How to plant from seedling
When starting up a vegetable or herb patch, one of, if not the most expensive aspect is often buying the plants. A much cheaper and, in my opinion rewarding, alternative is to grow your own plants from seed. Here are some tips and techniques that I have learnt in the process of growing my own veggie garden, with photos of progress included.
Find the right container/growing condition: Whilst some seeds can be sown directly into the soil (e.g. carrots and beans), others are best grown indirectly in containers, punnet's, pots or trays (just ensure they have a drainage hole). This is because it is easier to control the environment in these conditions, especially if you buy a mini greenhouse for the seedlings, which can also allow you to grow anytime of the year as the humidity promotes growth. Some seedling greenhouses, like the one I use made by Saxon and sold at Bunning’s, also come with their own seedling tray.
Use seed raising mix: Fill seedling punnet's with a seed raising mix. This is developed with specific nutrients to encourage root development. When you have filled the punnet you don't want to press down the soil so it compacts. It should be loose as this allows for root development.
Start planting but be aware of timing and depth: When planting seeds be aware of the best time of year to sow the seeds and their ideal depth. This will be indicated on the back of the packet. You also don't want to put too many seeds in a punnet due to risks of overcrowding and competition for resources.
Sun and water: Place them next to a sunny windowsill and be sure to rotate the container regularly. Ensure the soil is moist.
Allow time for hardening off: When true leaves emerge and you think it is nearly time to transplant them, a process known as hardening off should occur. This allows the plants to adjust to the outdoor conditions gradually and involves giving them more exposure to the elements daily, for example leaving them outdoors for a few hours under shade and brining them back in. Do this over a period of a few days until they are strong enough to be transplanted.
Transplanting: Transplanting is a delicate process and involves removing the seedlings from their original pot to the garden soil or a larger pot. To start, make a small hole/s deep enough for the seedling’s roots to be covered and if planting multiple, make sure that you are leaving enough space between each row (it is usually indicated on the back of a seed packet how much space each individual plant may require to grow). To make this process easier, I divide my garden space up using string, as different plants have different space requirements and it is also a good way to remember what you are growing!
When removing the seedling, try to be gentle, you want to keep the roots in tact. Thus, you could hold the plant and turn the pot upside down and tap the bottom until the seedling slides out or if it is a single seedling I often use a spoon and just scoop the seedling out, separating any that might be tangled together. Some seedlings may, unfortunately, become lost through this process but it is all about survival of the fittest and a process of learning so don't despair.
Plant: Hold the top of the seedling and lightly compact soil around the roots to fill the hole. I often include some of the soil from the older punnet to avoid transplant shock.
Water: Water the seedlings well on a fine spray setting and watch them grow!