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Equipment and Watering Set Up

The equipment and materials you will need are a bench to keep seedlings off the ground, either hand held or sprinkler watering method for mist and shower water flow, and indigenous potting mix with Phosphorus count of 5 or less, mulch, labelling tags and tubes. 

Benches

Stephen Gow with his growing seedlings and bench set up

Benches keep your seedling boxes off the ground and help and protect against any interference from animals such as dogs, cats, or small children, and prevent contamination by crawling insects, weeds and other garden materials. Keep your seedlings at a comfortable and safe working height.

Tips for Bench Building 

Ideal bench requirements are: 

  • Sturdy enough to support approximately 80 Kilograms (the weight of a kit) 
  • Well-constructed from strong materials so it will not collapse on pets or people 
  • Comfortable working height (consider the height of your kitchen benches) 
  • In an airy, sunny position with protection from extreme winds and weathers 
  • Close to a tap or suitable water source o easily visible and accessible for regular inspections and maintenance 
  • A weed free site 
  • Able to have protection from frost or extreme heat and if necessary possums/birds (a covered frame placed over the boxes works well) 
  • Portable so the delicate seedlings can then be moved to an undercover area during hot or extreme weather. 

Considerations for rats or possums

  • Possums are common rural and urban pests. In urban areas keep an eye on the telephone wires, these are the possum highway around your house. 
  • Rat infestations occur in some rural areas. The bench will need to have vertical supports that are not easily climbed - and the top needs to extend well past the vertical supports so that the critters cannot reach the edge and get on top. E.g. 44 gallon drum with large square flat top works well.
  • If you have possums or rats in your area ensure benches are well away from overhanging ledges or branches or close platforms that the rats and possums can jump from.

Possum cage around seedlings

Your bench can be made from anything it simply needs to keep your seedlings off the ground. But remember no low lifting! The best bench is at wait height for easy handling.

One example would be to make your bench using bricks with boards placed across. 

Two builder trestles and some boards give a good working height. An overhead frame supports a spray system and can be covered during frost, extreme heat or protection from possums/birds.

TreeProject would love to receive pictures of any benches you have built. Simply email them to us.


Watering Equipment - Different ways of watering

Hand watering with a hoseHand water with a hose

You will need an adjustable nozzle for the hose to hand water. In the beginning, through germination to when the seedlings are 2-3cm tall, you will need to set the nozzle on mist setting and water twice a day. This gentle watering is necessary to ensure that the seed and potting soil is not washed away. 

Once the seedlings are 3cm tall set the nozzle on shower and water once a day except when extreme temperatures demand extra watering.

Before seedlings germinate and when they are very small water from above (not at an angle) for as long as it takes to thoroughly soak the soil. This will be when water begins to drain out of the bottom of the tubes. 

Make sure that if your hose has not been sitting in the sun, flush any hot water out first. The hot water in the hose can get to temperatures of 60 degrees C (120 F) or more, which can kill your small seedlings in one hit. Empty the hot water into a container for use elsewhere. 

Hand water with drink bottle sprinkler attachment

An attachment is available that goes on the top of a drink bottle. It is possible to use clean recycled water from the house. Water that is collected in a bucked while waiting for hot water, water vegetables have been washed in etc. Be sure not to use water that would have any cleaner or detergent residue in the water – eg do not use water used to rinse the dishes, 

Capillary watering

Water is absorbed from the bottom of the tube. Put your tubes in a cat tray or line your Styrofoam box with plastic. Put water in the tray or box so that now the tube soaks the water from the bottom keeping the soil wet. Make several holes in the box or cat tray approximately 3 centimetres from the bottom of the cat tray to let excess water out of the container.

As soon as the seedlings are 2 centimetres high, remove from the capillary watering and water as usual to ensure that the root system strengthens.

Sprinkler System 

Fine Micro-jet sprays are suitable for most poly pipe spray systems. Supplies are relatively cheap and can be bought from gardening shops.

Important things to be considered. 

  • The spray heads need to cover all of the boxes evenly. This can be a process of trial and error, both in placement of the spray heads and the height above the seedlings. Make sure the misters cover the boxes without any dry spots around the edges. Determine how long you need to run the watering system to thoroughly water the seedlings - that is, until the water runs out the bottom of the tubes. 
  • The poly pipe must be securely anchored or it can twist and move. The sprays may not point at the seedlings and patches of seedlings will turn brown. When a spray head becomes blocked it can be devastating so always include a suitable in-line filter. 
  • Check the operation of all the spray heads from time to time, especially at the start of the growing season, and prior to any extended absence. Taller growing seedlings can prevent the water reaching smaller plants in the next tube so Systems require adjustment during the growing season. Ensure you change the setting on the automatic watering timer as the season changes leading into autumn and leading out of winter (if you still have your seedlings).

Seedling Sprinkler Watering System set up

Automatic Watering System

An automatic timer can be attached to the inlet hose on the sprinkler system and be programmed to assist the watering process. It is vital that monitoring takes place in case of equipment failure which can be the difference between a successful growing season and a failure!