Thanks to my new super-fantastic Grow-Light propagator (see my March blog) my young plants are looking totally terrific – especially the tomatoes. It’s really exciting to be getting professional results rather than leggy windowsill plants leaning towards the light.
After weeks of not much happening it is all action now. Most of the overwintering plants have been moved to the cold frame or hardened off, I’ve pricked out the first of the salads and am starting to move seedlings from the propagator indoors into the greenhouse. I’ve also potted up the dahlia tubers in fresh compost.
I’ve been using polystyrene fish boxes as planters for a few years now – they are lightweight and have inbuilt insulation. With a coat of Cuprinol Garden Shades (I favour ‘Willow’), their origins – if not the smell, which takes a while to wear off, are disguised. In the general tidy up last month I was stacking the empty boxes and noticed how snugly one fitted inside the other and I realised that I could use them as seed germinators. I placed pots of newly sown seeds in the smaller box and then slotted the bigger one over the top – voila, a well-insulated, temperature stable, light-excluding propagator. It works a treat.
Warm sunshine – at last! I spent all last weekend in the garden, revelling in the real signs of spring and finally getting on with sowing seeds. In the past I’ve often been tempted to start the whole process earlier, but now I wait until I see those pesky weeds germinating in the borders – and reckon if they think it’s time to grow, the seeds I plant will too.
While I waited I did the routine tasks that will stand me in good stead through the growing year. I washed down the benches in my greenhouse (Gabriel Ash, of course) with a powerful citrus-based cleaner, Citrox. I get it from Organic Catalog, source of many good things for the organic gardener. I have also used the Citrox to wash out pots and seed trays. Seeds are so expensive these days that I don’t want to risk any seedlings succumbing to grubby surroundings. The windows of the greenhouse and the glass of the coldframe were cleaned, ditto the heated propagator and seed tray covers. Clean surroundings and good light will help the seedlings grow strong and healthy.
I’ve also sorted the seeds into order of sowing in a lidded plastic box and spent a happily anticipatory evening writing the labels in my best handwriting – so much easier than when your hands are earth covered from seed sowing. I then paper-clipped the labels to the relevant seed packets. Final preparations consisted of moving a bag of seed compost into the greenhouse to allow it to warm up and filling a couple of watering cans with tap water (better for seeds and seedlings than butt water) and putting them to warm in the greenhouse as well.
The broad beans and sweet peas I sowed in the autumn are now outdoors waiting to be planted out, so there’s no shortage of space in the greenhouse.
Seeds sown in the greenhouse:
In gutters (so that they can be slid into position on the allotment when they are about 20cm high) – peas and mange tout – I’ve mixed tall and short varieties to crop over a long period
In large cells – more broad beans, beetroot (4 seeds to a cell)
In small cells – spring onions, Rossa lunga de Firenze (a long red onion) from Seeds of Italy)
In a large polystyrene box (I get them from the fishmonger) : baby leaf salad which has germinated in 4 days.
Seeds sown in the heated propagator on the kitchen windowsill:
In peat-free coir pellets from Garden Supply Direct: tomatoes which have also germinated. I’ve turned off the heat, but kept them covered – too much heat and they will grow weak and leggy.
More good weather is forecast this coming weekend so I will be powering ahead with the seed sowing and working in the borders.