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Posted on May 18, 2015 in Experiments | 2 comments

Early Summer Crops – Experiment 2014

Early Summer Crops – Experiment 2014

Experiment 1 – 2014

OBJECTIVE: To determine the best method for starting spring and summer crops early in an effort to bring forward harvest dates.

Background information

Locations

  • DIRECT (UP): Sown direct without protection of a cloche.
  • DIRECT (P): Open ground, covered with a glass or clear plastic cloche for protection.
  • INDOORS: Sterilised, dark coloured, plastic punnets and cardboard rolls with base.  These containers were placed on top of rocks just covered with water (for increased humidity) and placed on the kitchen window sill. They were covered with plastic bags which were removed immediately after germination. Seedlings were moved through the day from lounge to kitchen window sills to maximise sun exposure.

Notes

  • WATER  & FERTILISER: All plants watered as required. 1/2 strength liquid fertiliser provided weekly after germination.
  • POTTING MEDIUM: Coir (not soil) was used in seed raising trays. Seed trays were sterilised in a standard bleach solution.

Observations & conclusions

  • CONTAINERS: Cardboard pots drew moisture from the soil resulting in an uneven soil moisture. Plastic containers worked best.
  • SEED LOCATION: Keep ungerminated seeds on the screened side of the window with an open plastic bag on top and a black mat underneath. The soil became too hot on the non screened side. If overcast, move to somewhere warmer.
  • SEEDLING LOCATION: Small tender seedlings such as tomatoes, basil & capsicum can be moved outside after 4-6 weeks provided seedlings are strong and the weather is warm and not windy. During the experiment I moved them out too early and they seemed to struggle which delayed their progress. More robust seedlings eg. curcurbits remained looking healthy when moved outside as soon as first true leaves start to appear. I’m not sure how this affected their growth. It may be best to keep inside for maximum growth until hardening off.
  • TRANSPLANTING: Protect seedlings from snails by placing iron based snail bait down 2 weeks prior to transplanting (or your preferred method of snail control) and covering transplants with cloches each night and on wet or windy days. Snails attacked all capsicum, basil and ground cherry seedlings (one completely taken overnight). Most plants grew much faster on the window sill compared to outdoors. Delay transplanting until just prior to flowering or mid September if possible.
  • TOMATOES & CAPSICUM: Cold tolerant tomatoes incl. P. Russian and B. Berry can be started in August. Do not start other tomatoes or capsicum until early September unless using a heat mat. Otherwise they are too slow to germinate. Sow/transplant into larger 10cm pots to keep them growing faster on the warm window sill. Transplant at 8 weeks just before flower budding. An alternative might be to simply purchase transplants.
  • CURCUBITS – The 1st seedlings (watermelon and cucumber) transplanted out mid August (with one leaf each), did not survive. Further research indicates that all curcubits dislike being transplanted. Seedlings were well watered and protected from hot sun. It was very windy and cold in the days following transplant though. I transplanted 1 rockmelon (3 leaves), 1 cucumber (2 leaves) and 1 watermelon (2 leaves) on 24/8 and these did well. The weather forecast for the following week sounds more favourable (20c – 26c).
  • SOIL TEMPERATURE: The soil temperature where direct sown seed was covered with a plastic bottle cloche was 3-4c higher that of the unprotected seed sowings. Also, soil moisture was maintained more consistently. Water seeds & seedlings with warm water. When hydrating coir blocks use hot water.
  • INDOORS VS OUTDOORS: Outdoor conditions are more difficult to manage. Germination, watering and general monitoring requires more time and care that indoor seed sowing.

Next year

Seeds sown indoors, on heated propagation mat:

  • Early-Mid July (6 weeks growing time): tomatoes, capsicum, ground cherries. Plant out 1st week of September.
  • Early August (4 weeks growing time): cucumber, watermelon, rockmelon, zucchini. Plant out 1st week of September.
  • Mid – late August: Corn and beans should be sown direct. Soil can be heated prior to sowing by placing row covers or thick plastic over beds a couple of weeks prior to sowing seeds. This will speed germination.
  • Anytime: Root vegetables.

Experiment data

SEED »Bean, climbing – Blue Lake
Sug. sowing: Sep-Jan | 16-30C
Expected to germination: 7-14
Beetroot – Bulls Blood
Sug. sow: Ju-Apr | 8-30C
Expected to germination: 7-14
Beetroot – Chioggia
Sug. sow: Jul-Apr | 8-30C
Expected to germination: 7-14
LOCATION &
SOW DATE »
Direct (UP)
1/11
Direct (P)Indoors
Direct (UP)
6/8 & 16/8
Direct (P)
IndoorsDirect (UP)
6/8 & 16/8
Direct (P)
Indoors
Germination date (days): 7 Poor Poor
Germination rate:
Health-4wk seedlings (1-10):
Health-8 week plants (1-10):
First Harvest:
Notes incl: fruit produced, plant health etc. Developed rust Pre-soaked Not pre-soaked
SEED »Capsicum – Mini sweet mix
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 18-35C
Expected to germination: 10-14
Capsicum – Assorted Bell/Long
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 18-35C
Sunshine seedlings fr. Bunnings
Carrots – Danvers
Sug. sow: Sep-May | 10-30C
Expected to germination: 12-15
LOCATION &
SOW DATE »
Direct (UP) 16/8
Direct (P) 16/8
Indoors
1/8
Direct (UP)
Direct (P)
Indoors
Direct (UP)
5/8 & 15/8
Direct (P)
Indoors
Germination date (days): n/a 17/8 (16) n/a 28/8 (4wks)
Germination rate: 0% 100% (3) n/a most
Health-4wk seedlings (1-10): n/aGood health. Apart from snails nibbingTplanted 4wk slings ?
Health-8 week plants (1-10): n/aSetting fruit. Fruit removed until plant gets bigger.Setting fruit. Fruit removed until plant gets bigger.Started harvesting small carrots
First Harvest: n/a Dec 1/11 (lrg carrots)
Notes incl: fruit produced, plant health etc. (P) plastic drink bottle placed over.Originally planted seeds from Cal. Wonder. None germinated (poss. GM problem)(P) plastic drink bottle placed over.
Problems with fruit fly. Covered but that provided too much shade. Try 10% shade fruit fly net next year.
SEED »Cucumber – Marketmore
Sug. sow: Sep-Jan | 16-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
Ground Cherry – Aunt Molly
Sug. sow: Spring
Expected to germination: 5-10
Tomato – Yellow Pear (seedling)
Sug sow. Spring.
LOCATION &
SOW DATE »
Direct (UP)Direct (P) 1/8Indoors
31/7
Direct (UP) 2/8
Direct (P)
Indoors
3/8
Direct (UP)Direct (P)Indoors
Germination date (days): n/a 6/8 (7) n/a 13/8 (10) TPlanted:17/8
Germination rate: 0% 100% (2) 0% 100% (3) n/a
Health-4wk seedlings (1-10): n/a1 transplanted 16/8 with 1 true leaf. Protected with from sun n/aSlow to get going n/a
Health-8 week plants (1-10): n/aSet fruit 31/9 n/aGrowing well. has set 1st fruit.Bought /tplanted @ est. 8wks old
First Harvest: late October (2.5mths)Full size, unripe fruit: 9/10. First havest 1/11
Notes incl: fruit produced, plant health etc.Sow in large 10cm pot. Came up strong and developed new leaves quickly. 1 planted outdoors with 1 true leaf, 1 left inside until late August. 1st few fruit yellowed and fell probably due to poor pollination. Produced heavy, good tasting crops. Needs a feed from December on. Good disease resistance.Very delicate seedlings when they first emerge. Watch carefully for too much heat or water.Seedling purchased from Bunnings. Have planted to see if it fruits earlier than my much younger transplants.  1st Flowers starting to open 1st Sept. Poor flavour
SEED »Sweet Corn – Honey & Cream F1 Sug. sow: Sep-Feb | 16-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
Tomato Brown Berry (C)
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 16-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
Tomato Wild Sweetie (C)
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 16-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
LOCATION &
SOW DATE »
Direct (UP) 15/8Direct (P)Indoors
Direct (UP)Direct (P)Indoors
1/8
Direct (UP)
Direct (P) 16/8
Indoors
1/8
Germination date (days): 30/8 (15)10/8 (9) 30/8 (15) 19 (17)
Germination rate: <50%100% 100% (2) 100% (3)
Health-4wk seedlings (1-10):Strong growthtplanted 4/9 (4wks)Slow to establish Gave away
Health-8 week plants (1-10):Strong growthHas set fruitGood health. No fruit set yet. has flowers.
First Harvest:
Notes incl: fruit produced, plant health etc. Seedlings look like grass. Do not ‘weed’Looked spindly from the outset. Try in a larger black plastic pot (P) plastic drink bottle placed over.
SEED »Tomato – Tigerella
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 16-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
Tomato – Purple Russian
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 16-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
Rockmelon – French Charentais
Sug. sow: Sep-Dec | 21-32C
Expected to germination: 5-10
LOCATION &
SOW DATE »
Direct (UP)
Direct (P)
16/8
Indoors
1/8
Direct (UP)Direct (P)Indoors
1/8
Direct (UP)
Direct (P)
Indoors
Germination date (days): 30/8 (15) 30/8 (29) 9/8 (8) Sep?
Germination rate:100% (2) 100% (2) 100% (2)
Health-1mth seedlings (1-10):Good healthGave awayGood health. tplanted to garden 3/9
Health-2mth seedlings (1-10):Good health. No fruit set yet. has flowers.Gave awayWilts in sun. Poor fruit set
First Harvest: October? Jan/Feb
Notes incl: fruit produced, plant health etc.  (P) plastic drink bottle placed over.Looked spindly from the outset. Grew better when tplanted into a larger black plastic pot. Struggles in warm days over 25C. Good candidate for winter tomato or filtered sun or afternoon shade.Mixed seeds up and had to resow.Surcummed to powdery mildew after producing about 20 very tasty melons
SEED »Watermelon – Blacktail Mtn
Sug. sow: Aug-Dec | 21-35C |
Expected to germination: 5-10
Zucchini- Black Beauty
Sug. sow: Sep-Jan | 25-35C
Expected to germination: 5-10
Other variety here
LOCATION &
SOW DATE »
Direct (UP) 30/7
Ground (P)
Indoors
1/8
Direct (UP)
16/8
Direct (P)Indoors
30/7
Direct (UP)Direct (P)Indoors
Germination date (days): n/a 6/8 (5)Never germinated9/8 (10)
Germination rate: 0% 100% (2)100%(1)
Health-4wk seedlings (1-10):1st tplanted 16/8 with 1 true leaf. Died due to cold wind. 2nd looks stronger.Good health. tplanted to garden 28/8
Health-8 week plants (1-10):Strong. growing more quickly with warmer weather.Good health. Vigorous
First Harvest:12/10 (2mths)
Notes incl: fruit produced, plant health etc.Sow in large 10cm pot.
Came up strong and developed new leaves quickly. Surcomed to an unknown disease. Wilted and died
Sow in large 10cm pot.Spray at first sign of powdery mildew.
Produced all spring and summer.

Other seeds started successfully indoors in early august: Basil (9 days), tplanted: 4/9.

2 Comments

  1. You should start the seeds by mstiing them with a spray bottle at least once a day (more if they dry out) until they germinate. Also, keep your soil covered with plastic wrap or a piece of clear plastic placed loosely on top to keep moisture in place. After they germinate, remove plastic and water with a watering can as needed, usually every other day

    • Thanks Rajesh, you are right. Here is my article on raising seeds. I hope you find it more complete.
      The article above is my own personal experiment on determining the best methods for starting warm season seeds in my environment and climate.
      Happy gardening.

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