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.

From the Seed to the Mound

I’m off college now for a couple of weeks and this means pulling on the boots and wrapping up. Our latest projects at the tree nursery are the planting of forestry plantations.

Currently we are undertaking three, one in Newtown and two in Mountcharles.  The one in Newtown is a much smaller one in comparison to the two in Mountcharles and includes a combination of Beech and Sitka Spruce.

The forestry plantations in Mountcharles include a mixture of broadleaves such as Oak, Sycamore and Alder and also includes Sitka Spruce (majority). The inclusion of broadleaves is a key development in the recent forestry plans and the aim is to increases biodiversity levels throughout the overall forestry plantation.

Sitka Spruce are the most commonly used due to their high timber value, their ability to grow in various soil conditions and the possibility of getting returns after 18 years through thinning and overall return in 30 years through clear felling of the forestry plantation.

The broadleaves take a considerable longer time to achieve a return on them (70 years) although a greater market value for the product is achievable.

The lazy beds covered in grit
The lazy beds covered in grit

The process starts three years beforehand when the seed are sown in lazy beds at the tree nursery.

This will be discussed in greater detail in a blog later on in the year when the seed preparation takes place normally around May (Keep an eye out).

Just a quick overview of the process and what’s involved; lazy beds are prepared, seed is sown on top of these beds, and then covered in a fine grit and a mesh is used for protection.

In year two the conifers are then transplanted and lined out in new beds, this is to prevent overcrowding; reducing likelihood of pests and diseases and encourage a better form and shape. The broadleaves are usually maintained in the same bed for the three years.

Year three involves lifting the trees out of the bed during the bare root season (winter months). They are graded to ensure an equal height of trees are planted. They are then  bundling into 100’s normally and bagged.

They are placed into bags helping to keep them fresh as planting can take a number of days. It also makes the planting process easier as it allows the plants to be kept together in one bundle.

A view of the mounding & drainage

The process involved in preparing the forestry plantation for planting involves a number of steps.

Firstly the site is assessed by my granddad (a qualified forester).

The following are included, site conditions, site location (consideration for water runoff), soil fertility.

If the site is approved the next step is drainage of the plantation and mounding. So basically drains are pulled in parallel along the drainage flow of the field, the soil that is dug up from the drain is then mounded to allow the trees to be planted into.

The mounds are used to allow the trees to establish as this offers better soil, a free draining platform and a height advantage against weeds.

Thanks for taking the time to read over my second blog. I would be very grateful if anyone has any tips and pointers on what I could change or indeed include in my blogs in the future. Cheers

Oak planted
Oak planted