Saturday, 14 February 2015

Seed Sowing!

At last! The day is here! I've been itching to get starting with this season's seeds since, ooooh, about the second of January, but there's really not much point starting that early and seedlings grown when days are short can end up leggy and weak. Instead, I've taken on board a tip from veg-growing guru Charles Dowding, who advises waiting until there are ten hours of daylight each day before sowing seeds. This happens in mid February, and I've certainly noticed the evenings lengthening these last two weeks so hopefully it will make all the difference.

I like a good clear rule like this - it means no umming and aahing about whether or not it's the right time, no 'well I'll do a few now and a few later and see if there's any difference', no worrying.

Setting myself a clear day to get started - and making it a bit later than perhaps I'd like - has also meant I was far more organised than usual beforehand. I'd cleaned and tested the electric propagator in advance. I'd sorted out all my pots, and I've got a big bag of surplus ready to give away. I'd even written out my plant labels - I usually put the seeds in first then find myself writing labels with grubby fingers while trying to remember which pot's which - not clever!

I've also written up a sowing and planting plan for the whole year, which I'll use to keep records of the dates I actually sow as well. I can see at-a-glance what needs to be sown and where each month, so there'll be no forgetting things or puzzling over when to sow things for winter. I'm sure it'll get tweaked a bit along the way, but you can see it here if you like.

I sow all my seeds in peat-free compost - usually New Horizon organic peat-free. Peat-free seems to have a bad rap in the press - they'll tell you it's not suitable for seed-sowing, or that you have to sieve it and add vermiculite and water more, as if it's somehow more complex or more dangerous - but I've never, ever had any trouble with it; it's really very good stuff. And digging up peat is destructive, unsustainable, and totally unnecessary.

So here they all are. Tucked up in the electric propagator are three sweet peppers (Marconi Rossa, Lipstick and Kaibi Round), three chillies (Ancho Grande, Jalapeno and Big Jim Numex), and one aubergine (Bonica F1). They all need a bit of extra warmth to germinate well, so the electric propagator is really helpful, and I hope to be able to pot them up just in time to sow my tomatoes in the same propagator sometime around mid-March. On the windowsill are cape gooseberries, two pots of leeks (Autumn Giant Porvite and Lyon 2 Prizetaker) and some celeriac (Monarch). I've sown these things first as they are all slow-growing crops that need an early start in order to crop in good time, or to reach a good size.

Hooray! Getting these seeds started is a really good feeling and makes the spring feel that much closer. There's nothing else quite like the promise of big beautiful plants and tasty harvests just from putting a seed in the soil.


Mark Willis said...

I have done exactly the same. 2 days ago I sowed my chillis (17 different varieties), and today I have sowed Broad Beans and Asparagus. I'll be interested to hear how you get on with "Big Jim". I tried twice but never got any seeds to germinate which is not usually a problem with me (a duff batch??). I think you will find it more like a sweet pepper than a chilli. It's very mild indeed in terms of heat.

Nome said...

Hmmm, well I'll let you know how my Big Jim seeds go. I know it's supposed to be a very mild one - you might have guessed by my choices that I'm not a big fan of hot chillies! Ancho is very mild too, usually smoked and dried before use, but they're good for smoking and using fresh or for stuffing too. Gosh, I don't know how you keep track of 17 different varieties!

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