Seedbeds, Seeds & Seedlings

With the bareroot season coming to an end for another year, the focus now turns to the stock of the future (three years’ time).  Taken advantage of the good weather we had a couple of weeks ago preparation was in full swing, from ploughing the ground to forming the lazy beds.

Ready to be made into lazy beds
Ready to be made into lazy beds

The ground that has been selected tends to be rested for at least year. This gives the chance to carry out soil test to examine the nutrient levels and pH.

Following up on these requirements ground limestone and fertilisers can be applied. For this year we decided magnesium lime was best suited.

The reason behind this was that magnesium is an important macro nutrient for growing and this was an easier way  to get it into the ground and therefore to the plant. It is a basic component of chlorophyll.

Farm yard manure is also applied to the site and ploughed in to added nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.  In previous years green manure crops of kale have been sown on the ground left to rest. This ensures that soil erosion does not occur i.e. leaching and is also a great way to add back nutrients to the soil.


This process is three years long from the time they are sown next week until they are lifted out of the beds and sold to the customer.

They are main different stages in this three-year process. Immediately after sowing all the seedbeds are covered over in a net, this is to prevent pests such as birds eating and destroying the seed.

This is particular important when it comes to the conifer seedlings which keep their seed shells when they sprout. So what happens is that the birds tend to go along if they get the chance and pull out these seed shells and in turn pull out the seedling leaving it exposed.

Conifers which include Pines and Spruce require the most work in the three years, as another important stage is lining-out. I will cover this in a later blog again but basically what happens is that after two years the plants are lifted out of the bed and lined out in rows.

The reason behind this is that a high density of seed is covered in the bed in year one and a high germination rate causing overcrowding.  If they are not lined out a bad growth habit will entail and a higher likelihood of diseases and pest problem will set in.

Lazy beds with seed sown
Lazy beds with seed sown

Think about this one where will you be in three years’ time or in fact would you know what trees you would like in three years in time?

These are things we need to think about at the nursery when selecting the quantity and varieties to sow.

A difficult task to say the least, with the current unsettling times with agriculture schemes and little prospect of trees or hedging being included in them this has a knock effect on the business.

Although one area that may see a growth in the coming years is forestry with new schemes being made available and the vast amount of mature forests that will be needed to be replanted could offer some potential.

It’s hard to predict the future but harder to predict the quantities required for the market in three years’ time.

Fine grit that is used on the lazy beds
Fine grit that is used on the lazy beds

Although there is newer and more modern ways in spreading the seed onto the lazy beds, spreading by hand is still the preferred method on the nursery.

This is purely down to scale and cost of purchasing this kind of equipment and has hindered any kind of progression to advance into these more modern techniques.

Basically what happens is that is that you walk along the edge of the bed (the wheel tracks) and throw or shake the seed on top of the lazy beds (see photo for lazy beds). The beds are then rolled to improve seed-soil contact and then covered over in a fine grit.

The fine grit locks in heat and moisture and also prevents the seed being exposed to the elements such as pests and weather.

Lazy beds ready for seed to be sown
Lazy beds ready for seed to be sown

As always people are more than welcome to call up to the nursery and have a look around. It is a fascinating place seeing the set up and how it all works. After all we are the only private tree nursery in the northwest so get in contact with us. Gallinagh’s Finn Valley Nursery Ltd on Facebook or find our web page where all our details can be found.

Thanks once again for reading my latest blog and as always any feedback is greatly appreciated.

I have also set up a new Facebook page ‘A Horticulturist’s View’ which can be found here Give it a like and share.

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