As the days grow longer itchy fingers are starting to get ready for Spring sowing. But before you go overboard with the seed packets and sow more seed trays than your windowsills can hold, think about these points first.
1. Grow what you enjoy eating or flowers you actually like!
If your growing space or time is limited, focus on your essential plants. Sow what is important to you, whether for taste or the feel good factor you get from growing that plant. It’s often suggested that you should focus on crops which are expensive to buy in the shops if you have limited time or space. Personally speaking, I always grow new potatoes even though I can buy them very cheaply in season. The reason for this is the sheer joy and excitement of harvesting potatoes and seeing the golden potatoes emerge from the deep earth. All the children I’ve worked with get very excited when seeing that first potato appear!
2. Sow at the right time
Although you may be tempted to sow anything that currently says March on the seed packet, you don’t need to sow everything now. Some crops like chillis and sweet peppers do benefit from a longer growing season but most plants will cope with being sown over a range of months. Also think about the climate where you live. It’s a lot chillier in Yorkshire than in Southern England, but also warmer than Scotland and North Eastern England. The seeds you sow will need somewhere to go when they are big enough and if it’s still too cold outside by that point you may run into a few problems.
3. Look out for problems
With low light levels and changing temperatures, late winter is a tricky time for seeds to germinate and seedlings to thrive. The soil temperature needs to be warm enough for the seed to germinate. If the soil is too cold then the seed may rot, or if outside, get eaten by animals. Try covering bare areas of your veg patch or raised bed with plastic for a few weeks to help the soil warm up. One tip is to look at weeds. If new weeds are starting to grow then there’s a good chance your seeds will as well. Once the seeds have germinated, keep an eye on the weather forecast as frosts can quickly damage tender young plants. Cover with horticultural fleece during periods of frost.
Seeds sown indoors pose plenty of problems too. Low light levels can cause legginess in seedlings which are stretching towards the sun. Seedlings will grow towards the sun, so turn seed trays which are on or near windowsills regularly. If your seedlings get too leggy it may be best to start again as they won’t be healthy enough to thrive. If you are growing seedlings on windowsills make sure you put them somewhere else at night as they will get very chilly behind the curtains. Seedlings which are growing well then mysteriously collapse may have been damaged by ‘damping off’. Damping off is a fungal disease which is is more likely to happen when seeds are grown in too humid an atmosphere. Make sure your seeds have good ventilation and don’t sow them too thickly.
Remember that temperatures and weather are both very erratic at this time of year and seeds sown in April will catch up and may even be healthier plants.
What will your first seeds be this season?