Growing from seed has become a bit of an addiction for me… initially it was a necessity, as I tried to feed my family on a small budget without going to the garden centre, but as I refined my techniques, it became an obsession to grow more flowers, see first hand what ALL possible lettuce varieties look and taste like, master the art of growing beetroot, and to grow rare stuff like burdock root, so I could cook some of my favourite Japanese dishes, like kinpira gobo.
Here’s a quick description of the Blue Borage process, it’s something I teach in detail in my seed sowing workshops and the ‘Grow from Seed’ online course.
Where it all begins: seed raising mix
Although there’s nothing quick and easy about growing plants here at Blue Borage, the easiest bit of my work is making seed raising mix.
Three simple ingredients, mixed in equal ratios: coconut coir, pumice sand, and sifted compost. I often wonder why these ingredients aren’t sold in bulk — do we really need so much plastic packaging in our garden centres and supermarkets?
Consumers could all start asking this question. If that happened then ever so gently, the gardening sector might start to move away from single use plastic. Realistically speaking, I think it will take thousands and thousands of informed consumers all asking for change at once — are you one of them?
Seed Trays: well orchestrated timing and non-stop care
As much as possible, my seed sowing happens in a rhythm determined by the moon and planets, and I follow the biodynamic moon calendar published by Brian Keats. Careful observation of which constellation the moon is passing through determines whether the seeds planted each day are flowers, leafy greens, root crops or fruiting vegetables.
Flowers: Cauliflower, Broccoli, Sunflowers, Marigolds
Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Cabbage, Mizuna, Spinach
Root Crops: Carrots, Beetroot, Daikon, Turnips
Fruiting Vegetables: Pumpkins, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peas
The seed trays are handled with utmost care: rushing is liable to send one toppling over, which can easily result in a loss of $900 worth of food. It’s amazing to think that one seed tray can hold that much produce, right?
Second stage: the magic of home made potting mix
The potting mix here at Blue Borage is a little like alchemy. Worm castings are essential, as is a little bit of native garden soil. Well aged leaf mould is another favourite ingredient — except there’s never enough leaf mould. Otherwise I use the compost I’ve treated with the biodynamic herbal compost preparations, and only if I need it, I sometimes use a small amount of commercial compost.
Ideally I’d like to not have to use any purchased compost at all, and attain the satisfaction of having ample supply of the best quality biodynamic compost I can possibly make. It’s soil made with love and devotion — I call it Soil with Soul.
Boxes of Seedlings: four options
There are four methods I use for preparing seedlings for transportation to a new home.
- Individual pots: one plant per pot. This is premium care reserved for the fussiest of plants, or those whose roots take up a large amount of space. Borage is always packaged like this — it could possibly be the fussiest plant there is.
- Small pots: 4–5 plants per pot. This is saving on space, and giving each plant a good depth for root development, while also giving the baby plants the company of their friends. A lot of plants seem to do better planted on like this, and it is certainly a lot quicker planting them in to the garden this way.
- Six packs: These look the most efficient, but are not my favourite method at all… the soil depth is not great, the individual cells can’t share their moisture, the plants don’t talk to each other, and don’t have quite enough space to thrive. I suspect these pots were a product of a very efficient gardening sector looking to sell plants with as little soil as possible?
- Mixed boxes. This is by far my favourite method, and was an experiment born in the Covid19 pandemic as a means to move seedlings into temporary homes. I wanted to plant up an appealing selection of various plants, but make sure there was only one box to carry. The advantage with this method is that watering really efficient. The boxes are nice and deep so the roots get to stretch and grow, which is perfect for preparing to move into a ‘real’ garden. The surface area allows for a large selection — it’s almost enough to hold 80 plants — possibly a month’s worth of greens. The final obvious advantage is that it’s easy to transport, into your car, and then out to your garden.
No matter what method of planting I use, it’s of utmost important that any plants you get at a Blue Borage workshop make it to their new home and continue to thrive. Far too often I find boxes of seedlings sitting on concrete, or positioned in the garden to do ‘later’ — if you are time poor, then please consider getting someone to help you keep up with your gardening, much the way you might get a cleaner to help keep the inside of your house clean and tidy.
PS: Watch out for events at the Auckland Women’s Centre, including 8 weeks of seed sowing through August/September 2021. Bookings for 11/8/21 close soon: https://events.humanitix.com/seed-sowing-and-container-gardening-in-grey-lynn
Ideas for innovative edible gardening solutions using biodynamic methods to make ‘soil with soul’ is what New Zealand needs right now. To see the full range of online courses go to https://blueborage.teachable.com/courses or get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org