It is very tempting at this time of year to start sowing seed in a frenzy. It seems like everyone else is doing it, and that if you don’t do it NOW then you’ll be too late. My online shopping spree for seeds means they are overflowing their shoebox and I’m getting panicky. I’m trying to hold back as the sage advice, especially on plants that require lots of warmth to grow on outside, is that it is better to wait until April… doubly so if you haven’t got a greenhouse. Which I haven’t.
My sitting room windowsill, however, is already a Heath Robinson affair of assorted platforms, seed trays and a far-too-small-but-handy heated propagator. The top of my ‘fridge is being used to warm the soil of more seed-trays-in-waiting, and the airing cupboard has an exotic collection of tomatoes and aubergine seeds being reluctantly forced out of their Mediterranean slumber. My bedroom windowsill (the only other window in the cottage that faces south) is being cleared of gardening books and seed catalogues, ready for the next batch of trays.
Outside, I have dusted down the cold frames ready to take their first guests of The Season. Let’s just hope the weather starts to get warmer, and that these wintry storms will leave us alone for the rest of the year.
I’ve also tried a couple of new things this year:
I’ve been experimenting with using eggshells as starter homes for some salad crops. It’s something I’ve seen around the internet, and wondered if it was just a silly gimmick. But then my mum said, wistfully, that she remembered her granny using them successfully in the War. My mum is now of an age where I am not sure if this is a real or imagined memory. But there’s nothing quite as engaging as rose-tinted WWII nostalgia, so I thought I’d give it a try. It also piqued my 12-year-old daughter’s interest, which, considering her current disinterest in all things ‘gardening’, can only be a good thing! So, however silly it may seem, the fact my daughter got involved with preparing and filling the pots, and scattering the seeds, has made it well worth a try.
I’ve also come across a rather nifty tool from Soil Blockers that eradicates the need for lots of plastic pots. You prepare the compost into a sort of wet ‘dough’ and then stamp out modules of compost that hold their shape and have a seed ‘hole’ ready-made for you. The seeds roots grow to the edges and then double back, creating a strong root system and making them easy to pot-on into bigger blocks later (included in the kit) or to plant out directly into the soil when they are established enough to cope. It was a bit fiddly to start with, and I nearly gave up, but then I got the hang of it and got a bit carried away.
In order to maintain the shapes, you need to mix the compost with fibrous coir (available to buy online in block form), or I’ve been using peat-free Dalesfoot Wool Seed compost, where the added woolly fibres help bind the blocks, and also retain moisture to stop the cubes drying out too quickly. A week on, and everything in the blocks is sprouting away nicely, except for the sweetcorn which will take a bit longer.
So, to sum it up, so far I have sown: leeks, thyme, chives, salad rocket, sweetcorn, tomatoes, aubergines, basil and sweet peas.
I’d love to know what you have you been sowing… Or have you managed to wait?