Tips on Sowing Seeds
It’s spring and I want to share a few of my tips on sowing seeds. I know that some of you will have already sown some and there’s a huge temptation to get growing. But don’t get carried away by sowing seeds of everything since that could lead later to a serious bottle neck. This is especially so with plants that are tender.
So my advice is to be very selective. Ones that should have been sown long ago are chilies, Antirrhinum, Lobelia, Pelargonium and Begonia. Now that it’s late April you’d be better off buying plants of these now. But make a mental note to get these sown in late February and March next year.
Boring but important
Many plants have tiny seeds and need to be carefully handled. Always, but always, use fresh seed compost. Use clean pots or trays and water only with water from the tap. Many varieties are prone to the disease called ‘damping off’ and if you cut corners they will not forgive you! Sowing seeds very thinly and covering them thinly is important too. I know it’s boring but it really does pay to read the instructions on the seed packet! Covering small seeds with lightweight perlite or vermiculite is a good ploy.
Early in the year most of your seeds are going to need heat. This may be just for germination -boring but check the small print on the packet again – but could also be to coax your plants on if they need a long growing season. I’m thinking particularly of Pelargonium [“Geranium”], Begonias, celery, celeriac and of slow growing chilies.
We all have our favourite technique for sowing seeds and mine is to use my heart line! That is the line nearest to the base of your fingers on your palm. This provides a perfect groove through which small seeds can be trickled out to ensure even and thin sowing. Just tip a small amount of seed into the palm of your partially closed hand. Then with your other hand gently tap the base of your thumb with the finger tips of your other hand to move the seeds down the heart line and off the edge! Here’s a diagram of your heart line.
Using modules for Seed Sowing
Of course, bigger seeds can be sown straight into modules – sometimes called cell packs. This saves transplanting them -aka“pricking out”- but you do need to have more room for this and frost protected space will be needed for most plants until around late April. Modules are brilliant and can be used at any time of the year. They enable us to maximise the crops that we grow from a plot or allotment. Ideally, as soon as one crop is harvested, you should have plants in modules to plant in the same space!
Seed Sowing outside
How early you can sow into the soil outside will depend on where you live. In the south and especially in the South West you will be able to sow earlier than further north. If you cover a part of your patch with a sheet of clear polythene in January you will be able to start earlier. The polythene traps in heat. This really can make a huge difference and of course keeps the ground drier too.
Further reading on Seed Sowing
I’ve some tips on sowing tomatoes here.
And I’ve written about sowing sweet peas here.