Saturday, 4 February 2017

6 Mistakes I've made with my manuka seedlings (and are you making them too?)

I've made about 2000 manuka seedlings in the last couple of years. Purely in the interests of science and experimentation of course. I don't actually have anywhere to plant them.

And they have been growing pretty well too. But 2 years on, some of them are taller than me.

And the flaws in the system are starting to show.

So, what mistakes have I made? (and are you making these mistakes too?). Here they are:

1. I put all the plant bags straight on the bare earth

So all the roots have gone out the bottom of the bags and into the earth. And when I go to pot them up, it's quite a mission.

Such a mission, that some of them do not like their roots being disturbed, and they keel over. They are firmly attached to the soil underneath, and won't let go, and I end up breaking their long tap roots.

2. I haven't potted up soon enough

This is partly the reason for issue number 1. These trees are getting quite big, and should really have been potted up much earlier.

3. I've not been that diligent with weeding

So all the couch grass and convolvulus have grown over the pots.

Sometimes the grass grows up through the bags, and when I lift them the plants definitely do not like it.

4. I've not been diligent enough with watering

Eek! This is the hospital quarters. NOT ENOUGH WATER!

Also, problem 1, their roots were disturbed when I potted them up, and they never really recovered.

But some water might have saved the day.

There's not all that many, compared to the 2000 originals, but these are the big ones, and every death is traumatic.

5. Too much hot sun

I'm a bit short of space in my backyard, so these ones at the front (which are the tall ones) get all the hot hot sun.

Which contributes to problem 4, and means I need to water them every day.

6. Seedlings under dense tree cover

And just to show you can't win either way, some of the seedlings behind these tall ones, are under a big dense magnolia tree. Lots of shade, but they weren't getting wet when it rained.

Which would have been alright if I had watered them, right?

All of these problems really come down to one thing - I should have planted them out when they were no more than a year old. Sure, some would have died out in the field, but they would all have had a much better chance at surviving than left to my neglect.

4 Tips to avoid manuka seedling deaths

So, if you think you are in danger of doing some of these things, here are some tips:
  • Plant manuka seedlings within a year of sowing, before they get too big
  • Put your seedling bags out on cardboard, not the bare earth
  • Water! water water water
  • Pot them up sooner

If you are only in the 'thinking about getting started' stage with your manuka seedlings, and wondering how to sow them from seeds, get your free Pictorial Guide to Growing Manuka Trees from Seeds here.

And if you'd like more information on all aspects of growing and planting manuka trees, check out the DIY Manuka Forestry Courses.


  1. So...instead of purely for science, why not sell (or give away)those seedlings? It would get them out of your yard and others would benefit.

    1. Yes good thinking. Might wait till autumn planting time, so they can all do well.