Starting Seedlings in Seed Trays, Biointensive Style

| Biointensive, Gardening | comments | Author :

biointensive seedlings 664

There’s a big range of ways you can start your seedlings off to get them to grow well, both at their seedling stage and later on, when you plant them out.

Previously, we’ve worked with seeding into seedling trays, with soil blocks, and more recently, with biointensive seedling flats.

Each of these techniques have their uses and advantages, depending on your context, your available equipment, and how you intend to prep your beds for planting into.

So let’s talk about the Biointensive approach to seedling propagation.

Biointensive growing, as we’ve discussed before, is all about growing the largest amount of food possible in the smallest amount of space.

As a result, Biointensive growing uses the vertical axis of a garden bed as fundamental to the growing approach.

A deeply cultivated bed means that plants roots can easily penetrate down into the soil much further for their water and nutrients.

This, in turn, means that you can plant everything closer together, because each plant is accessing a more vertical envelope of soil to get what it needs to grow, rather than a more bowl shaped, horizontal one.

Therefore, when it comes to growing biointensive seedlings, you want them to be deep rooted also, so that they can continue to grow in that way once they’re transplanted into their prepped bed.

And so that’s one of the main differences with biointensive seedling production. A deep seedling box means deeper rooted seedlings, and, hopefully, uninterrupted growth from germination to harvest.

There’s rather a lot of detail to this seedling process, which can be found in John Jeavon’s Biointensive growing manual, How to Grow More Vegetables, or at our Biointensive Growing courses led by Jodi Roebuck.

But the basics are: keep your seedling tray soil deep, your seedlings close together, but offset, to maximise space and also the microclimate they create within the tray after germination.

Once your seedlings are ready to go into their pre-prepared biointensive bed, it’s a simple matter of deciding your spacing (this depends on the type of plant), and tucking your long-rooted seedlings into the soil.

You can see from the photos below that the soil of this bed is so well prepped that planting is a matter of sliding a hand into the spongy soil, opening up a slot for the seedling, placing it in up to it’s ‘armpits’, and then folding the soil back to prevent air pockets.

And here’s the same garden, sometime later, thanks to the care and good farming by Linda of Growfarmforage

biointensive seedlings 665 (1)

Resources for starting great seedlings:

If you’re interested in learning this technique, as well as the rest of the theory and practice of Biointensive growing, join us this Autumn with Jodi Roebuck at Buena Vista Farm in NSW or Hepburn in VIC!

It’s good stuff, people…

See the comments

Related Posts

Best Edible Plants for your Vertical Garden

Growing edibles in a vertical garden is a great space-efficient w . .
Read More

Join the Wild Pollinator Count: November 15 – 22

Next week there's a nation-wide Wild Pollinator Count - do you ha . .
Read More

27 Life Hacks for Permaculture Living

Want to design a better, earthier and more rewarding life with pe . .
Read More


5 responses to “Starting Seedlings in Seed Trays, Biointensive Style

  1. Another great post – thank you! I am going to try this method in a side by side comparison with soil blocks. What has been your experience with soil blocks? I’ve been proponent of them them for a number of years now and love how easy it is to pot up and keep an eye on root growth, satisfy my aversion to plastic junk among others.

    However, I’ve come to think my enthusiasm for their positive qualities has blinded me to their negatives. Some plants just don’t seem to do well in them. Tomatoes for instance do great while brassicas seem stunted in them. I’ve dug some blocks up after they have been in the garden for some time and found that the roots didn’t leave the block. (I’ve taken to squeezing them to fracture them a bit at transplant, which helps but goes against the idea of limiting root disturbance – a supposed plus for using blocks) I suspect that some plants don’t like the compaction needed to hold the blocks together. I’ve fiddled with the recipe with limited success.

    I really like the technique you’ve profiled here as it has many of the benefits of blocks without the need for compaction. I am thinking that you could perfect your timing by making the boxes so that you could easily remove one of the side panels and monitor root growth to prevent the roots from going pot bound. (similar to the RootTrainers product) Sorry to go on for so long, but I am curious as to your experience. I am glad I found this as I’ve been looking for alternatives!

    1. Yep soil blocks rock, we used them a fair bit in our market garden – they were great for our purposes – you can also plant them with a device that plonks the soil block straight in the ground… and they can be planted into less-perfectly prepped beds than a biointensvie bed.

      But, if you’re going to the trouble of prepping a biointensive bed, then this is the best way to do your seedlings, IMO – no compaction at any point, no air pruning of roots, it’s all go go go for growth while maintaining intensive spacings, which is the point of this method 🙂

  2. Very interesting thanks.
    Wouldn’t it be easier to sow seeds into individual pots ?
    So you can get the plant much larger with deeper roots before transplanting.
    And less transplant shock with no tangled roots to separate.

    1. yep, you could. But when you’re doing it at scale, having them all in the one tray is easier if you need to move them around etc – also it maximises space, and you get the microclimate effect because of the close planting…

      1. Thanks, good points.
        A lot of very experienced, professional gardeners use the tray method, so they must have good reasons like what you said.

Comments are closed.