone would receive all the seeds for their 6 month subscription before they got a chance to build their garden bed.
  • Friends, family and acquaintances dilute the user base. This is common to any project I guess, but people close to me might have said “This is a great idea, sure I’ll get involved” when really they mean “Not my cup of tea, but I don’t want to hurt your widdle feelings”.
  • Seasonal misunderstandings: having a nationally accessible website meant that I was getting orders from Queensland and Victoria. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to customise the seed packets for more than one climate.
  • The time that it took order seeds and make up the packets was pretty huge. This made me think that there really needs to be an economy of scale. Which could be addressed by:
    • This project being undertaken by a seed supplier who already has the stock and part of a packing process.
    • Going in with your balls swinging – if you’re going to assemble planting info for one person, you may as well do it for 100. So a huge effort should go into trying to connect with the correct customers at the start. Maybe via online advertising, or sending out demo packets to gardening clubs – all the clubs in your climate!
    • If the planting info isn’t on the seed packets, and needs to be on a sheet, like mine, then you need an easy way of compiling that info. Something like a database that can produce the sheets.
  • It is always nicer to garden with someone else, so in the case of family I feel like my time would have been more constructively spent by planting seeds in person with a couple of people I know rather than impersonally trying to increase the productivity of many.

Big thanks to everyone who put time into trying this out. Including and especially, Lynda.

 

How to raise seeds

30 second executive summary

  1. Soil
  2. Moisture
  3. Warmth

 30 minute summary (Now with decreased mortality!)

Firstly, read the instructions.

Soil

Fungal diseases may attack, particularly if the soil mix is too wet or heavy, soil needs to be aerated to avoid this.

Sowing in the ground v.s. in trays

Direct into ground

This is generally simpler, since it doesn’t require any further transplanting, and is suitable for larger, robust  plants and root crops that are hard to transplant.

Preparing the soil

Use a garden fork to slightly lift sections of earth, without turning over completely. Don’t do this when it is wet .

Compost or lime can be added and forked through, though this should be done several weeks apart.

Planting depth

Generally this is proportional to the size of the seeds – twice the diameter of the seed. So for extra fine seeds, they can be placed on the surface, pressed in or covered with a fine layer of sifted soil.

Mulch

Don’t cover the seeds with mulch, but do mulch between the rows/plants to prevent weeds from competing with your plants. You can cover your seed with an upturned pot, apply the mulch and then remove the pot.

Mulching is essential to avoid the soil drying our and becoming hydrophobic (unable to absorb water). Aim for 10cm of mulch.

Sowing in trays

Useful for:

    • Tiny seeds
    • Precious seeds
    • Seeds that require warmer temperatures, and hence need to be grown indoors
Containers

You have a heap of different options…

    • Plastic punnets, you can track these down from a garden center
    • Used milk bottles/cartons or yogurt cups , cut off with drain holes.
    • Commercial solutions
    • Styrofoam boxes with a sheet of glass or plastic on top:
      This forms an insulated, mini glass house. Energy enters the box through the glass, as it hits the soil the wavelength changes and can no longer leave through the glass, building the heat in the box. If you have a smooth topped box, then there is no room for slugs or snails to enter the box! I used mum’s light n easy boxes, but these boxes are everywhere.

This guide is a work in progress, so if you have any pointers or questions please leave them below.

Seed Saving Meeting at Tahlee

I attended the first meeting for a seed saving exchange group, held at Tahlee. This included a viewing of the film “Our Seeds”.  The short can explain it better than I can.

In summary: buying the hybrid varieties which are widely available from large companies may give impressive first crops, but will ultimately cost more when you are dependent on buying seeds rather than saving and trading your own. Growing mono-cultures leaves you susceptible to pests, which evolve to withstand pesticides which you will need to keep buying and changing. There were many first hand accounts describing how traditional methods of growing, saving and trading provide a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle than exporting a cash crop and buying back processed, package foods.

After we watched the film Shane facilitated a unanimous decision to hold a seed/cutting/plant exchange for our area at Tahlee and there was also talk of developing a seed bank at the same venue. So if you want to come along to that, it’s on:

Saturday 30th August
at Tahlee (map) at 1pm
For more info, hassle Shane on 0421311574

(I’ll be travelling out from Tighes Hill if you want to carpool. )

Tahlee is an interesting place to visit, with lots of history and sweet permaculture setup… a good place to take your class / garden club / tourists etc.
Some more info about Tahlee here.

tahlee-sign-boganvillia

3rd month sent. Trial Extended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve just packed up the seeds for the 3rd and final month of the trial, ready to send out. I struggled a bit to get these out on time, it’s the 25th and I’m only just about to put them in the mail. I will pick a specific day of the month for finalising orders, packing and sending.

There has been mixed success with the first two months, some people are a month behind with their planting, some planted the first but not the second and some still haven’t planted the first packet. Feedback has been positive, with several people keen to keep going (and contribute money to buying the seeds).

Note that this time the name of the seed is written in the bottom corner of the bag, allowing for the bag to be thinly rolled up into a label (also note the first crush).

I have decided on the following draft subscription options, which should help cover the cost of buying seeds:

  • 1 month subscription – $20 per month
  • 6 month subscription  – $108 ($18 per month)
  • 12 month subscription $180 ($15 per month)

All of these will start with a free month trial (for now!) which you’re welcome to take advantage of.

  • 3, 6 & 12 month gift certificates

Does this sound like a reasonable set of options?

Are there any I should add?

Round 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUsing little bags worked a lot quicker, cancelling out the paper folding stage. The envelopes I received are a bit larger than is required, so next time I’ll get smaller ones.

I noticed that John and Pru had folded up the paper envelopes to use as lables- what an awesome idea. Next time I will take care to write the names on the very corner of the bag so that everyone can use them as lables.

February’s seeds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust thought I would share my progress on the first month’s seeds.

The tray seeds are alive and sprouting, but not particularly big. We bought crap seed-mix after hours from a shop I  normally wouldn’t buy anything from, so maybe that’s why they’re a bit stunted. You can see in the picture that the soil has large bark-like particles which I can’t imaging being good for seeds… they prefer fine soil.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWorse progress on the directly planted seeds. They look a bit lost in the garden and the weeds are prolific. The soil also looks a bit dry… serves me right for not mulching. Better luck this month.

February, first 10 packets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are the first prototype seed envelopes. Towards the end of January I ordered 8 different packs of seeds from Green Harvest organic, using the list generated by gardenate.com as a guide to what’s in season. The seeds cost about $35.

I folded up envelopes from A5, then A6 pieces of scrap paper, which took approximately 10 minutes on average to fold and fill 10 envelopes for each seed. They are not air or water tight, as the seeds are not intended to be stored! It took 15 minutes to make up the complete packs. So approx 95 minutes in total.

The individual seed envelopes just have the name of the seed, which can be cross referenced on an a4 sheet of info with all the seed details.

I cut and pasted the description for each seed from the web and typed out the planting info. Some feedback below suggests there is too much info. One thing I wonder about is that there is separate distances for plant spacing and row spacing. I personally don’t plant much in rows, because it’s too tempting for pests to come an obliterate their favourite thing. I will consult some gurus and see if this figure can be averaged into one radius.

What will I do differently next time?

I have ordered little white paper bags, which should reduce the time taken to pack the individual seed envelopes (and stop seeds from exploding everywhere).

The recycled envelopes don’t stick shut very well which is unacceptable, so I will try another type, for when they get mailed. Oh yeah, next time I am going to mail them… it was nice to hand deliver them, but not sustainable.

Include a seed saving guide (in response to suggestions below).

I am keen to get the seed info into a database, so I start automating the printed info, since typing them out is going to be time consuming (I didn’t even record how long it took last time).

Verbal feedback

“Who the fuck’s going to read all that?”

Too much info on the sheet. Will try and whittle it down or explain some things graphically or contextually (don’t ask me how). Thanks Lynda.

“Can we have something fun, like sunflowers in each packet?”

Yes John, this is a good idea, sorry I forgot to put fun things in this round.

“I have saved seeds you can use for this”

Great idea, Katelijn. We will include them for March/April.

“You should get people to save seeds for this”

This is obviously an unforeseen important aspect of the project. Let’s do it, thanks Pete.