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Six expensive carrots in a punnet

Nicola Bludau garden centres seedlings

Garden centres – not so smart

It is a symptom of our modern society that believes and dependencies are bred by big companies, chain stores or supermarkets. Products are offered for convenience; consumers buy them, get into the habit and forget how easy it is to make the very thing better and cheaper at home. A good example is pancake batter. How long does it take to prepare it? Five minutes. Do a trial: ask a bunch of ten year old kids to make a pancake batter. Will they know what to do, without looking it up in their smart phone?

carrotsThe same holds true for gardening. Convenience is the key to the extent that it becomes inconvenient. The most glaring example is carrot seedlings which were unknown only some years ago. Imagine: you buy a punnet of carrot seedlings, say six seedlings for around three dollars. That accounts to 50 cents each carrot, not counting the fertilizer! Organic carrots are most likely to be far cheaper. By the way – are the seedlings you buy at the hardware store organic?

Coming home, each of these carrots have to be transplanted carefully, not to damage the root, in the same time I sow several hundred carrots in a prepared seedbed. By the way a typical seed packet of carrots contains around 1000 seeds for about $3.50.

The cast of vegetables

For my own garden, I class vegetables into four categories:

First group: seedlings are a must

The first group are vegetables were raising seedlings make absolutely sense. These are: tomatoes, capsicum, chilli and most brassicas, leeks, onion, celery, celeriac. Seedlings are raised for different reasons: the first group are warm climate vegetables like tomatoes, capsicum and chilli which, at least in the Upper Mountains need a protected spot, a greenhouse or a windowsill to give them an early start. Leeks, onions, celery, celeriac on the other hand, grow very slowly and would take out too much space in the bed, anyway you want to space them out evenly.

Second group: seedlings make sense in my garden

The second group are vegetables which are not typically raised as seedlings, but I do so. These are peas, pumpkins and corn. I do have to I raise them as seedlings; otherwise I would lose the battle against mice or bushrats. I use egg cartons for that task.  Strangely, I get away direct seeding beans, zucchini and cucumber.

Third group: seedlings make sense – to some people

The third group of vegetables are those I plant directly but other gardeners raise seedlings: lettuce, Chinese cabbages, silverbeet and some people do transplant beetroot. I prefer sowing directly, because it is so much faster and easier. I can eat the plants I thin out as greens. Raising transplants do actually have some advantages: First if you don’t have the space, the succession in your actual beds is faster as you plant out an advanced plant instead of a seedling. However, seedlings are set back a bit when they are transplanted. The second advantage is that you plant at the right spacing, which gives you more uniform vegetables.

Fourth group: Nonsense for sale

The fourth group are those vegetables were transplants make absolutely no sense. Literature tells that roots like carrots or parsnips get damaged transplanting. I have never tried that myself - I really don’t have the time transplanting several hundreds of carrots! The same goes for radishes, daikons and turnips. In the same group I include everything which is very easy and grows very fast or plants which can stand crowding. That includes mizuna, rocket, parsley and green onion.

The fourth group are those vegetable seedlings which hit the shelves of nurseries and big hardware chains only in the recent years. These products make absolutely no sense; take fuel to truck around, huge greenhouses, plastic for the containers and probably toxic sprays.  What you see creates believes and ‘knowledge’, in that case you are made believe that:

  • Carrots are raised as seedlings and then transplanted one by one!
  • It is totally OK to pay $ 3 for six little corn plants.
  • Raising seeds is really difficult
  • Peas and beans are not sown directly.
  • Gardening is an expensive hobby for rich people with little return.

Of course it is all wrong and you probably know the right answer already!

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  • Michal on

    Yep, very true! I like to speed up some vegetable seedlings in little pots filled with home made compost in the spring when the soil is still cold, but generally, seeds are the best way for most vegetables. There is one condition, though- the soil must be relatively weed free and moist. Once the seedlings come out, pull out the weeds that would compete with them. Some vegetables also need thinning, otherwise they compete with each other.


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