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Seeds are being sown

Early February. We're getting more daylight hours and I'm getting slightly impatient. I want to start sowing some seed!

What have I got that I can get going now? And how am I going to go about it?

Well I've found in the past that early February is a good time to get peppers and aubergines sown and underway.

Both benefit from having a longish growing season so they enjoy as much sun and warmth as they can possibly get. That way they ripen better.

I improve my chances of enjoying home-grown aubergines by using an early variety as that also means that the plants will get longer in the sun - when it comes.

It's a bit early for tomatoes - sown too early and when we're not quite getting enough sunlight - can mean that they often get a bit "leggy". Normally I'd start sowing my tomatoes towards the middle or end of the month but this year I'll be in Savoie so I thought I'd take a chance and get some sown now. What's the worse that can happen?

In the past I've had a go at using home made seed compost. You can read how I made my own here:

I had some leftover in the yellow trug from last year but you never know what might have enjoyed a warm winter's stay - slug eggs for instance - so I started again. I followed that "recipe" but this time I replaced the mole spoils with my own wormery compost.

Equally though I could have just bought some seed compost. You don't need to make your own. The thing I've found with that though is that sometimes it can be a bit lumpy and have small twigs in it that might not be that conducive to the seeds actually germinating as well as they might. It's worth checking and perhaps sieving it if you've bought yours.

The other thing to think about if you buy your seed compost is peat content. Although the sale of peat to amateur gardeners will be banned from 2024 it's still possible at the moment to buy it - if you wanted to.

The seed compost I saw the other day - and left on the shelf - talked about "responsible sourcing" but also said that the peat content in the seed compost was "high". And then went on to say that this meant that it could be between 51% and 100%. Apparently peat is required to "ensure closer seed contact for strong, healthy germination".

Hmmmmm.......... Those squash seeds that I sowed onto coir discs last year did ok without it. Me thinks that's marketing man's speak to justify one final year of peat usage. It'll be interesting to see what they say on next year's sacks of seed compost.........

Anyway using a good mix of worm compost, some leaf mould and vermiculite - have a read of that article - this is what I did. In this case this was for a few different varieties of tomatoes that I'm hoping will look good in smaller containers:

  • Mixed a handful of my compost mix (worm compost and leaf mould - or straight seed compost if that's what you're using) with a handful of vermiculite. I add vermiculite as it helps with drainage - so the seeds don't rot - and gives a bit of insulation to the seeds.

  • Added the mix to my module tray. I gently firmed it and then sprayed it with some water.

  • Removed any larger bits that had found their way into the seed compost mix. Imagine the developing roots of your seeds coming up against these twigs!

  • Made a small planting hole in the middle of each module. I then dropped a seed or two into the hole and then gently covered it up.

  • I labelled each row as I went. I wanted to make sure that I knew which variety of seed popped up first.

  • Then I gently covered the lot with a layer of vermiculite - a bit of a blanket if you like!

  • Finally the plastic cover is popped over the tray. This acts a bit like a mini greenhouse and keeps warmth and moisture in - and helps those seeds start to germinate.

  • Then I brought them in and left them on the kitchen table. Up out of the way of Ivy the far too inquisitive Labradoodle but also in front of a warm, sunny window sill.

  • And then finally I did the same thing all over again with my peppers and aubergines. This time though I've placed them in a heated propagator to get them warmed up and going sooner, and to help keep the temperature slightly more constant. I want those peppers peeping through as soon as possible.

There. That was all there was to it. I noticed though that not all seed packets contain the same number of seeds. Some of the packets for the tomatoes contained 20 seeds and one - from the same supplier - contained 10. A packet from another supplier contained even more than 20.

I'm not convinced that seeds can easily be used the following year once the seed packet has been opened so I always try to plant all the seeds that I find in the packet. Even if that means I have more than enough plants later in the spring - I give them away.

It might though be worth considering if you have plans to produce passata and want to grow lots of tomatoes.

Next up I'll be getting some of the broad beans going in long fibre pots. I planted some back in the autumn, direct into their growing positions but as I love a broad bean I'm going to sow some more.

Then it'll be chitting my first early potatoes ready to try and get them in next month, and planting some more red onions and garlic.

This will be the year I finally get really organised. I hope!


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