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How helpful are seedlings?  RSS feed

 
Bryan Cooper
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Hey, I was thinking today about the practice of raising seedlings and transplanting them into your garden. What natural phenomenon are we recreating by doing this? I know there's nothing technically wrong with it but are there any examples of seedlings being planted naturally. Doesn't raising the seedlings require a level of production that we are trying to distance ourselves from? The best response I have gotten so far came from a friend of mine that is much older and wiser than I. He told me herds of animals trample plants that duplicate from cuttings spreading them about each season creating more plants and thus more seeds and so on so forth until they have spread them about increasing their cover. While I think this is a plausible argument for a small range of plants, I don't think it gets to the heart of my issue. Either way I have found that seedlings are not worth the trouble for me as I simply mix the seeds I want to grow for the season into a different batches, each sorted according to the depth and light requirements they need. Then when the season starts I grab the corresponding seed pack and spread them about. My theory is if it wont seed it doesn't belong in my system. I treat the plants in this system like adults. It should be self reliant and contribute to your community, if a certain plant doesn't like it there, or requires different needs than can't be fulfilled by my system, I won't work to keep it. This is one of a couple practices that make my garden so elf reliant. I'm interested to know how others feel about this. How do you seed into your permaculture system? What kind of benefits do seedlings give you other than an early start? If someone can, how about a comparison between success rates among seeds and seedlings? Looking forward to your responses
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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Do you mean vegetable seedlings like tomatoes, or tree seedlings?

For my apple trees I started from seed, I'm worried about the damage they'll get from slugs and pill bugs so I'm growing them to get a little bigger before I put them in the ground. In nature, the slugs and pill bugs, etc. would thin a thick stand and only the very best/healthiest would be able to make themselves more disagreeable to prevent being eaten, so survival of the fittest. If I had enough apple seeds to spare, I could try sowing them thickly and letting nature weed out the inferior ones for me, but I only had 15 seeds (and 2 were damaged, I found out) and I'd like the remaining ones to all be trees for me.

Mark Shepard talks about "STUN" gardening - Sheer, Total, Utter Neglect to let the ones that want to die go ahead and die and allow the ones that are hardy enough to not need pampering to reveal themselves.

Honestly, tho, for me, in February I'm TIRED of winter, cold, dead stuff and I want something green in the worst way. I start seeds indoors more for my impatience for Spring to hurry up and come than for a good reason otherwise.

For tap rooted trees that are fairly fast-growing it's probably the best to plant the seeds where you want the trees so they are able to develop the best root system possible and not suffer growth set-backs from being dug and moved.
 
Brian Jeffrey
Posts: 106
Location: Connecticut
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I like seedlings because they get the green going over the garden sooner than waiting for seeds to sprout and leaf out to the same extent as a planted seedling. Doing both for me has resulted in early veggies and a cover crop growing in under them.

Also I have an ongoing seed exchange with my squirrels, so planting the seeds they like to eat directly into the ground is futile. However they do not eat my seedlings or dig them up, win for me!

As far as the level of production (or materials) for a seedling operation; I look at that as the physical soil and effort needed to get the seedlings going . . . in two ways. One I use half compost from my own yard and half inoculated peat mix, so the plug of soil I am adding with every seedling is full of nutrients and beneficial fungi/bacteria. Two, I want to add soil to the tops of my hugels anyway to compensate for the loss due to settling into the voids deep in the bed.

Ok, time to get back to work, the boss is looking at me!
 
Rion Mather
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I am growing blueberries from seeds which is about a 3 year process. Why? I like a challenge and it helps me to learn more about the plant. I also feel a sense of pride. It is kind of like making your own bread or pasta from scratch.

My philosophy is based on the science of "an ecosystem is changed once a human enters it" so I don't feel a bit of guilt over establishing a plant in an environment.
 
Bryan Cooper
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I agree with you about how we change the flow of things by our presence alone. I would actually go a step further and say that as humans we are an expression of nature. We are infact part of the whole system. This is why I feel we should put as many practices under the micro scope as possible. Even things like seedlings over seeds. What does it take to produce the seedling you've bought? Whats the cost ratio associated with seeds vs seedlings. If you start your own, are you using pots? What type of industry is behind each pot you buy? Plastics? My experience has been mixed. I have many plastic pots that I find being thrown out. Just those normal black, ribbed, landscapers pots. These are in my opinion terribly contradictive of an environmentally beneficial practice. My logic is that the cost ratio is better for seeds. If you take care in the beginning to choose the correct kinds you should be able to cut down on your failure rate. Also, think about industry behind seeds. It's often easy to aquire them and if you use local sources can be much less than any store bought pots, or soil. So I feel that for a truely long term system, it has to build its resiliance by survival of the fittest. Plus how much lazier can you get than chucking a handful of seeds and calling it a day
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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For me, only direct-sowing would most probably mean not growing basically anything from the solanum family.
I'd probably end up buying tomato seedlings/fruit, and I'm sure my low-tech methods are more sustainable than any commercial growers round here!
I think there's so many variables, such as climate, pest pressure eg: slugs, 'comfort-zone' when it comes to plastics (I'm one of those that is ok with reusing other's old pots)
As for the rest, many of the plants I grow prefer direct seeding or if they're self-sown and I have a better spot, they get moved there.
 
mary yett
Posts: 74
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
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Dear Bryan,

I am jealous - I have always wanted an "elf reliant garden". Typos can be fun

Seriously though, I try to direct seed most things, but some plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant would never mature in my relatively short season. Transplants are the only way I can grow these foods. I use homemade potting soil ( worm castings,sand,good garden soil) and salvaged plastic pots.

I agree with you about generally not molly-coddling plants that have trouble with my gardening system and climate, but I am culturally attached to some food items and so am willing to do what it takes to grow them. I am also learning to eat new foods that grow easily, esp perennials.

In general, I too function as a "dating service" for most of the plants I grow in the garden and food forest- sorting them into groups that are likely to get along in terms of soil and light requirements, etc. I then sow the mixture ( the meet and mix party) and wait and see who turns up together later on.

This method works best with a prepared seed bed.My biggest problem with this method in the wilder parts of the food forest is quack (couch, twitch) grass , which is extremely aggressive and allelopathic. I am slowly expanding my zones of quack grass free areas, but what a struggle!

Manitoulin Mary
 
Clara Florence
Posts: 47
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Seedlings do have a place, especially if you are starting from scratch. It can helpful to start a new bed all with a few advanced seedlings to create a microclimate conducive to broadcast seed planted between them. I remember one bed I had, I broadcast seed into it 3 times with no success. Stuck a few seedlings in there and suddenly all that seed I put in there started to sprout. I'm a broadcasting fan but for some plants raising seedlings is a better method, especially if the starter seed is expensive. It's also helpful to sprout a few potted seedlings if you are planting a new variety so you have an idea what the seedlings look like. Use whatever works for you.
 
Piero nie
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Seedlings are helpful technique to make some profit. As we know that main motive of seedlings is production and encouraged growth of seeds and young plants. Vegetables and fruit plants can also be produced through seedlings nursery. New seedlings can be started from seed and allowed to germinate into full flowering or food producing plants
 
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