Our garden is frozen solid, & has been for a few days now, which is fine because staying inside & planning what to grow this year is a lovely thing to be getting on with.
One of the easiest & cheapest way to get lots of plants is to grow them from seed, more than that though, it’s such a satisfying thing to do. Watching a speck of seed grow into a plant is a magical process.
We’re talking about annuals here, those plants that grow from seed, flower & die all within the space of a year. There are 2 types:
hardy annuals, these will put up with some cold,
half-hardy annuals, which as the name suggest are a bit more fragile & won’t grow outside untill all frost has definitely gone. Anyone, experienced or not, with a garden, balcony or just a windowsill can do it.
I’ve started preparing for sowing, even though I won’t be starting untill March, because I’ve found that being organised is the key. Seeds like sweet-peas can be sown now, but as we’re going on holiday at the end of February, it’ll be March before I sow anything.
March is a good time to sow most seeds, plants from earlier sowings have to stay inside & be looked after for longer. If they’re growing on a window-sill they’re likely to grow tall & spindly for lack of light, when what you want are stocky little plants.
This is what I’m lining up:
Potting compost, preferably peat free
Buy it now & keep it in the greenhouse or shed so it’s a reasonable temperature for seed sowing
I’m using modules & small plant pots this year.
Modules are big trays divided into individual cells. They’re ideal for small seeds, you sprinkle a few seeds in each cell. Once they germinate, the spindliest, weakest seedlings are gently pulled out leaving 1 strong one. The advantage of modules is no fiddly pricking out. This is when seedlings have been sprinkled into tray without cells, they grow cheek by jowl & soon become overcrowded & have to be tipped out & planted into another container. Growing in modules misses out this time-consuming step.
The small pots ( I use the 4inch size) will be used for bigger seeds, like courgettes. I plant 2 seeds in each pot & pull out the weakest one, leaving the strongest one to flourish.
I like using a white or silver pen on black labels, because they look so smart, but I have lots of plain white ones, they last forever, so I’ll have to use them too.
When I’m very organised, I write up the labels in advance & attach them to the relevant seed packet. It’s what super organised people do, & sometimes I like to kid myself that I belong to that group. It is highly recommended, because somehow I never have a pencil/pen nearby when I’m seed sowing, & stopping & writing as you go along seems such a faff.
Last year I went to the fabulous Port Eliot Festival, & gathered up the sturdiest wood shavings from the man who was making clogs. I have a bundle of them ready for labels, not sure how practical this will be, but they look great & I like the sustainability of it. I honestly wish I hadn’t bought any white plastic labels …. but they are so practical!
Essential, especially for growing vegetables to make sure the same type of plants aren’t grown in the same space each year. It makes them more susceptible to disease. Most annual plants grow best in sun, especially half-hardy ones. You can also plant in containers in a sunny spot, but containers do need more care, watering etc.
Cover bare soil for vegetables with fleece to warm the soil, this way seeds will germinate more quickly.
Pretty simple don’t you think?
Higgledy Garden supplies all sorts of wonderful flower seeds, & you may even get a hand-written note along with your seeds.
It probably won’t all go according to plan, but I promise you will get some lovely plants, & it’s a lovely way of introducing children.
More next week about seed sowing.
all photos: Jill Anderson