Thinking about planting? Think about soil temperature…

Spring is coming (despite the forecast of snow for this weekend!) and it’s time to plan for planting.

When getting ready for spring planting, bear in mind that soil temperature is crucial for germination of seeds. Warm weather seeds are much more interested in whether the soil is warm than if the air is balmy.

In Canberra, most seeds need to be started in trays or pots inside where the raising mix can be kept warm – maybe on a window sill in the sun (as long as it’s protected from overnight extreme cold). If you use a glasshouse for germination, make sure the glasshouse retains enough heat and the seeds don’t freeze overnight. Many seeds can be started in a cupboard or next to a heater.

This is a rough guide to soil (or raising mix) temperature required for optimum germination. In early spring, it takes a while for the soil to warm up.

Often seeds that are planted (or tossed onto the soil) early will just sit and wait until the soil warms up and, as long as they aren’t eaten or washed away or frozen part-way through germination, a strong seedling will come up when the time is right. This happens every year for many gardeners with self-sown tomatoes and lettuces and pumpkins. Often, even though these seeds might germinate later than those started early inside, they will be stronger, grow faster and be more productive if they can set fruit outside of the peak heat times.

In Canberra, it’s tricky to rely entirely on garden-based germination for tomatoes, capsicum and zuchinis/cucumbers/pumpkins which need to reach the flowering stage before the weather becomes too hot in mid-summer so starting a few seeds indoors early can be a good way to insure against extreme heat in spring which will prevent flowers from setting fruit.

Why not try an experiment this season? Toss some tomato and pumpkin seeds into a corner of the garden and then compare with seeds started indoors. Which plants grow best? Do the plants which start later in the garden eventually catch up to those that start earlier inside or are they too vulnerable to the late spring frosts which it’s easy to protect seedlings inside from?

For seedlings in the garden, home-made cloches are easy to set up using plastic soft-drink bottles. Stay tuned for the next post to find out more – and check out some action photos.

Seed Savers Growing Community

Join us in growing lots of spring seedlings to give away to our fellow Canberrans who are having a hard time at the moment. Whether you can grow 20 extra beans or 100 extra tomatoes and a tray full of lettuce, you’re very welcome to join in on the Seed Savers Growing Community project.

How it works:

  • Fill out the registration form to nominate how many (roughly, we won’t hold you to it!) seedlings you’d like to grow and which varieties. Here’s the form, it only takes 5 minutes.
  • We’ll provide you with seeds, growing materials and support – if you’re a newer grower, we can pair you up with a more experienced buddy.
  • Start sowing anytime after seed distribution starts on 8 August (different plants have different optimum conditions for sowing – we can give you that info if you want) and stay in touch.
  • When your lovingly grown seedlings are ready, we’ll organise distribution of the seedlings through the Canberra Relief Network, Woden Community Services, Communities @ Work and other organisations doing fantastic work supporting Canberrans who are doing it tough.
  • If you’re on Facebook, join the Seed Savers Growing Community group and stay in touch with other growers in the community.
  • Come along to the Spring & Summer Seed Swap on Saturday 8th August to meet other seed savers and growers or let us know if you’d like to pick up seeds and materials on a later day.
  • Take some photos as you grow!

For more info, email us at

Spring & Summer Seed Swap

It’s still freezing cold out there – but not to early to start planning for spring planting! We’re swapping and selling spring and summer seeds and you’re invited!

  • When: Saturday 8 August from 1.30pm-4pm
  • Where: Canberra Environment Centre, Lennox Crossing, Acton (around the corner from the National Museum of Australia)

Drop-in, stay for a little while or a bit longer. Lots of space for physical distancing for coronavirus-safety. Please stay home if you are unwell or have any symptoms. Please wash your hands when you arrive on the day and provide your contact details if you stay for longer than a quick visit.

Bring your homegrown or bought seeds from your stash to swap or share or buy some from us. 2020 Members can pick up 3 free packets of seeds. If you’re a volunteer grower for the Spring Community Seedlings Program, you can pick up seeds and growing materials.

You can
* buy packets of seed including locally grown and rare,
* swap your home grown seeds with seeds from the community seed bank and seeds brought in by other swappers
* donate seeds to the community seed bank and get credit for future seeds
* swapping and donating both work on a ‘spoon in, spoon out basis’
* If you are a member of CSS Coop, collect 3 free packets of seed (you can join CSS Coop on the day)
* if you are a seedling grower contributing to the Spring Community Seedlings program, you can pick up seeds, pots, raising mix and growing guides and meet other growers
* help out with the working bee anytime between 1.30 and 4. We’ll be making seed packets, packing and labeling seeds.

Everyone is welcome. Want to know more? Email

Seed Libraries for Community Gardens

In late 2019, Canberra Seed Savers embarked on an exciting new project: Mobile Seed Libraries for Canberra community gardens. Our aim: to promote growing from seed and seed saving and to build our growing community of seed growers, swappers and sharers. Mobile seed libraries are a great way to share skills and knowledge about seed saving – and to share seeds too!   

We distributed specially hand made boxes (big thanks to the Mens’ Shed), packed with seasonal seed and presented with seed growing and saving information to participating community gardens. In Autumn 2020, participating gardens included Canberra Organic Growers Society gardens at Kambah, Erindale, Charnwood and Mitchell; the Acton Community Garden and the Canberra City Farm.

As well as lending out seed libraries, packed with free heirloom, open pollinated seeds, we ran workshops at participating community gardens about growing from seed and saving and sharing seeds. Hopefully we’ll be able to find a coronavirus-safe way to run the next round after harvest of autumn and winter grown seeds.

To find out more, get in touch with us:

The Mobile Seed Libraries Program has been developed with assistance from the ACT Government under the ACT Community Gardens Grants Program.

What to sow now in Canberra? Growing in climate change conditions

The weather has been terrible – between drought, fire, smoke and hail, many local growers big and small have had a hard start to 2020. Our climate is changing and we need to adapt. This year, Seed Savers will be trialing growing herbs and vegetables from seed at different times and in non-traditional seasons. Follow our blog and experiment and learn with us! If you would like to be part of the experimental growing team, get in touch!

Our first experiments will be tomatoes and climbing beans. Can we get crops before the winter gets too cold and frosty? Which varieties will work best? Stay tuned!