How to: growing vegetables from seed
Planting punnets of vegetable seedlings is easy, but it is much more cost-effective and more fulfilling - not to mention offering wider choice and better results - to sow seed directly into the garden.
The key is to sow plants suited to your climate, at the appropriate time of year.
Prepare beds by piling a 10cm layer of composted organic matter and a dusting of a complete organic or biological fertiliser containing ground rock minerals (rock dusts) on top. Then dig it under. The organic matter lightens the soil, and encourages biological activity, which maximises plant growth and vigour and helps minimise soil diseases.
It‘s best to start with bigger seed such as beans, corns, cucumber, okra, peas, rosella, pumpkin, zucchini and coriander. These vegetables all grow better from seed sown directly than from seedlings. I generally sow two seeds per hole and put shadecloth or hessian over the soil to minimise predation. In one or two weeks when the seedlings have emerged, I remove the cover and resow any gaps. A couple of weeks later I remove the less vigorous of the two seedlings.
Make sure you plant seeds at recommended spacings. I then interplant with seed of smaller, faster-growing vegetables, such as rocket or radish, to maximise harvest from the available space.
Smaller seed is sown in drills, which are shallow furrows in the soil. I sieve a layer of soil over the furrow, sow the tiny seed thinly with my fingertips and then add a fine dusting of soil on top. The seedbed needs to be moist during germination. A small structure covered with shadecloth is excellent protection at this stage. After a couple of weeks, the dense row of seedlings will require thinning. Excess seedlings may be transplanted or used as garnishes for salads.
A bonus in growing from seed is that you can save seed from your most vigorous plants. After a few generations, you will have found a strain that is particularly strong and reliable in your garden.