Planting and mulching
How do we plant seeds? What is seed germination? How do seeds germinate? How do plants grow? What is mulch and why is it important? Find out all the answers below.
Understanding how to plant seeds, the seed germination process and mulching are important to give your plants the best start in life, and keep them healthy as they grow and produce fruits and vegetables.
How do we plant seeds?
Seeds are an easy and fun way start off your garden. They grow best if they are kept indoors, where the temperature is ideal. However, some seeds grow better if you sow them directly into the soil outside.
Always read the seed packets for instructions on how deep to plant your seeds, and how to space them so they have enough room to grow.
Some plants will grow better if you plant them as seedlings rather than seeds, as they are little harder to germinate from seed. These include basil, broccoli, chilli, eggplant, leek and spring onion. Avoid planting seedlings in the garden if the weather is very hot and dry, and make sure you water them at least an hour before you plant them in the ground, as they may wither and die.
What is seed germination?
Seed germination is when a seed grows and transforms into a seedling. Every seed contains energy (to grow) and a set of instructions (telling it how to grow). Amazingly, seeds are so well programmed that they are able to grow roots and their first leaves by simply adding water, and without soil or fertiliser.
How do seeds germinate?
A seed will germinate when it has water, oxygen and the right temperature. Some seeds prefer sunlight to germinate, while some prefer darkness. Seeds that prefer darkness need to be planted deeper than those which prefer sunlight. The general rule is to plant a seed 2-3 times deeper than its width. Some seeds will germinate in only a few days, while some require a little patience and might take a week or even longer.
How do plants grow?
After a seed has germinated, it requires soil to provide the essential nutrients that it requires to grow into a seedling. When a plant reaches the seedling stage it will require soil, sunlight and water to grow. This process by which plants grow and produce seeds, vegetables or fruit is called ‘photosynthesis’. Seedlings that are just starting out may also require extra nutrients from a plant food such as worm casting dissolved in water.
What is mulch?
Mulch is a ground cover that protects your soil from the elements, and helps keep your plants hydrated. Mulch can be anything that is used to cover the soil: compost, wilted grass clippings, hay, straw or even animal manure.
Why is mulch important?
Adding a 2-3cm layer of mulch to your garden has many benefits. Mulch stops water from evaporating from the soil on hot days and helps water spread through the soil. It also keeps the soil damp, meaning you can save water by watering less often. Mulch also provides a sunshade for the organisms that live in your soil, like earthworms, and acts as an insulator, keeping your soil warm in winter and cool in summer.
When mulching, always keep mulch 10cm away from the stems of larger plants, as placing it too close to the stems may cause them to rot. Make sure you look for mulch products that have been certified for use in organic gardening too and look for the Australian Certified Organic Bud logo.