26 Jun 2020

How to grow seeds

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:30 pm on 26 June 2020

During lockdown people went all out and stocked up on seeds says Kay Baxter, co-founder of the Koanga Institute. 

She says now that life has returned to it's usual pace for many of us - will people have the time or the knowledge to plant their seeds so they prosper?

“Lockdown was really busy for us because the seed orders went nuts and we just spent the whole time packing seeds and sending out seed orders," she tells Jesse Mulligan.

Assortment of  fresh fruits and vegetables

Photo: 123RF

“I think there are probably lots of reasons for it, but we’ve noticed at Koanga over the last 30 years we’ll had three really major spikes in sales. One was a few weeks ago and it’s still really high… one was the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering. People get concerned about feeding their kids during periods of uncertainty.

“Growing seeds is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world if you haven’t experience. If you don’t do a good job of growing your seedlings you probably won’t end up with a very successful vegetable garden.”

Baxter says the role of Koanga is not only to supply seeds but to help gardeners grow these successfully and collect seeds for their future use.

“On our website we have an amazing knowledge base. It’s free, anyone can assess it… I really special suggestion at the moment is, if you support Koanga you get a free online workshop and that workshop is on how to grow great seedlings.”

Her focus is on the inter-connectedness of the health of the soil, water and ecology and our own health. Conventional farming and gardening has often treated the soil as simply holding material for the soils of plants, which are then feed a nitrogen-based fertiliser, she says.

“Unfortunately, the way that we’ve been gardening and the way our food has been grown industrially for the last 100 years, we’ve been regenerating the environment and our health. So, that workshop shows home gardeners how really simple it is to change your system to a regenerative or biological system.

“This means you can grow amazing seedlings, which produce nutrient-dense food, which at the same time is going to improve your soil.”

The key to growing healthy produce is feeding the microbes and fungi in the soil, making it come alive. Using home-made compost is useful way to kickstart the process, while using cover crops to break up compacted ground and fix nitrogen will continue the process exponentially.

The use of woodchips is icing on the cake. Using the woodchips like a mulch feeds the soil slowly, feeding fungi, breaking down over winter so my the time spring comes the ground is ready for planting out.

“The chips of wood that comes from the branches of the trees that are less than 7cm in diameter. So you get all the bark, and all the new growth and the terminal buds and the leaves. In that particular part of the tree contains a balanced mix of minerals that we need for growing anything really. You put that in the garden beds now and the fungi digest it over the winter and by spring you have fertiliser in the digested woodchips for your plants.”