There are two basic places to germinate seeds: where they will ultimately grow and mature, or in containers, from which they can be transplanted into open ground or larger containers..
It is generally best to sow seed in the spot where it will grow and mature. Because when it germinates it will send down a root and if in open ground in a friable soil that root can be very long.
Germination in a container or seedling tray will limit the root to the depth of the tray and growing medium.
However, it is not practical to grow everything at the maturity site, especially when we are getting an early start or growing out of season.
Some seed types should only be grown in their maturity site and only planted when conditions are favourable - the likes of carrots, parsnips and other tap-rooted vegetables.
Beetroot and onions are seedlings that will transplant but are better to direct sown - that is sown where they will mature. Spring onion is an exception. Corn, beans and peas should all be direct sown. These larger seeds are easy to handle and can be placed where you want them to grow without having to thin out later on. Silverbeet is another one that would be best direct sown.
To start off seeds early in open ground try this method - make a trench about 10cm deep and the same wide. Pack fresh grass clippings into the bottom of the trench to about 8cm deep. (Note, do not use clippings if grass is in seed as these may germinate where they are not wanted - in your garden).
Next, sprinkle garden lime and Rok Solid in the trench, along with the likes of chook manure, sheep manure pellets, blood and bone, Bio Boost and Neem Tree Granules. Cover lightly with weed-free compost. (Purchased may be best.)
Now sow your seeds - such as peas, beans, sweet corn etc. Peas are hardy but in Southland it will pay to wait a month or so for the others.
Spray seeds with Magic Botanic Liquid at 20ml per litre to hasten germination. Then cover the seeds with more compost and water down using a fine rose watering .
To solve problems with cats, birds or late frosts, make some hoops out of No 8 wire and place them along the row with a clearance of about 20cm in the middle of the row. Place crop cover over the hoops and on one side cover with soil and on the other with lengths of old timber or similar. This allows you to easily take off the cover to tend the plants.
The heat from the grass clippings decomposing will warm the soil which greatly helps germination. When the seedlings are well developed remove the hoops and cover.
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