Growing summer seedlings and saving the seeds – a quick guide

Have you just got home with some springy spring seedlings, looking all full of life and promise of great crops to come and calling for you to get out into the garden and plant… but you’re not sure where to start? Read on for some tips and info.

If you haven’t grown seedlings before, it can seem daunting. All growers have disasters and losing plants and crops is just part of growing food. Don’t despair if you don’t succeed on your first or even second go! Each season, each garden and each plant is different and that’s a lot of variability! Every failure means great lessons for what to do next time and gives you better understanding of your local climate and growing conditions and how to help plants thrive.

Follow these pointers to maximise your chance of getting a great crop from your seedlings, but don’t worry if plants fail. It happens. You can always get in touch with Canberra SeedSavers for advice and support:

When planting out seedlings, place seedling in the soil or growing medium to same position it was in seedling pot – don’t bury any deeper or more shallow. Be gentle with roots, try not to touch too much and gently fill soil around roots when planting.

Lettuce: best grown in cool Autumn weather or early Spring. Start seeds in August /September or March//April, plant in garden when 5 cm tall. Loose leaf varieties are best for spring planting. Needs fertilising (try diluted foliar spray available from a nursery or hardware shop) or lots of compost in soil. Dries out very easily in heat so keep consistently watered and protect from harsh summer sun. One lettuce in a 20cm diameter pot will be very happy on a balcony with daily watering. Harvest outside leaves of loose leaf lettuce and plant will keep growing.

Save Lettuce Seeds: harvest leaves from your lettuce as needed and let it keep growing. When the weather warms up or the conditions are not favourable, the lettuce will ‘bolt’, growing a strong, tall central stem that will burst into flowers and, after a while, white fluff and seeds. Let the plant get dry and brown, then before the fluff browns and falls off, pull out of pot or ground, put upside down in paper bag and let dry for a few weeks. Crush flower heads and shake seeds loose. Store in cool, dark, dry conditions until next season.

Beans: popular beans include climbing beans, bush beans and snake beans. Climbing breaks grow tall, need staking our mesh support to grow up, and produce beans throughout the season; bush beans grow on a small bush, produce all beans at once and don’t need staking or support; snake beans can be either climbing or bush but have longer, stringier pods. Snake beans grow better in hot summer weather. All beans need water and protection from scorching summer sun. Bean flowers and leaves are edible as well as pods.

Save Bean Seeds: saving bean seeds is the easiest thing. Just let the plant grow until it gets dried and browned. Before the pods get too brittle and split, pull off the plant and pop in a paper bag to dry, cracking open to release dried seeds a couple of weeks later.

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