It is a proven fact that the production of seedlings in seed trays will on average provide a better quality seedling which will permit earlier harvesting and higher yields. Most growers buy their seedlings from a reputable seedling grower who specializes in the production of seedlings. They have facilities that are dedicated to seedling production and most have automated planters that saves enormous amount of time which the average grower does not have.
It is important when buying seedlings from a nursery that the nursery is reputable and has good insect and disease control programs. Never buy seedlings from unknown sources.
The area, no matter how small, where seedlings are grown is called a nursery. A nursery can be a complicated environmentally controlled area with a sophisticated irrigation system or a simple raised bed in a field with some covering over it. Seedlings need a protected environment to grow optimally. A nursery should provide the following environmental conditions for the seedlings:
- The nursery should limit the amount of pests entering the growing area through erecting fences, shade net or transparent plastic. The damage caused by animals such as chickens and birds can be significant and the nursery should be adequately protected from them through sturdy fences or other structures.
- The seedling trays should be raised to at least one meter above the ground with a galvanized steel structure and wire. After the seedbed has been raised, the floor (ground) should be covered with 15-20mm crusher stone to reduce the amount of soil brought into the growing area. Crusher stone is relatively sterile and does not have small enough particles which can spread through the production area and carry spores of various diseases.
- In order to prevent spores reaching the roots of young seedlings many nurseries prune the roots that protrude from underneath the seed tray. This action is claimed to stimulate the development of adventitious roots to bind and hold the compost within each compartment.
Be careful of waterlogging
- If seedlings are planted in the wrong growth medium, i.e. to high density, the root system will become water logged. See the section about seedling growth medium for more details.
- Build a small roof with transparent plastic or thick shade cloth to reduce the amount of water entering the nursery area through rain.
- Plant seedlings in seed trays that are raised above the ground