Recently, some very kind people have given me some seedlings transplanted from their gardens (thanks Barrett and Robin!). These were volunteer plants, dug out of the ground, and they seem to generally be very happy having been transplanted.
I did some googling, and found out the phrase “nursery bed”. It’s a closely manicured place in the garden where you grow transplants or seedlings before planting them out. There are a number of really nifty benefits to this.
Growing seedlings directly in the dirt doesn’t need as much finagling. I don’t need to precisely place seeds in the little cells, just make a furrow and spread them out. Much of the time I won’t need to water (using a sunken bed with soil mix that retains water well), and having water come from below will encourage deep roots.
Speaking of deep roots, I made the soil in my nursery bed about 6 or 8 inches deep. Normally when I transplant out seedlings grown in flats, the roots are running circles at the bottom and poking out the drainholes. It’s got to be better for them to have as much space as they want to grow deep. Assuming I’m careful when transplanting, the extra root depth should translate to the adult plants being able to reach deeper into the soil for water and nutrients.
I’ve been inspired by the people who have been giving me plants — friends, family, and random people who posted their surplus free on the internet — and I want to be able to grow extra plants to be able to give away. I don’t really have enough space with my current indoor setup to grow all the plants I want, much less enough to give away. If I can put otherwise unused space along my fence to use growing seedlings, I’ll be able to start many more than I can otherwise.
Another motivation for this is that I travel fairly frequently, and want to be able to start seedlings in a controlled manner, but also in a manner that is tolerant of neglect. Fluorescent lights are great for indoor seed starting. But they really aren’t a substitute for the sun, and they are expensive. And you have to be there every day to turn them on and off. And even if it’s during our wet season, you have to carefully water your indoor seedlings regularly. I just planted the nursery bed, and will be out of town for weeks. Hopefully I’ll come back to a bunch of happy seedlings regardless. We’ll see!
For next year, I plan to expand this, and prop up glass over it so I can get some extra warmth in the soil and start seeds outdoors before the last frost. It should be interesting!