Self Reliance Challenge Increase Seed Success

Self Reliance Challenge First Project

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When I accepted the Self-Reliance Challenge for the month of May from Lisa Lynn, I chose my first goal to be to increase my seed success rate. The traditional method is to prepare the beds in the ground, with the relevant nutrients for the crop to be planted. We then we sow the seeds directly into the ground. This year, for my winter crop, I am going to try something different! Hopefully it will increase our self reliance!

How Does Seed Success Relate To Self Reliance?

Part of my strategy to increase my self reliance is to grow my own food as far as possible. To that end, I started small and learned as I went along. We have increased the crops we grow year on year so that we can be increasingly more self reliant and eat healthier!

Additional Essential Homestead Resources
Medicinal Garden Kit - Grow medicine in your garden! A collection of seeds to get you started.
Homesteaders Handbook - A printed book that covers all the basics for homesteaders.
The Self-Sufficient Backyard - This book is an excellent resource for self-sufficiency on 1/4 acre!
Into The Wild Survival Pack - Learn foundational survival skills every homesteader should know!

In order for this strategy to work, we need a high success rate for the seeds that we grow. This is for a number of reasons that benefit our self sufficiency.

  • Less seed is needed which reduces cost.
  • Higher success rate means a higher crop yield.
  • A higher crop yield allows excess to be preserved for future use or sold for profit.
  • Higher yield also means some of the crop can be saved for seed, which again reduces the cost of seed for the following year.

All these benefits of a higher seed success rate will boost our self reliance due to less food we have to buy in and we can build our own seed bank.

What Is The New Seed Success Method?

The method I am going to try involves a secret weapon! Believe it or not, it is the humble cardboard inner tube of a toilet roll!

Self Sufficient Living
Secret Weapon!

The cardboard inner tube of a toilet roll is usually made from an untreated (non-waxy or printed) cardboard which is perfect for this method as it is then fully bio-degradable!

This is the first time I will be trying this method, so let me run you through the theory on how to use this method and the proposed benefits.


Gather The Equipment

You are going to need the following items to proceed with this method:

  • A number of toilet roll cardboard tubes – you will need quite a few, depending on how many seeds you want to plant, so plan ahead and start collecting the rolls beforehand
  • A tray to put about 10 – 12 rolls on standing on their ends
  • Some potting soil or compost mix suitable for the seeds you will be planting
  • Water to moisten the seeds after planting
  • A couple of large rubber bands

Seed Success

Prepare For Planting

The process for this seed planting method is pretty simple.

  • Stack the cardboard rolls on a tray, old baking tray or even a large piece of cardboard (it is going to get wet!)
  • Fill the cardboard tubes with the compost to within about half an inch of the top – a little more than 1cm for us metric people!
  • Use rubber bands to group the toilet rolls together in bundles of 4 or so. This will stop the individual rolls from falling over.

Seed Success

Plant Your Seeds

Plant your seeds in the compost in the toilet roll to the correct depth for what you are planting. The next step is where things can get a little messy. Water the seed making sure that the water starts to soak into the toilet roll cardboard.

Plant one seed per toilet roll inner tube. You can save seed in this way – another way to be more self reliant!

Another method you can try is to moisten the seed from above and then fill the bottom of your tray with water so that the cardboard will soak it up. This of course is determined by what base you are standing the rolls on.

Self Sufficient
Sow Your Heirloom Seeds

The Benefits Of This Method

There are a number of aspects to this method that will help enhance your seed growing success.

  • It is easier to water – just keep the cardboard damp.
  • It is portable – you can move the seedlings to shade or sun easily.
  • This benefit is the key to increased seedling success. Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted out into the ground, there is no need to dig them out of their container and possibly damage the roots or the delicate little plants! Simply dig a hole in the ground large enough to fit the toilet roll and plant the seedlings toilet roll and all!
  • The cardboard helps to retain moisture when they are put in the ground, and is also biodegradable and soft enough for the plants roots to grow through as the plant matures!
  • This method will even allow you to start root crop vegetables such as carrots that are normally sown directly in the ground. You can then plant them out safely and not get stunted growth or the root.

Testing Effectiveness

I will try to keep the seedlings in various locations with this method to see how effective it is. We are going into winter here, so it is time to put up our plastic sheeting on our grow tunnel. This gives a greenhouse effect and keeps temperatures up during the cold months and prevents frost damage. A greenhouse or a grow tunnel is another great way to improve your self reliance, by the way! But that is a topic for another post!

I will try growing some summer crops in the tunnel, starting them off with this method. Once the seedlings are ready, I will planting them out in the tunnel.

Another test will be to start off some seedlings for my winter crop plants. The test will be to leave them in a sheltered area of my garden near to where they will be planted out and see how they do once transplanted.

The third group will be plants that I start indoors, then progressively harden for transplant before planting them out.

Will It Work?

I am not sure it this method will improve my seedling success, but it is worth a try. It is not a solution that requires a cash investment! It is re-purposing a throw away item in a green and ecologically friendly manner.

Why don’t you give this method a shot and let me know how it turns out for you. I will post updates as my experiment progresses and let you know how successful in increasing my seedling success rate.

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    1. Hi Val, Thanks for the input, I will be sure to monitor the level of moisture to prevent the mold issue and stop the seeds getting too damp. I am hoping our dry winter climate will also help stop mold…. will share my experience.

  1. My seeds didn’t do very well this spring and I will probably be buying pepper plants. 🙁 Either my seeds were too old, or the coir that I used for starting them isn’t good for germinating seeds…not sure which.

    Best wishes with your seed starting experiment! Thanks for sharing for the challenge!

  2. That might make a difference for sure, I was in a damp climate at the time with pretty high humidity, I bet you will be right that being in a dry climate will make a difference 🙂

  3. Toilet paper tubes work great, especially for plants whose roots you don’t want to disturb. Unfortunately, this year I needed far more pots than my tube supply could handle. 🙂

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