Seeds to sow in January/February

Most of my vegetable and flower seeds are sown in March and April, if sown earlier the plants will become leggy specimens whilst waiting under glass for the frosts to subside, when planted out they won’t grow into healthy bushy plants, restricting productivity. However, there are a few seeds which I do like to sow now (January / February) that need a longer growing season, these include, onions and shallots, chilli’s and aubergines.

I always feel an enthusiastic buzz when sowing the first seeds of the season, it signals the start of the gardening year as the dormant seeds spring into life. My youngest son (the 4 year old) was also excited to be back in the potting shed, playing with compost, filling pots and to my vague concern sowing the seeds, some a little deeper than I’d have liked, so fingers crossed for successful germination. After successfully decorating the pots with labels and windmills, we popped them into a propagator, all seeds sown this early do need a little extra heat to give them a kick start. In the next week or so we should see baby shoots appear.

filling pots with compostMy four year old actually being a genuine help filling the pots with compost

Accessorizing the potsPots must be accessorized!

PropogatorFinally put to rest in the propagator.

Problems germinating seeds

Seed sowing this year has been a challenge. I never usually have issues growing the majority of my plants for the kitchen and ornamental gardens from seed. It is much cheaper than buying plants and you have a far greater choice of variety. I am also a sucker for seed catalogues, I can fill hours studying them, formulating plans for the coming years produce and then being completely distracted by some gem I just have to have. Over the years I have accumulated three tins worth of seeds, a few from each packet used each year. With moving house and renovating our new home I hadn’t used the majority of the seed since 2012. I was full of eager enthusiasm to start sowing this year. As you can imagine I was incredibly frustrated when my normally fail safe seed would not germinate. Cosmos Purity, Calendula Indian Prince and my shallots did nothing, I sowed them again thinking maybe it was too early, but nothing emerged. All my new seeds germinated fine. It was when I started to look at the dates on the back of the old packets that my error clicked. My seed collection was old and worthless. I have cleared out and binned all the failed packets. Fortunately I do have a range of plants that did germinate, but, a trip to our local garden centre today was essential. A cutting garden without Cosmos Purity and a Calendula was unthinkable. Seed sown and fingers crossed for quick germination. Another valuable gardening lesson learnt the hard way!

seedlingsSeedlings that I did manage to germinate.

Radish, Beetroot and Fences

Whenever I directly sow seed in March there is always doubt in my head whether they will appear. I was thrilled today to see the radish seedlings up in a clear row and some tiny purple shoots of the beetroot beginning to emerge. Baby seedlings are a reminder to sow further seeds to ensure a succesional crop.

Radish seedlingsRadish seedlings

I’ve been busy the last couple of days in another part of the garden planting a laurel hedge. We have a fence that has become very wobbly and is at the end of its days. I am not a great fan of fences unless made out of an interesting material like woven willow or hazel. To me they are dull and ugly, have a limited life span and can easily be flattened with a strong Winter wind. A hedge lasts a lifetime, looks fabulous, is a great backdrop for garden plants, clearly defines an area and the wildlife loves it. The only maintenance required is a quick clip once sometimes twice a year. The husband has shored up the fence, fingers crossed it will last long enough for the hedge to grow and securely replace it.

Sowing Seeds

Seed sowing and potting on occurs in my conservatory attached to the house, a luxury as I can just nip in, sow a few seeds, water, or just check on progress, when I have a moment. My seedlings get far greater care and the resulting plants are stronger than when I used to trek to the greenhouse. My guilty pleasure is sitting at the potting table in my pyjamas on a Sunday morning!

ConservatoryConservatory, home to seedlings and precious plants

Potting tableMy potting table

In February I lay out all my old and new seed packets. The feeling takes me back to being a child, the excited anticipation of playing with a new toy. I then select the ‘must haves’ and ‘maybes’ (sadly, time and space prevent me from sowing them all). However, the ‘maybes’ always seem to become ‘must haves’! Over the years I have learnt a few techniques to compensate for this.

  • Unless you are a nursery, NEVER sow your seeds in a A4/A5 sized seed tray. You’ll end up using an excessive amount of seeds, hundreds of seedlings will appear, you’ll end up potting on far more than you need, taking up valuable space. Then you go through the tough bit, having to discard the superfluous seedlings on the compost heap. The SOLUTION, use a small plant pot and sow twice the number of seeds that you want. So if I want 8 cosmos plants I’ll sow 16 seeds, a few won’t germinate, a few plants will be given to friends and family and you’ll end up planting up 10 or so plants in the garden.
  • Pop your sown plant pots in a propagator. It really aids and speeds up germination, some seeds will be up in days. This all helps with the time pressure.

P1030161 (4)The propagator

  • Be ready to pot on your seedlings when leaves 3 & 4 the ‘true’ leaves start to form. This happens quite quickly and space is needed for the baby plants to thrive. A chopstick is essential equipment; firstly use it to make a hole in potted compost, ready for the seedling to be transferred into it. Then tip all the seedlings out of their original pot, hold onto their cotyledons (first leaves)and prise the seedlings apart with the chopstick, then dropping them into their new hole. Lightly firm in. Then all that’s required is watering until they’re ready to go out.

PropagatorBasil seedlings

If you’re interested my final (I promise myself) 2015 seed list is below. It’s split into veg, cut flowers and RHS seeds (although I’ve been a member for more than 15 years, this is the first time I’ve taken advantage of their seed offers to members). Some seeds will be direct sown helping with the space issue! More on what I’m growing in future posts.

Veg Seeds

Beetroot Boltardy                           Courgette Atena Polka

Courgette All Green Bush             Courgette Early Gem F1

Courgette San Pasquale                Cucumber Cucino F1

Winter Squash Butternut             Halloween pumpkin

Onion Long red Florence             Carrots

Chilli Ceyenne                                Chilli Ring of Fire

Chilli Serano                                  Radish French Breakfast

Tomatillo Verde                            Tomato Gardener’s Delight

Tomato Sungold F1                      Tomato Black Krim

Tomato Super Marmande          Tomato Balconi yellow

Tomato Money maker                 Dwarf French Bean Annabel

Dwarf French Bean Safari          Runner Bean Enorma

Broadbean Imperial green long  Broadbean Aquadulce Claudia

Borlotti Bean                                Mangetout

Broccoli red arrow                      Turnip

Swede                                            Kale – Cavolo Nero

Kale – Redbor                             Perpetual Spinach

Mizuna                                         Rocket

Large Lettuce                              Salad bowl red

Lettuce ‘Reine de glace              Garlic

Thai Basil                                     Basil

Dill                                                Flat leaf Parsley


Cut Flower Seeds

Antirrhinum White Admiral F1    Sunflower Earth Walker

Sunflower Red Sun                         Sweet William Auricula Eyed Mixed

Cosmos Purity                                   Cosmos Rubenia

White foxglove                                  Wall flower Vulcan

Viola Bowles Black                           Sweet william seed

Larkspar Dark Blue                          Bupleurum Rotundifolium

Bells of Ireland                                  Nigella white and pink and blue

Tithonia                                               Ammi

Zinnia Envy                                        Calendula Indian prince

Malope                                                 Black ball cornflower

RHS Seeds

Stchys Officinalis                              fritillaria meleagris

Gladiolus italicus                               Meconopsis napaulensis

Pulsatilla Vulgaris                             Allium Cristophii

Silene laciniata subsp. Greggii     primula sieboldii

Thalictrum delavayi                         camassia leichtlinii

agapanthus mixed                           crocus tommasinianus