How can I compost at home when I’m so busy?

These days, one would hope that most people compost and don’t throw their food scraps into the bin to go to landfill. Yet, I recently went to visit some friends who still throw their food in the bin…!

#therearenowords #makesmewanttoscream

Needless to say, I can’t support this – so I left my food scraps on their bench and left them to do the dreaded deed themselves and put them in the rubbish bin!

This has got me thinking about the best way to compost for people who either have busy lives, small spaces or who live in rental properties.

Two ways spring to mind, either Bokashi or worm farms.

Let us first look at Bokashi.

Bokashi has many uses if you have a garden or even a raised bed or two. It’s an innovative Japanese fermentation process that ferments your food scraps, ready to add as a nutrient-source to your soil.

It’s simple to use – the fermented Bokashi either needs to be dug into the ground, put into your raised bed, plant pot or compost after fermentation and covered with carbon, leaves, and brown material. You can also extract the Bokashi liquid from the bottom of your Bokashi bin, which is enormously valuable to tip down your toilet or shower or drains, as it is full of beneficial microbes that will clean your pipes, septic system and even the scuzz down your shower. The juice can also be diluted and sprayed back on your plants.

I now stock a great little bench top Bokashi bin in my online store which is a great solution for urban homes or those looking for the most convenient way to introduce this into their daily routine. I reviewed these bench top bins last week – if you didn’t see it, check it out here.

Now let’s look at worms as a method to compost.

For the busy working person with limited space, I would suggest a worm farm. Worm farms are easy and will hold a lot of food waste and process your food into Vermicast.

Vermicast is a wonderful soil conditioner; has really healthy bacteria; grows healthy plants and will never burn your plants.

Once set up, a worm farm is easy to use and hardly ever needs emptying. Worms will process all your food scraps, including bones, with no odour. The juice can be extracted via a tap at the bottom and watered onto any of your plants, including house plants. When ready, the vermicast can be used either in pot plants or small container gardening.

There is no need for anyone to throw food into landfill. Even if you don’t garden, there will be someone who does and is willing to take the amazing goodness a worm farm or Bokashi bin produces.For more tips on composting and how to make it work for you, sign up to my weekly newsletter or get in touch!

Summer Success: How to grow zucchini and what you need to know

Continuing on the summer series this week, we will talk about the zucchini, also known as the courgette.

The zucchini is such a versatile vegetable – delicious on the bbq, chopped in a stir fry, made into fritters, grated in a salad, made into a pasta and even stuffed and baked as a marrow when it outgrows its small stage or gets missed in the picking process.

Zucchini are extremely easy to grow from seed and also available as seedlings in many different varieties, shapes and forms. It all depends which ones you prefer. Personally I prefer the cocozelle variety, leaning into the Italian category, as this variety is consistently of good texture and not too watery.

What do zucchini require to grow in my garden?

Number one on the list of requirements must be space. A zucchini requires 1m x 1m of space to grow comfortably. Many people make this error when first planting their little seedling and tend to plant it too close to other plants or too close to each other. Space is an essential requirement for a zucchini to enable it grow to its full capacity and also to prevent disease.

Zucchini love to be planted in a sunny spot. However, from experience of growing zucchini on a large scale and over many years, I would advise in the NZ sun a preferable place to plant your zucchini is in a place where it gets at least half a day of sun. Sometimes when the NZ sun is at its hottest, it will protect itself and collapse its leaves due to overheating. If this occurs, please don’t panic and avoid watering in the middle of the day, as you are likely to burn the plant. You will find that in the cool of the evening and the night, the plant will recover and return to its perky self in the morning.

A good healthy zucchini plant will produce around 4.5kg of fruit over its growing season – if planted in the right conditions. This is not including the odd marrow that gets away.

What are the soil and food requirements for zucchini? 

Zucchini like to be planted in rich compost and like to have free draining soil, as this plant hates wet feet. If you don’t have rich compost to hand, you can add one bucket of Bokashi to each hole and this will ensure a great start. I also recommend vermicast from your worm farm under each seedling, which really helps, but this won’t be enough to sustain it over time.  A zucchini plant won’t thrive if planted on poor unfed soil, which will leave you frustrated over the whole growing season.

How does a zucchini pollinate and what do I need to know when growing?

Zucchini is a plant that produces both male and female flowers. The male flower has a long thin stem with a big flower on the end and the flower is usually larger than the female. The female flower forms at the base of the plant with a zucchini growing behind it.

For pollination to occur, the bees and insects must visit the male flower and then the female flower, so it pays to take a good look at your plants to ensure they have both before removing any to eat – otherwise pollination won’t occur and this will lead to a gardeners frustration! Usually when your plants start to grow and begin to flower, it will be the male flower that comes first, and sometimes there can be lots of male flowers and no female flowers. Maybe this is nature’s way of luring in the right insects and bees to ensure they will keep coming back when the female flowers appear? 

It is ok to remove some of the male flowers to eat, but please make sure to leave some for pollination. You will be able to tell the female flowers, as they have a tiny immature zucchini at the base.

What do I need to feed my zucchini plant with for success?

As soon as your flowering begins, it is a good time to get into the habit of fortnightly feeding. You can spray with Flower Optimise or comfrey to maximise flowering capacity and to encourage more flowers. 

I recommend spraying is done before the sun hits the plant in the early morning however, if this isn’t possible, last thing at night will do. Please never spray when the leaves are hot from the sun, as this will cause stress to the plant via leaf burn.

How much should I be watering my zucchini?

Zucchinis are made up of water so it is only natural that they require water, and lots of it. The base is the best place to water, as it will get taken straight up by the roots into the plant. Avoid getting water on the leaves as this will be a recipe for disease to start and spread. Water your zucchini three times weekly to ensure good growth, fruit and health. A good thick mulch around the plant will help to keep the soil cool and the moisture in.

Good luck with planting your zucchini and happy gardening!

Tomato Success Series: How to protect from Green Shield Bugs

Beware – these pesky little critters can destroy not only your tomatoes, but your whole garden! Once green shield bugs are present, it is a daily job to deal with them.

This is my last blog in the Tomato Success Series – I hope you’ve enjoyed and found it useful! So let’s conclude by looking at this frustrating tomato pest and how we can control it for the sake of your tomato harvest this summer!

To prevent Green shield bugs, the time is ripe now to be checking under your leaves for egg clusters. Green shield bugs, also called stink bugs, lay around 14 eggs which are generally a yellowy tan colour, sometimes paler.


What are green shield bugs / stink bugs?

Let’s first start by looking at the life cycle of these bugs.

When the Nymphs first hatch, they don’t really eat or have wings. They evolve in their growing process by shedding their skin. They change colour from black, to black and green, and so on until they become an adult. It is not until just before they become an adult that their wings form, then the trouble really starts!

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Young shield bug
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Mating

What problems do green shield and stink bugs present in my garden?

These bugs pierce and suck your vegetables or plants to feed and, unfortunately, they seem to do it right before you’re ready to harvest. This is why, when you pick a tomato that has been attacked by these pests it will be dry inside, and usually with a white ring on the inside close to the skin. Basically they suck the goodness out of your plants.

I remember years back when shield bugs only attacked tomatoes – nowadays they are not fussy at all and particularly like to hide in the bean bush, sucking away out of sight doing damage unseen…

Why are green shield and stink bugs hard to manage?

These damaging pests can overwinter as adults, and they will hide in long uncut grass and shrubs over the cold months until the sun is up for laying their eggs. They prefer to breed on plants that have fruit or seed heads and are particularly fond of berry leaves. They produce several generations in one year and can become prolific very quickly.

Now is the time they start to lay their eggs and each female can lay eggs over an 8 week period. This is crafty, as it is just in time for when your fruit or vegetables are coming ready to harvest. This means that one plant can have all stages of bug development on it at once, from eggs through to adults.

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Hatching

How can I control green shield and stink bugs organically? 

Adults don’t stop laying until around the end of summer, when the day light gets less and the air gets cooler. Imagine how many babies they will have had by then!

It is crucial to try to keep on top of them now. The very best advice I can give, after decades of organic gardening experience, is how very important it is in any garden to take the time to really study your plants; not only at a glance, but to get right in there looking under leaves, down the stem and into the soil.

Observation is a huge part of gardening… When you observe these bugs on your plants, or signs that these pests have been present, you know you need to act quickly if you want to keep any of your own crop for yourself.

If you do find these dreaded insects on your crops, you can manage them by smothering with EnSpray99 – this is an effective and organic method to manage an infestation.

Another organic recipe I’ve tried and found to be successful is to collect the bugs; crush them and put them in water to spray on the plants. I’ll be sharing my organic recipe for this next week in my newsletter as a free printable. Make sure you’re signed up!

Some of the best preventative methods I have found is to plant Calendula officinalis on the periphery of the garden, which acts as a host and a sacrificial plant for shield bugs. I also recommend planting Alyssum, Borage and lavender to attract other beneficial insects that will eat shield bugs.

I wish you luck with these bugs and encourage you to share with me any tips, tricks or observations you may have had success with in the past.

Happy gardening!

Tomato Success Series – The top 3 pests to protect your tomatoes from

Thanks so much for all your positive feedback and support with this Tomato Success Series – I’m delighted you’ve found it so useful and look forward to seeing juicy pics of your tomato harvests this season!

As we all know, tomatoes and tomato plants can be prone to a lot of pest and disease. This week, the Success Series will focus on the pests that can attack tomatoes.

Remember that pests and disease only affect your tomatoes if the soil is not at optimum health or your plant becomes stressed over summer. The first thing to do is to be observant of your plants and identify the disease.

Pests – the top three enemies to watch out for!

Tomato Enemy #1: Whitefly

Whiteflies are tiny flying insects that feed on plant juices and leave a sticky residue behind, which can become a host for sooty mould.

These insects live on the underside of the leaves, as most insects do.

The best way to find out if you have these is to give the plants a tap and they will fly up into the air.

The best way to treat whitefly is by spraying regularly with a good oil or to hang sticky yellow traps up. You can buy these from any good garden centre, or even make them yourself at home with some yellow card, smothered in Vaseline and then hang near the plants.

Whiteflies can be very damaging if you are growing in a green house. Spray the underside of the leaves in the morning with the oil and repeat every two weeks.

Another way to prevent an infestation of whitefly is to plant beneficial flowers that will attract natural predators such as lacewings and ladybugs. These plants will bring the predators into your garden and they will consume up to 1,000 whitefly a day. To learn more about whitefly and companion planting to prevent them, check out one of my earlier blogs here.

I strongly encourage you to check your tomato plants regularly, as these diligent little insects can create a big infestation over a short period of time.

Tomato Enemy #2: Cutworms

Cutworms are the caterpillars of moths that lay their eggs in the soil.

When the caterpillars emerge, they chew on the young, juicy new plants and cut them off at ground level, either eating part of the stem or all of it. You can wake up one day to find your plant suddenly cut off at its base overnight, lying on the ground without a bug or insect in sight!!

The caterpillars can grow up to 4cm long and vary in colour from light grey, brownish to almost black. When they are disturbed they curl up like the picture above.

They only eat at night and hide in the soil during the day, becoming most active after periods of rain.

If you have these in your soil the only way to protect your plant is by putting a barrier around your young plant and sinking it into your soil. When digging or transplanting, please be observant of what appears out of your soil – if you see these, it is a good idea to remove them!

Tomato Enemy #3: Psyllid

Over the past few years, this insect has become more and more rampant in tomatoes, capsicum, chilli and potatoes.

The psyllid first became a real pest in 2006 and originates from central and north America. It is very tiny secretes a toxic saliva that severely damages the plant. This is a pest that commonly arrives with your new plants bought from garden centres.

The symptoms of psyllid being present is a slight discoloration of the top leaves along the rib and the edges. Then the whole plant can turn to a yellowish green.

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These pests are tiny and very hard to see. Yet again, I can’t stress the importance of looking under the leaves of your plants. Most eggs and pests are under the leaves doing the damage before you even know it. They love to feed off your plant by sucking away at its goodness, and this can cause uneven growth of your plants, misshapen fruit and even for the flowers to fall off.

Psyllid breed all your round – just a bit slower in the winter – a female can lay up to 500 eggs over a 3 week period! In Auckland, there can be as many as 8-10 generations a year!

Again, this is an important reminder to have bio diversity in your garden by planting beneficial insect flowers to attract the right predators.

Lacewings will eat nymphs which can help with your infestations. I also recommend that you plant yarrow, dill, phacelia, cosmos, feverfew and sunflower to name a few.

I tend to put a micronet over my young seedlings which stops the eggs being laid, but you need to be sure if you are buying plants that they have no eggs on them otherwise covering them won’t help at all. If I do buy plants from a nursery I always spray them with a good oil when I get them home, and again on a regular basis.

Remember as the weather heats up to be observant at all times!

Good luck with these tomato enemies!

The Tomato Success Series: How to plant your tomatoes for maximum growth

Thanks for all your positive feedback on the Tomato Success Series – it’s great to hear that you’ve been finding it useful. If you are just tuning in, check out my earlier blogs in the series on choosing your tomato plants and preparing your soil.

As I mentioned, I’m on a mission to ensure that all my blog readers have a fantastic crop of tomatoes this season! So let’s dive into my advice on planting your tomatoes – it’s time to finally get them in the ground!

If you have grown your tomatoes from seed, wait until they have four good strong leaves before transplanting them into the garden.

If you have bought yours as a seedling, please inspect them carefully to ensure there are no yellow leaves and also check under leaves to make sure there are no egg sacks of nasty insects hiding.

Don’t be the reason pests or disease are introduced into your own garden!

If you have leaves that look a bit suspect, nip these off with your fingers and dispose of them. The idea is to have a happy healthy tomato plant go into the ground at the start.

Tomatoes can tolerate being planted deep, and my recommendation is to plant in the soil right down to the first two leaves. This will give it a fine start in life, and give it more stability in the long run.

Put your stakes next to your plant as soon as it is planted to avoid going through the roots later on and damaging them. The stake will then be ready to give your plant stability as soon as it is tall enough.

I tend to make a bamboo frame, either in a tepee shape or, at the back of a bed, I put the stakes into the soil and then tie stakes across in a grid. This is a particularly great shape as, later on in the growing season, you can train some of the laterals along these horizontal stakes.

As soon as they are tall enough, your tomato plants should be tied up with a soft tie or an old pair of tights – anything soft and stretchy so as not to rub on the tomato and damage the stem. Tie at every possible opportunity to protect your plant in its rapid growth and prevent it from getting top heavy and falling over onto the soil.

If you are growing normal tomatoes, not dwarf or bush, then they like to be a minimum of 40cm apart. This will give them good space to grow and enable airflow when the humidity comes.

For sweet tomatoes, plant them in an area where they will get at least 6-8 hours of sunshine a day.

Regularly check your plant for signs of early blight, especially if there are long periods of rain and humidity.

As your plant grows, it will produce laterals which appear next to the stem and above a leaf join. These look like miniature tomato plants and will produce tomatoes, however you will find that you won’t need all of them. I tend to nip mine off in the first 50cm or so to give my plant more strength.

There is a lot of debate around removing leaves of the tomato plant.

My advice from years of growing is to remove as many leaves as possible, as your plants grow, to enable good airflow. As long as your plant has a third of its leaves, you can remove the rest. The best way to do this is by snapping them downwards. I never use anything metal near a lot of my plants especially tomatoes, as this can cause a negative reaction within your plant.

My top tip for you is to collect all these leaves and put them in a bucket and pour water over them, leave for a day and then pour the water back on your plants and discard the mushy leaves. Honestly, your tomatoes will love you for this as it is like a special tonic for them.

Next week, the Tomato Success Series continues and we will start to look at pest and disease and trouble-shooting the problems you encounter. As ever, feel free to get in touch with me to share your questions or concerns – I’m always happy to help!

Happy gardening!

The Tomato Success Series: How to prepare your soil for growing delicious organic tomatoes

Welcome back to our Tomato Success Series – my challenge here at Grow Inspired is to ensure that all my blog readers have a fantastic crop of tomatoes this season! Did you see last week’s blog on choosing varieties and when to buy? If not, check it out here!

This week, we’re looking at preparing your soil. This is simply critical – tomatoes do have quite a few particular requirements and having the right balance of nourishing nutrients in your plant bed is one of the greatest opportunities we have as gardeners to all but guarantee success.

There is no point going to buy your plants if your soil is not prepared, otherwise they will sit in their pots until you get round to it.

Where should I plant tomatoes?

To plant your tomatoes, I find that a spade depth of friable soil in the garden or a deep pot or container works best. Tomatoes have very strong roots and will spread rapidly under the soil. Did you know that the stem of the tomato is also able to grow roots? So if your tomatoes bend over in your garden, they will spurt roots from along the stem if it’s touching the soil.

What soil type do tomatoes need?

Tomatoes love sandy loamy soil above all others. If you are stuck with clay soil like me, it will require some extra work to prepare. Well-rotted compost or sheep pellets are a must, plus sawdust and Bokashi to create the perfect mix for tomatoes.

Tomatoes turn their noses up at dry soil or water-logged soil, as they much prefer a balance in between, with moisture-retentive soil. Tomatoes like a neutral pH of close to 7, so not too acidic or alkaline. Most garden centres sell a pH meter if you’re keen to test your soil, or I actually picked up a few recently on 1-day.co.nz for a very reasonable price that work well, so keep an eye out elsewhere too. If your pH is too low, you can add a couple of handfuls of lime and this should do the trick to raise the pH, but be sure to water it in.

What nutrients need to be in the soil for growing tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a high potassium vegetable, therefore require higher potassium in their soil than a lot of plants. This is the number one nutrient you need to focus on increasing in your soil.

Good amounts of potassium produce a juicier tomato with higher acidity. A lack of potassium can cause uneven ripening.

Potassium maintains balance and water within your tomato plant. It is also essential for the production and transportation of sugars in the plant and synthesis of proteins, along with enzyme activation. Clever stuff!

Did you know that potassium is required for lycopene, which is the reason your tomatoes are red?

High levels of potassium have been proven to give much higher yields, so it is really a no-brainer – if you do nothing else, remember to add your potassium!

If you are still having fires, save your wood ash (known as potash), as this is fantastic to incorporate into your soil to boost this key nutrient, and continuing later on in the tomatoes’ growing life, as a side dressing of potassium.

IMPORTANT NOTE… If you have kidney problems, please avoid fruit and veg that contain high potassium.

Calcium and magnesium are also essential for your tomato growth. For calcium, I tend to use Nano-cal from Environmental Fertilisers, which is available from Kings Plant Barn. Magnesium can be obtained by watering with Epsom salts, which is really known as Magnesium sulphate. This is available in 20kg sacks from any good farm shop. Remember to add a good balance of these and apply them regularly throughout the growing season, especially when the flowers form.

One nutrient to watch for is nitrogen – tomatoes require lower levels of nitrogen in your soil, as too much can cause rot.

It’s a fine balance and this is why getting your soil profile right in the beginning can really set you up for success. Best of luck in preparing your soil and then heading out to choose your plants! Next week, our Tomato Success Series continues with planting!

Happy gardening!

The Tomato Success Series: Is it time to buy your tomato seedlings?

Welcome to the Tomato Success Series! Over the next few weeks we will do a series of blogs on tomatoes; from growing, feeding, soil requirements and pest and disease prevention so that you can grow and harvest your best crop to date!

We’ll kick off with choosing your tomato varieties and knowing when to buy…

These are often over-looked, but crucial steps in creating success.

As gardeners in an ever-changing climate, we must pay close attention to the conditions around us and choose the time we plant and the varieties accordingly.

With tomatoes everywhere in the garden centres at the moment, (why do they always have to stock them so super early and confuse their customers!) people are reactively buying them, as they assume the time must be right if they’re available, and no one wants to miss out.

My advice? Waaaaaaaaaaait.

My climate here on Waiheke Island is still way too cold and wet, with only the odd hot day. There have been hail and thunder storms across the North Island this week, so the weather has yet to settle towards a summer-like pattern. Wait for the right conditions in your area and for warmer soil. Did you know that tomatoes like at least 16 degrees to even begin to grow outside?

And if that didn’t convince you, did you know that some of the negative consequences of planting too early can be very slow growth, and tomatoes that are prone to pest and disease, especially early blight?

So – the climate is right and you’ve decided it’s time to choose your tomatoes for the season. How do you decide?

If you are growing from seed, you will likely already know what varieties you like, but if selecting seedlings from the nursery, it is good to do a little bit of research first on the types of tomatoes that you and your family prefer to eat. After all, isn’t this why we grow them?

Are you growing tomatoes to make sauce, paste or chutney?

Do you want low acid tomatoes?

Do you prefer the small cherry tomatoes?

Do you want organic heirloom tomatoes?

What colour tomatoes do you desire?

Black, yellow, red, green, orange, striped, normal, pear shaped, oval, round…. So many decisions.

Please go prepared, as it is easy to get distracted in the shop. Only buy what you need and maybe even stagger the planting so all your tomatoes don’t ripen at once.

Some tomatoes take longer to mature, so make sure you do your homework before you buy.

Once purchased, leave your seedlings in a sheltered position at home for a few days to get your plants acclimatised to your area. Remember most of them have never been outside in their growing life, so they could become shocked and vulnerable to disease.

Next week, our Tomato Success Series continues and I will be advising you on preparing your soil to create the optimum conditions for your newly selected tomato plants. Until then, this is the first ever blog that comes with homework!! Get researching and as ever, feel free to contact me with your questions if you need help in choosing your varieties!

Happy gardening!

A recipe for summer success: how to grow crunchy organic sweet corn

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at some of the summer plants and what you need to know to grow them successfully in your gardens at home.

This week, I feel inspired to start with corn.

Whilst a lot of people shy away from planting corn, I absolutely love growing it for the pure satisfaction of eating the fresh crunchy delicious organic cobs sprinkled with sea salt and slathered in delicious organic butter. Yum Yum Yum.

Corn can be a pretty easy crop to grow as long as you have the correct requirements. It is very easy to interplant with cucumbers, as the stems will serve as a support for the cucumbers to grow up.

Corn requires the following conditions for the ideal recipe for success:

  • full sun in a sheltered spot
  • a fair amount of water in the hot summer months
  • water-retentive soil, full of nutrients
  • deep containers or a well turned over bed for their big root system.

Top tips for preparing your soil to grow corn:

The most important thing to do to grow successful corn is to make sure your soil is very well prepared with loads of manure, preferably chicken manure.

Corn also requires your soil to be water retentive, so digging in a couple of buckets of Bokashi prior to sowing is the best idea, as Bokashi in the soil improves the water holding capacity.

Top tips for choosing the spot and the time to plant corn:

Plant away from the prevailing wind for best results.

I always grow from seed, as most seedlings available in the shops have stunted root growth due to being planted in shallow trays, which is a terrible start for your plants.

If you decide to sow by seed, it is imperative this is done before the end of November to be sure it has a long enough growing season. If planting by seedling you have up until December. I usually sow a few extra seeds just in case they don’t all germinate.

You can expect that a plant with enough food will form properly and produce anywhere from 2- 4 cobs.

Did you know:  When you a buy a corn in the shop and the corn pearls haven’t formed at the top, this is because the food and water in the soil ran out for the plant.

Once your seedlings have appeared, cover with mulch and a net until they are about 20cm high, as birds are particularly fond of these plants.

Top tips on how to sow corn:

When sowing your corn, it is advisable to plant in blocks and not rows, as this enables more pollination of flowers and if a strong wind does blow in they will support each other. You can stagger your corn harvest by planting early and late maturing varieties. Your corn will be ripen when the tassels at the top turn a golden colour and your cob has started to move away from the stem. Pluck your corn, soak in water with the husk on and put it on the bbq. Nothing more satisfying.

Companion planting with corn

These days with the awareness of chemical sprays, many people want to grow more and more of their own food. Remember growing anything is possible when you give it the right conditions. Corn can also be grown in a deep container if you have no garden.

Beans grow well interplanted with corn too, especially runner beans or pole beans as these will wind up the stalk and you will save space! Remember that beans will fix nitrogen in the soil as an added source of food for the corn.

Corns companions in the garden bed are beans, cucumbers, sunflowers, pumpkins and zucchini, celery and potatoes. Corn does not like to be planted near tomatoes, so make sure to plant these in another bed.

A good regular spray with EM (effective microorganisms) and Liquid Kelp will keep your plants happy all summer long!

Happy gardening

What is pricking out seeds and why do you need to do it?

Following last week’s blog on the benefits of sowing your own seeds, I wanted to address the next stage for you – pricking out and transplanting seedlings.

After a seed has been sown, if they are small seeds, it is usual to prick them out into a bigger container to enable the seedling to get bigger before transplanting it. This is to let the root system establish – things like lettuce, bok choi, celery, tomatoes, chilli and the tiny plants.

When the seedling has formed four leaves, it is then strong enough to be transplanted or potted up. This can be done by preparing a deeper tray with potting mix, vermicast or compost. I generally use a mixture of vermicast and spent compost. The reason I use the spent compost is really for a bulker and I add the vermicast for food to grow the plant.

Really, the key to success here is to treat your seedlings as delicately as you can and give them a boost of nutrients prior and post transplanting, to avoid any unnecessary shock.

Top tip: Vermicast and worm wees are excellent health tonics for your plants and can really prevent any negative impacts of transplanting.

I tend to spray all my seedlings with liquid kelp and effective microorganisms when I transplant to give them a good start and also to help them with the shock of being moved.

How to transplant your seedlings

Water your seedlings half an hour before you are going to transplant them. This is done to maximise the plants growth and reduce the stress. It is the same if you buy seedlings from the garden centre. Most of them will arrive quite thirsty and transplanting a dry plant simply starts its life off under stress.

Prepare your tray and water; then make a hole with your finger and gently tease the seedlings apart, avoiding touching the roots. Plop it into the hole down to its first leaves and squeeze the soil around it. When all are transplanted, gently water the soil around them. Try to avoid wetting the leaves as they are very vulnerable at this stage and could suffer from damping off if watered above.

Now is the time to leave your seedling outside to harden off and get adjusted to your climate.

With the bigger seedlings like corn, cucumber, zucchini, beans and pumpkin, I recommend that you wait until three to four leaves have formed and then they are ready to go straight into the garden. Make sure your site is prepared and watered.

Top tip: When transplanting your seedlings be sure to know how big they grow so you can get the correct spacing, especially with the likes of zucchini that grow 1m x 1m.

When transplanting directly into the soil, make sure you plant the seedling down to its’ first leaves, as this will enable stronger roots and less stress for the plants. The deeper the better, as it will create a stronger root system for your plant when the gusty winds come along.

Once planted, mulch your plants heavily to protect from the elements and water at the base every couple of days in their first two weeks of life. Give them love and watch them grow.

Over the next few weeks on the blog, I’m excited to share my recommendations about individual plants and their growing requirements so you’re all set for a super summer!

Happy gardening!

Learn how to sow seeds with my 12 steps to success!

With all the seedlings available in the shops, people have forgotten the art of sowing seeds.

Whether due to convenience or lack of knowledge, we’re missing out on this cost-effective gardening ritual. In this blog, I’m going to share the basic art of seed sowing with you. I encourage you to go out and give it a try this spring and reckon you won’t go back once you do!

Why should I sow my own seeds?

I prefer to sow most of my own seeds as it gives me the control of my own environment. Though we don’t always realise it, many pests and disease arrive on the plants that we buy in the stores. You literally pay to introduce problems to your own garden!!

These seedling plants also get extremely stressed, especially with the warmer weather coming and pest and disease on the move – not a great start to life for them. How many times have you visited the garden centre and they are watering in the middle of the day or overhead watering? This is a sure-fire way to cause disease and plant stress!

How do I sow my own seeds?

Let’s imagine you know nothing of seed sowing. Follow these simple 12 steps and you’ll be on the garden path to success!

Step 1: Buy good organic seeds. This is going to be the fundamental basis to set you up for a great season ahead. My own unbiased recommendations include Kings Seeds, who have a good range of organic seeds; Running Brook Seeds, which is fantastic; and local seed banks are also a great place to start looking.

Step 2: There are usually heaps more seeds than you will need, so think about talking to other people and see if they are keen to share a packet. Seeds are the most cost-effective way of growing food or plants, and you can make it even more so!

Step 3: Open the packet and tip a few seeds into your palm, observing the seeds’ size.

Step 4: Smaller seeds need less depth to sow in than larger seeds. I usually sow small seeds into a container that is a depth of 7-10 cm and larger seeds in a container that is 14-20 cm deep. The benefit of this is to avoid wastage of the growing medium.

Step 5: Select a good organic seed raising mix for the finer seeds and an organic potting mix for the bigger seeds. Fine seeds need a fine mix to germinate.

Step 6: Pour the mix into the container and pat down to remove the air.

Step 7: Water, leave, water, leave, water, leave, water. This will enable the mix to absorb the water all the way through and not just on the top layer.

Step 8: With fine seeds, I tend to use a twig to make a depressed drill across the container, east to west. Sow the seed about 3-4 times the diameter of the seed, cover and press lightly. I also recommend that you label your seed to help keep track. You can sow many seeds in the same tray.

Step 9: For really fine seeds, you can sprinkle these on the surface of your mix and pat gently.

Step 10: Larger seeds get pushed into holes 2-3 times the size of the seed. I make my indentations with a finger, then drop the seed in, cover with soil and add my label.

Step 11: Protect your seeds from the bizarre weather we are having lately by either starting them off indoors or covering them until they have germinated.

Step 12: Water with a gentle spray every couple of days. The exception to the rule is beans, which should be watered only when they have germinated.

Next week, I will share my top tips on pricking out your new seedlings. Give seed sowing a go this spring, and let me know how you get on!

Happy gardening!