It’s early spring and I want to share a few of my tips on sowing seeds. I know that some of you will have already sown some and there’s a huge temptation to get growing. In the wet and miserable weather that we have had recently what better job is there to do in the garden? But don’t get carried away by sowing seeds of everything since that could lead later to a serious bottle neck. This is especially so with plants that are tender.
So my advice is to be very selective and sow those varieties that are slow to develop. I’m thinking particular of chillies, Antirrhinum, Lobelia, Pelargonium and Begonia. Many of these have tiny seeds and need to be carefully handled. Always, but always use fresh seed compost, clean pots or trays and water only with water from the tap. These varieties are prone to the disease called ‘damping off’ and if you cut corners they will not forgive you! Sowing seeds very thinly and covering them thinly is important too. I know it’s boring but it really does pay to read the instructions on the seed packet! Covering these seeds with lightweight perlite or vermiculite is a good ploy.
We all have our favourite technique for sowing seeds and mine is to use my heart line! That is the line nearest to the base of your fingers on your palm. This provides a perfect groove through which small seeds can be trickled out to ensure even and thin sowing. Just tip a small amount of seed into the palm of your partially closed hand. Then with your other hand gently tap the base of your thumb with your finger tips to move the seeds down the heart line and off the edge!
Of course, bigger seeds can be sown straight into modules – sometimes called cell packs. This saves transplanting them -“pricking out”- but you do need to have more room for this and frost protected space will be needed for most plants until around mid-April. Modules are brilliant and can be used at any time of the year. They enable us to maximise the crops that we grow from our plot or allotment. Ideally as soon as one crop is harvested you should have plants in modules to plant in the same space!
This early in the year most of your seeds are going to need heat. This may be just for germination -boring but check the small print on the packet again – but could also be to coax your plants on if they need a long growing season. I’m thinking particularly of Pelargonium [“Geranium”], Begonias, celery, celeriac and of slow growing chillies.
We have had so much rain of late that few of you will have been sowing seeds outside. Nevertheless I hope that you have at least got a part of your patch covered with a sheet of clear polythene to trap in heat. This really can make a huge difference and of course keeps the ground a bit drier too.
We’ll do our best to help you with any sowing seeds [or other gardening] advice here.