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Life is a Garden; Plant Journey

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

By Life is a Garden

Dear readers. You are exclusively invited to this month’s super special edition of Life is a Garden. We’re taking you on a journey from nucleus to nursery and sharing some trade secrets about the life of plants. Join us now on a plant pilgrimage and see just how much preparation and planning goes into those adored annuals we love so much.

In the womb of the seed vault

Our journey begins in the seed vault. This is a specialised environment, much like a womb, and is perfectly harmonised to stimulate new life. The temperature is set at 10°C as the soil awaits its seed. The sowing process varies between product coated and edible seeds. Larger vegetable seeds are sown by hand as well as some flowers such as Marigolds. Coated seeds are sown using a nifty machine, which takes care of the picking up and planting.

Did you know?

Annuals, like our beloved Dianthus, are planned six months in advance using carefully calculated timesheets. The timesheets are planned out on a week to week basis with the aim to sell the plants during week 26, from seed vault to nursery showroom.

Gestation and germination

Once the seeds are safely tucked in with moisture-retaining soil, the second phase of the plant’s life begins. The germination station is an exciting place – this is where we begin to see the magic happen! The germination room is set between 24 - 25°C and will be the new home of the seeds for 2 – 9 days, depending on the plant. Unlike the conditions in the seed vault, the humidity in the germination room is cranked up to 100%.

A seedling is born!

We have now reached the proud parent moment of seeing our seedlings stand on their own. The baby plants are moved to a larger growing greenhouse where they are watered once a day by controlled beams and sprayers. The light intensity in the greenhouse is regulated by screens in the roof above. Below are our strategic seed trays placed on wires for air pruning. Little leaves begin to form as the seedlings prepare for life in the wild!

Did you know?

Air pruning is an important part of a plant’s life as exposing their roots to the air sort of ‘burns them off’, causing the plant to constantly produce new and healthy branching roots.


Once the plugs are big enough, they get planted out in their eventual packaging, pots, 8-packs or 30-packs. The growing medium is a blend of buffered coir, imported peat moss, possibly a bit of composted bark or river sand and a controlled release fertiliser.

Life in the wild trials

We’re just over halfway through the plant supply chain and have now reached a pivotal point of the plant pilgrimage. It’s time to see how the little ones do in a real-world setting, outside the comfort of the controlled grow room. The seedlings are moved outside for a period of ‘hardening off’. Annuals like Dianthus will spend about 2 – 3 weeks in the wild for a chance to acclimatise, grow, and learn all they need to know about survival in real-life conditions.

Eating out and doctor’s visits

Once planted out and growing on, our small plants need regular feeding. This is generally a fully balanced fertiliser, which is watered on frequently. They are also susceptible to various pests and diseases, so attention must be given to a program of checking and control where needed. Preventative spraying is often the solution (an apple a day, and all that.)

Leaving the nest

The plants are ready to stand on their own now that they have withstood all that Mother Nature has to teach them. Orders are placed by garden centres and the plants are delivered to their new temporarily homes. Once at your GCA Garden Centre, the plants have 2 weeks in the spotlight where they await their forever home.

As you can see, the journey a little seed goes through to find that perfect pot or spot in your garden is rather inspirational. Much like life, the different phases a seed must go through is both rewarding and challenging. Our annuals are planned half a year in advance before there is even a whisper of a seedling – now that’s something to appreciate. Life is a Garden,

let’s grow with it!

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