Thinking back to April, before we start on May. 2023 is the third year in a row that it has rained on ANZAC Day. As a kid, it was never so wet and rainy on ANZAC Day. I recall having to wear the school blazers at ANZAC Day memorial services because it was so cold for a skinny kid standing still at dawn. No one thought to take umbrellas.
For a quick recap of the last 3 years:
2021: I did a 5km marathon in the pouring rain, earning myself blisters on my heels.
2022: We received over 8 inches of rain during daylight hours. This rain snapped and destroyed two zucchini plants that had been growing extremely well. One was saved with the application of electrical tape. The other had to be torn out.
2023: On and off showers, ranging from heavy to drizzle. Ground outside extremely soggy.
At the moment, the garden is unproductive. I have reset the garden beds after the wet summer. The monsoon makes growing anything difficult. The soil is too wet, or the heat too extreme. Powdery mildew attacks everything despite trying to keep on top of it. The excessive humidity makes it difficult to control, and all I’m doing is fighting a losing battle. The only thing that really grows during wet-summer is sweet potato, and even that I keep in the above ground beds so to not drown the tubers.
The end of April was still too warm during the day to plant things out – the 90% blockout shadecloth is up over the in-ground bed and the bigger above-ground bed. All beds have been chopped and dropped, and covered in a thick layer of sugar cane mulch.
I have begun planting all my seedlings and have them in a semi-shaded location, not too far away from the garden beds. Almost everything is going very well in a mix of 2/3s seed starting mix, 1/3 worm castings. I started out growing in peat/paper pots – and quickly moved back to black plastic.
Why black plastic?
I moved away from peat pots very fast for several reasons. First I noticed that up here, keeping adequate levels of moisture in them was difficult to achieve with our weather flopping about from super hot (35 degrees in the middle of April) to 2 inches of rain (ANZAC Day week). Either the pots would dry out too fast and suck the moisture out of the soil, leaving nothing for the seed/seedling, or they would remain waterlogged with excessive rain and not drain. And waterlogged peat pots have several horrible disadvantages; they would tear under their own weight, and the pots themselves are susceptible to moulding. If I’m going to the effort of starting seedlings off in the best possible starter mix, I don’t need to be fighting against mouldy pots to keep my starts healthy. I had issues with mould growing along the surface of my soil in my peat pot starts. I did not have the same issue with the starts in my plastic pots, despite them both being subject to the same amounts of rain and sunlight.
While I am always looking for a more eco-friendly option, these peat pots just aren’t it for me. I have opted to buy black plastic pots/trays that are sturdy enough that they can be used for many seasons, if I sterilise them between grows. Also, I have to consider the environmental impact of peat farming. It isn’t exactly a renewable resource. If I have something that requires peat, I tend to opt for coconut coir instead. I don’t know whether the pots I obtained were made from peat or from recycled paper pulp, but either way, they just didn’t perform good enough for me to consider them as a permanent addition to my gardening setup.
The black plastic pots I purchased have come from a variety of different suppliers. I really liked the quality of these 55mm pots from Bunnings. They are a good size, and are compatible with the seedling tray insert, seedling tray that is also available at Bunnings. I found the inserts available on Amazon. Just recently I found these 6 cell punnets in bulk from Nursery and Garden Supplies Australia. I haven’t yet had the change to use them, as I’ve got plenty of single cells going, but can’t wait to give them a try.