First, looking at Vegetable seedling nursery establishment, it is said in food production circles that the success of any production system depends on the kind of seed we are sowing, so is it with seedlings. So, healthy seedlings grown in a well-managed nursery will decide the yield and consequently the profits.
What is a nursery?
A nursery is a place or an establishment for raising or handling of young vegetable seedlings until they are ready for more permanent planting.
Points for discussion under Vegetable Seedling Nursery Establishment
- Advantages and disadvantages of nursery
- The types of nurseries
- Site selection
- Source of seed
- Germination test
- Seedbed preparation
- Sowing the seeds
- Care after germination
- Irrigating seedling
- Weed control
- Disease and pest management
- Seedling maturity
Let us first look at why you would want to establish vegetable seedling nursery
- It provides favourable growth conditions i.e. germination as well as growth.
- Better care of younger plants as it is easy to look after nursery in a small area against pathogenic infections, pests and diseases and weeds.
- Nursery helps in making more efficient use of land
- It helps to improve crop uniformity in the field
- Nursery helps to reduce field management cost
Disadvantages of a nursery
- Increases cost of production due to use of expensive certified seeds
- Extra labour is needed in establishing nurseries before transplanting
Nurseries can either be established in containers (boxes and trays) or on seed beds.
Steps in Vegetable Seedling Nursery Establishment
Consider the following when selecting a site for your Vegetable Seedling Nursery Establishment.
- The nursery should be readily accessible, close to a permanent source of clean water for irrigation.
- It should be on a flat land to prevent erosion of soil and loss of soil nutrients.
- Site it away from other vegetable farms to avoid the spread of pests and diseases, at least 50m.
- Site nursery in areas with well-drained and fertile soils, free from soil-borne diseases and pests and nuisance weeds.
- Avoid heavy shaded areas. Regulate shade at different stages of the seedlings.
- You must protect the vegetable nursery from all kinds of livestock.
Buy certified seeds from reputable seed companies. If you are using your own seeds make sure you select seeds with ideal and preferred qualities.
To avoid seed wastage, conduct a germination test. A germination test will help you to know if your seed will germinate after sowing and how many will germinate. So that, you will know how many you require for your nursery. This should be done a couple of days before you sow the seeds on your seedbeds.
Read detailed steps on How to do simple Seed Germination / Viability Test
Make beds 1.0m – 1.2m wide x 2m or longer. This standard size makes it easy and convenient to work around the seedbed. Water the beds, cover with 4cm thick dry grass, sawdust or rice straw. Leave for 2-3 days to reactivate spores of disease pathogens then burn to sterilize the soil. You may also cover seedbed with transparent plastic sheets for 5 – 8 weeks to sterilize the soil.
- Before you sow, treat seeds with recommended seed dressing / hot water before planting.
- Drill thinly in rows 10cm apart and cover with thin layer of soil.
- For seed-trays sow 1 seed per cell and cover with newsprint.
- Cover bed with dry grass (non-seeded), transplant plastic sheets or palm fronds and water.
- Seeds emerge within 5 – 7 days.
- Remove cover after emergence and cover seedlings with insect-proof nets.
- Prick out seedlings after first true leaf stage (about 2 weeks after sowing) and thin out weak, malformed and oversized seedlings if seedlings are too crowded.
Fertile soils may not require fertilizer application. Observe seedlings as they grow and if leaves are pale yellow, apply a solution of NPK (5g/L) 1 week after germination. MAP (monoammonium phosphate) application will promote sturdy root growth.
Water lightly and regularly. The seedlings are tender and delicate. So, any strong splash of water may cause them to break or bend or even uprooted.
You can reduce the challenges of weed control in a vegetable nursery if you consider the following factors.
- Good site selection
- Recommended weedicides/ herbicides
- Good seedbed preparation
- Hand picking weeds as they appear.
Major pests in vegetable seedling nursery establishment are aphids, grasshoppers, whiteflies, crickets, leaf miners, beetles, caterpillars, snails (molluscs), rats, and mice.
How to control;
- Practice good sanitation
- Cover seedlings with good insect proof nets
- Scout regularly to assess pest and disease incidence
- Where necessary spray seedlings with approved insecticides
- Use approved rodenticides at recommended rates or traps to control mice and rats
Damping off: Caused by Pythium. Results in the death of seedlings before or shortly after emergence. You may control this by nursing seeds on well-drained soils and by regulating irrigation. Solarizing the soil for 6-8 weeks before planting, or applying approved copper-based fungicides can also help control this disease.
Early blight: Caused by the airborne fungus Botrytis. Control by use of disease-free seeds and thin out densely sown seedlings or prick out into individual containers. Avoid overcrowding.
Root Knot Nematode: Nematodes feed on young roots causing wilt. Control by solarization, application of spent neem seed granules, or approved nematicides.
Seedlings are ready for transplanting at five leafed stage. At the time of transplanting seedlings should be:
- Stocky and sturdy (look tough and strong)
- Have good root system
- Free from any insect pests and diseases
Hardening: Includes any treatment that makes the tissue of seedlings firm to withstand unfavourable environment or open field conditions like low or high temperatures, hot and dry winds, etc.
Harden seedling for 7-10 days before transplanting.
Reference: Vegetable Nursery Management (mofa.gov.gh)