Published in the August 1 – 14, 2018 of Morgan Hill Life
You’ve heard of raised beds in Morgan Hill, but what about nursery beds?
Nursery beds are temporary homes for seeds, seedlings, cuttings, gift plants, and unexpected sale-priced plants. They can also be used as quarantine stations.
Nursery beds do not have to be pretty. A nursery bed may simply be a plot of ground, tucked away behind a shed or some shrubs, as long as it gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day and is relatively level. Being sheltered is actually a bonus for a nursery bed, as it helps block strong winds.
Vegetable seeds can be started in a nursery bed, and grown there until they are big enough for transplanting. This is an excellent tool for succession planting. As the current crop winds down, the next crop is already on its way! Nursery beds are also a great place to start plants that can be used to fill empty spots. As one plant ends its productive life, simply cut it off at ground level and install a cheery chrysanthemum in its place.
Most gardeners feel frustrated by thinning young seedlings. It feels like so much wasted potential. A nursery bed offers the perfect place to put removed seedlings, allowing them a chance to recover and, possibly, grow large enough to be transplanted, or gifted to a friend or neighbor.
Nursery beds provide a starting point for cuttings and divisions, allowing them time to recover and develop new roots before being moved to more permanent locations. Nursery beds also provide a good location to start parent plants that will ultimately be divided into many smaller plants (for a fraction of the cost of buying all mature plants).
Delicate seedlings may need hardening off before they can be planted in the garden. With the addition of shade cloth or old glass windows, cold frame style, you can give seedlings a taste of the great outdoors without over-exposing them.
Create your own nursery bed by selecting a level site. Clear the area of any weeds. If particularly tenacious weeds are present, cover them with several sheets of newspaper to block sunlight. Build a perimeter of some sort: cinderblocks, scrap wood, bricks, logs, whatever you have handy. Add four to six inches of aged compost and fill the space the rest of the way with high quality potting soil.
Maintaining a nursery bed takes up very little time or space, but it can save you a lot of money on plants. Finally, if you have a nursery bed and know that you won’t be using it for a while, it makes a great place to age compost. The nutrients left behind will be exactly what all those baby plants need to thrive!
Kate Russell is a UCCE Master Gardener in Santa Clara County. For more information, visit mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu or call (408) 282-3105 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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