Raising seedlings


Sydney’s everlasting autumnal sunshine incited a last-minute seed planting push: mostly lettuce, spinach, leeks, spring onions and celery — and chilli, which didn’t germinate in those endless, breathtaking, sunny days.

I’d hand-harvested the seeds from the veggie patch during the preceding months, painstakingly decanting tiny specks into containers as i stood at the kitchen bench — my second favourite spot in the house.

There had been an earlier seed planting — too early. It was still summer — scorchingly so. The seeds suffered at the hands of a distracted gardener, from parched days and several torrential downpours with super-sized raindrops that torpedoed to earth and landed with big splats on the seed trays, dislodging anything that had managed to take root.

That planting was doomed from the start. Sun-tranced, i didn’t care. Until i realised there would be no winter vegetables, at least none that had been hand raised; a home-grown second generation. I pulled my green thumb out and planted another batch. The timing was better. The sun kinder. The mellow rays first coaxed the shoots, then caressed the first leaves, then encouraged the fully fledged seedlings to threaten mutiny if they weren’t transplanted into beds.


I was awaiting delivery of a raised garden bed, so prolonging their days in trays; delaying their adolescent growth spurt. Finally the bed arrived, full of flat-packed promise. I began construction in my usual bull in a china shop kind of way.

Fortunately my right-hand man anticipated my trademark slapdash enthusiasm. He rolled up his sleeves to help. When i obliviously skipped a step of the instructions, he pulled me back. When we had to dismantle one of the corrugated sheeting sides because i’d misread the steps, he took it in his stride, knew better than to criticise. In hindsight, it would have been a relatively simple construction had i been removed from the equation.

We bought the requisite seven 25-litre bags of potting mix and two 20-litre bags of sand to fill the bed. I went one step further and turbocharged that winter bedding with decaying organics — moist and teaming with life from our constructed compost bin.

I carefully planted out the lettuce and spinach, leeks, spring onions and celery. I watered them in. The bed’s self watering system is used thereafter— that and the rain, of which we had much that following week.

I kept an anxious eye on those seedlings, worried they would drown in the downpour. I wished the bed had come with a waterproof cover that could be strapped in place on those dreaded Sydney downpour days. Another flaw is that the bed can’t be moved once laden with 215 litres of soil.

But it looks cool in a steely-grey kind of way against the wall of our back garden. At knee height it will hopefully prevent my dodgy back — the result of being regularly thrown off horses in my fearless teenage days — whinging and moaning after a gardening stint.


The seedlings survived the rain and have well and truly taken root. The past week of winter sunshine has given them a good start in life. In another week or so we’ll be harvesting lettuce leaves, in a few months celery sticks and and spring onions, later in the year hopefully leeks. And from there seeds, for the third generation.

Note: The Food Sage received a complimentary raised garden bed from Hills.



Filed under The Veggie Patch

20 responses to “Raising seedlings

  1. Nice post, Rachel… raising seedlings is a joyous thing… and that garden bed looks great!


  2. Wonderful! And a lovely height, as you say, will save the back! x


  3. Oooh, aren’t seedlings precious. I planted my radicchio (zuccherina di Trieste) over four weeks ago and it’s a full-time job covering it at night, making sure the seedlings don’t get waterlogged in the rain, keeping the cats off it when the sun shines on the bed. Well, you know the deal. Like raising a child!


    • Ooh radicchio. I’ve always found it a little strong in flavour for me but last year i planted some seedlings and the shooted into these tiny tight raddicchio – about the size of a tennis ball – that were absolutely divine. Really small leaves. I wish i’d saved some for seeds.


  4. Looks like they’re doing well! How exciting that you can have the lettuce so soon. Harvesting your own food is always so satisfying.


  5. eatdrinkandbekerry

    Love your garden gnome!


  6. I love the look of your raised bed and I can so relate to unbridled enthusiasm when constructing anything (me) and the confusion (and tears sometimes) when I think I know how to do it without following instructions. After 40 odd years my husband still comes to my aid – usually without comment. The less said the better if he wants to eat that night!! How do you dig it over for the 2nd crop? Does it mean jumping inside or a chair beside or does one just tickle it over without deep digging? Joy


    • Good point about digging it over! I suspect that will be a tough job, unless as you say we just ‘tickle it over’ (good expression!) We will probably have to unearth half of it and get stuck in with a hand trowel (this one is not really big enough to get in feet first), then refill. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m sure i’ll be reporting back at a later date.


  7. I love your garden bed and if I were constructing it, it wouldn’t look so pretty 🙂

    Those plants look so healthy!


    • Thanks Maureen – the plants are twice that size now as the photo was taken about a week ago. I need to start harvesting salad leaves before they bolt. Thanks for dropping by.


  8. as always, FS, i am in awe of your writing – and your gardening adventures! winter has descended here and the thought of eating lettuce let alone growing it – well, lettuce is not comfort food! and i love your gnome. it seems all the best vegie patches have gnomes, so i’ll have to find some come spring.
    oh, and your gardenign partner sounds wonderful to help you as he did! good luck with your beautiful seddlings,


    • I have a confession … i haven’t picked one lettuce leaf yet. We’re on the winter warming dishes here, too. However, i feel a salad coming on over the weekend. A big one. Before it all goes to seed!


  9. I have a raised bed in which I planted various things including some cut-and-come-again lettuce varieties. The basil and flat leaved parsley immediately went to seed, the cherry tomatoes developed wilt and I accidentally pulled out the tarragon thinking it was a weed. But those lettuces just keep on popping up – we’re on our 3rd round!


    • Yes, i suspect this one is going to become predominantly a lettuce bed, too! Having said that, the leeks and spring onions are going strong. Might have to move the celery plants which are now living in the shadow of the exceptionally large and soil-greedy rocket. Ah – the trials and tribulations of having a veggie bed!


  10. I love your gardening posts! I think it’s so fun to plant and care for your own veges. Enjoy the harvest from your patch soon – it’s so rewarding!


    • There’s nothing like harvesting your own veggies! We’re on our second day of torrential rain here in Sydney, so i hope they don’t get too water-logged.
      Thanks for dropping by.


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