The Land Rover Owners Wife

Sowing the first seeds

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January is always a difficult month for the vegetable gardener me. All last seasons vegetables have been used and the beds are empty, the ground is usually either to hard or too sodden to do anything with, nothing is growing and so there is no pruning, dead heading or weeding to do and it is too early to be sowing anything yet. The most I may have achieved, in terms of actual ‘growing’ is to set my seed potatoes chitting in an egg box on the windowsill.Windowsill propagator

However, by February 1st, I will have checked through my seed box at least 3 times, disposing of out of date seed, making a list of what new seeds I need and arranging the various seed packets into bundles based on the earliest that they can be sown. Pots, propagators and seed trays will have been washed out in readiness, labels scrubbed, pencil sharpened and a plan made of what will go where and when. All that is needed is a nice, new bag of Seed Compost.

Ready to start sowingNot having a heated greenhouse, when to actually start sowing seeds is the big dilemma I then face. Start them off too soon and we then run the risk of having to house a veritable rain forest of seedlings, in the house for a number of weeks before the risk of frosts have passed and they can be moved to the greenhouses to harden off. It’s amazing how quickly a tiny seedling can become a gangly, young plant, needing frequent potting on into ever bigger pots, taking up even more room and when you have 18 tomato plants, 12 each of 3 varieties of chilli plants, not forgetting the marigolds (companion plants for the tomatoes), sweet peas (for the wildlife garden bit) and cabbages, all needing space, then things can become a little too crowded for poor, minimalistic Mud. Thankfully, newly emerged Leeks prefer the cooler conditions of the greenhouse and can be moved outside almost immediately and so that is one less thing to worry about.

Washing capsule tubs with holes added for drainage are ideal for leeks

Washing capsule tubs with holes added for drainage are ideal for leeks

Of course, in the mean time, March has arrived and yet more seeds need to be sown in the windowsill propagators, including fast growing lettuces and things definitely become more of a squeeze, throw into the mix Aprils sowings of sweetcorn, squash, cucumber, pumpkin and courgette, all of which produce inordinately large seedlings at an astounding rate of knots and very soon we have a situation not unlike the greenhouse scene from ‘the Day of the Triffids‘  and Muds’ patience starts to wear thin. – and he does have a point.

Start the seeds of too late and you then run the risk of the plants not maturing in time to ripen any produce, especially if Mother Nature decides to throw a spanner, in the shape of torrential rain or a cold snap, in to the works which will hamper the vital setting of flowers or fruit due to the lack of pollinators, or damage newly formed growth or embryonic vegetables.

Yesterday, however, the itch to plant got too much for me and I spent an enjoyable hour sowing the February seeds: Cherry Tomatoes; Chillis; Cabbages; and Leeks. Marigolds and Sweet Peas were also sown and all are now in the windowsill propagators where, as I do every single year, I check them every hour to see if I can see any signs of life yet.

Parsnip seeds on damp kitchen towel - first time of trying this method

Parsnip seeds on damp kitchen towel – first time of trying this method

Yes! I know! I only planted them yesterday and the seed packets say 14-21 days or similar sorts of things BUT maybe the packet is wrong! But that’s the thing with gardening, once you have the first of your seeds sown, you can’t help yourself. You have to check them, every hour from an hour after you first sowed them until you seed the first seedling appear.

Then as the official germination period arrives and there is no sign of life, you assume that your seeds have failed and so you plant a load more, only to find a couple of days later (say day 16 or 17) that ALL the seeds you sowed first time around have actually come up and now you have the problem of what to do with the surplus 🙂

I do it very year and every year I promise myself that I wont be so impatient again …. a bit like a New Years Resolution ….. but then I’ve never been good at keeping Resolutions 😉


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