|Latest Update 26th January 2017. |
Although I have used this method of propagation for a few years now, the process has continued to evolve to improve the basic technology and practices. Some of these ideas are still work in progress however.
The propagator has a built-in water tank which keeps a covering layer of high quality sieved homemade compost moist. The compost remains moist as long as the tank has water in it, and there is an indicator to make sure its level is easily monitored. I make the compost myself using the thermal composting process. It produces compost rich in humus and beneficial microbes and is largely free of plant pathogens and weed seeds.
The bed is protected against extremes in weather and in winter the timber framed cover is fitted with a polycarbonate "window". It acts like a small greenhouse, and seedlings are protected against frost . They benefit from higher than ambient temperatures and growth is kept moving at an acceptable rate. In summer the polycarbonate window is replaced by a Vegnet screen (polyester net capable of excluding most insects and other pests and reducing the sun's intensity by more than 20%).
Small seeds are sown in plastic mini pots in an organic seed raising mix, and because germination rates are high in this environment, you don't need to sow too many. After soaking the pots in dilute seaweed extract for half an hour, they are buried in the wicking medium up to their rims, and beneficial microbes are easily able to move into the pots and set up their mutualistic relationships with the new plant's roots as they emerge. When the seeds are mature enough to transplant, they are separated and planted individually into jiffy (fibre) pots as described below.
Larger seeds are sown into sieved compost in jiffy pots one or two at a time. Germination has proved to be exceptional using this technique and most large seed will give you 100% success. After soaking the seeds in their fibre pots in dilute seaweed extract, the pots are buried up to their rims in the propagator's wicking media.
I plant most of my seeds in propagators now because it helps me minimise delays between a harvest and the following plantings. It increases the Ecobed's productivity by nurturing plants while they are still small and slow growing.
Some plants, because they are very sensitive to transplantation, need to be sown directly as seed into Ecobeds and include Carrots and Parsnips. Potato seeds are too big to be transplanted, but are pre-prepared by chitting them to promote shoots prior to planting..
When transplanting mature seedlings in Ecobeds, I try to make sure the whole of the root ball is transplanted including the compost surrounding the jiffy pot into which the plant's roots have extended.