Preparation

The key to turning your seedlings into a successful outcome is preparation. If you start planting them into poor conditions, they will increase your chances of having problems. Unhealthy plants can often succumb to secondary problems like insect attacks. Annuals in particular may think they are going to die and very quickly ‘run to seed’ – a natural survival instinct that causes them to very quickly flower while they are too small and go straight to setting seed.

Raised Garden Beds

Planting in very flat ground may result in poor drainage. This in turns prevents enough oxygen getting into the plant roots. The result is ‘wet feet’. The plant will very quickly look unwell and may die. It is especially a problem in clay soils.

First turn the soil over. Then raise the beds a good 15cm or more in height. You could do this by adding topsoil, but why not first add a layer or organic sugar cane mulch and maybe some chicken manure, blood and bone or even worm castings. You may have some compost, or even some pots with old potting mix. A combination of these products would make a very fertile base. Ensure you don’t overdo the nitrogen. Too much chicken manure for example can contain high levels of ammonia which will burn the roots of young seedlings. Follow the recommended levels on the packaging.

DO NOT use fresh woodchips or fresh manure. This will be toxic to young seedlings.

Pots

Preparation in pots is very easy. Don’t use garden soil, as it generally has too many fine particles and again we get that problem where it compacts down in the pot and their is not enough space between the particles for the oxygen to get to the roots.

A good quality potting mix is usually about 90% pine bark and 10% sand, coir peat and other green compost. The best ones have graded the pine bark through a huge sieve, and add certain percentages of the different sizes of bark. They ensure the mix has plenty of larger chunky bits. An orchid mix requires even better drainage and has ‘nugget’ sized bits. A cactus mix has a bit more sand. As you can see, the potting mix can make a difference.