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Planting seedlings

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There are some ways, says Penny Woodward, to ensure that summer planted seedlings stay alive.

Summer is not the best time to plant out seedlings, but with a bit of extra care, you can plant and successfully grow a whole range of vegetables. The most important job is to keep seedlings moist until they are well established. One of the best ways to store water, is to store it in the soil. Soil that’s high in organic matter (compost, well-rotted cow, horse and sheep manure, biochar and decomposed green manures) will maintain more moisture than those soils that don’t have this organic matter.

Before planting seedlings, water the soil well to make sure its moist at least 10cm down. Make holes for the seedlings  and plant, making sure the level the seedling is planted is a little below the level of the soil. Firm in well. This creates a small well so that when you water, the water goes straight to the seedling’s roots.

Create shade either by planting so that nearby plants shade the small seedlings for much of the day, or poke leafy branches into the soil to shade the seedlings, or my favourite method is to put short lengths of 100mm diameter sewer or stormwater pipe around each seedling. I cut the pipe with a hacksaw. If the pipe lengths are taller than the seedling, then the pipe will shade the seedling for most of the day. This gives them time to get roots down and to become established. It will also stop them from being scratched out by birds. Remove the pipe once the seedlings are a reasonable size and growing strongly.

To make sure water soaks in rather than running off, always use a soft nozzle or rose on the hose that breaks the strength of the flow.  Alternatively water with a drip system.

Finally, once seedlings are growing well and have developed a bit of height, mulch carefully around each plant. I like to use lucerne hay because it’s generally weed free, adds nutrients to the soil and attracts worms as well as helping to keep water in the soil.