Seedlings and other February storiesĀ 

It’s true. We’ve only a few weeks of this cold weather before the warmth of the March sun and longer evenings grace us with their presence. 

While we still have dark mornings and evenings, there is no doubt about it, there are small incremental changes that we see each day, adding to an over all air of positiveness regarding the seasonal changes. 

In short, spring is on the way.



For now though, I’m still awaking from winter mode regarding flowering plants. I do notice on some of my prize* pot grown plants there are the startings of new shoots. This means the annual repotting, where they are removed from their old pots and potted on into a bigger size pot (see my potting on Wisteria post here), or in some cases some of the old soil is removed and fresh compost is added. I have a fair few to work on, from pot grown clematis to herbaceous perennials to grasses. Yes, plenty to keep me amused. Of course, having the right compost is very important (read my blog on compost here), and this year I will again be making my own mix with loam from the garden along with other additives. 

*not prized, in fact completely neglected at times !

In the potager garden, where I have my fruit and vegetables growing, things are quite dormant there still. I have spent this past winter transforming an extended area, that was very overgrown, into something resembling a workable area. Recently, I’ve been moving bark chippings into create paths, and all the future beds are covered with plastic to smother out the weeds. Some of the beds have been dug, and have had manure added. Others I’ve simply removed the top inch of soil and left to fallow over winter. I’ve still to finalise which beds will contain chosen crops, but mostly this is just a formality as I’ve been pondering it for much of the winter. 

What is coming into vogue is the ‘no-dig’ system for soil and crop management. If you haven’t heard of it before, look here to read more, and a fellow blogger and his recent blog, Spadesharp, here. Of course I have been using this system for years to grow my onions (see here as an example), which has proved to be well worth while doing. in fact, we are still cooking and eating the last of our 2016 onions. With other crops I do an element of digging, sometimes deeper and sometimes not so, depending on the location, and crop, within the garden. And, with such high water table in the garden, it doesn’t bode well to dig too deeply in spots. I came across a phrase recently, when reading Nicky Kyle’s blog (here), that pretty much sums up my approach. She called it ‘minimum dig’ (her monthly blog posts are a must read !). This is digging where necessary, and in other areas, leaving well enough alone. 

On the early seedlings front, there is plenty happening. The tomatoes have germinated and are just about starting their true leaves, and ready to pot on into bigger pots. The early salad foliage plants have also germinated, including  beetroot, spinach and pea shoots. There is still a bit of growing for them to do, and it being so early, we have plenty of time. The sweet peppers too have germinated, so lets see what happens in this space. 

You can see my video clip on all my early seedling updates here

You can see my video clip on making a coldframe from an old bed frame here

A slight change for me this year is to grow my onions from seeds rather than sets. Now, there is always great debates about which is better, and being the convenient* gardener that I am, sets win out every time. However, this year I have taken the decision to get started early and sow some seed, which I’ll grow on over the next few months before planting out in April. According to my dad, my granddad used to always grow onions from seed, and he did a fair job of it by the reports I heard. It would be a nice bit of success to master this craft, and if it doesn’t work, well there’s always sets for next year. 

*lazy, look for the easy way to do things … Lol

In attempting to negate the effects of cold spring nights, I have constructed a cosy area within the glasshouse. This will assist young plants that require a minimum temperature to grow, and it was a hard lesson learned a couple of years ago when my tomato plants (given to me by my dad) were stunted in growth, even though they were in the glasshouse ! Yes, this area will do very nicely, and it is an expansion of a smaller area I did last year, for the same reason. In fact, the base of this area is full of six month old manure that I was intending to use as a ‘hot bed’. However, to get the hotbed active, certain ‘additives’ have to be used, which is just not going to happen here. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, bless your innocence; and if you do know, stop laughing at my prudishness !  

When looking at my early rhubarb, it is unbelievable to see it growing and defying the frost. Now I do give it a helping hand, through putting fleece over it some nights, but there are other nights where it is left unprotected and it still keeps growing. With some luck, we’ll soon be enjoying some rhubarb desserts. I have lifted the main crop of rhubarb and split it into smaller portions. This will mean less cropping this year, but all going well, there’ll be plenty to go around in the years to come. 

Finally, I’d just like to thank all my fellow gardening friends, who I interact with on a regular basis, either in person or across social media, ranging from novices to experts. It is great to meet and share with like minded folks, whether it is a tale of success, or of total disaster (hopefully the former…), and have fun while we’re doing it.  
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Happy gardening. 










Pricking out seedlings

After hosting a garden workshop this weekend for a local community group, it was interesting to ask a local grower what was his top tip for growing seed. ‘Heat’ he said, without hesitation, ‘unless seed have heat to get them going, nothing else will matter’.

Hmmm … fair enough.

This is similar to a question I asked dad last month about bringing on early seed potatoes and other crops. ‘No’ he said, ‘I like to grow crops when the soil is warm and you get good results without having to fuss too much’.

So you can see the connection, in order to get things going and growing, we need heat and warmth.

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When that’s something that’s not present, have to either provide it artificially or wait. I come in the former category, as regular readers of this blog will know (even if things don’t work out). I have a small glasshouse, and a greenhouse, with both designed to create a protective environment from the elements. Add to this, my heated propagator and my temporary cold frames just for extra space. Before both houses were donated to me, I used to use any available windowsill space and a number of temporary cardboard cold frames, as per Geoff Hamilton.

Now that I have this extra protected space, I do try to make the most of it, which brings me around to pricking out seedlings. You see, sowing seed is just the start of the process -set up your tray, put in compost mix, level it, water it, add seed and cover (or not). Place into warmth et viola – Houston we have lift off!

But what happens next?

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Well, once the seedlings germinate, any glass or propagator covers need to be removed over a period of days. All going well the young seedlings will produce a pair or two of true leaves. At this point the seedlings can be transplanted from the seed tray into individual pots. Do this gently as you don’t want to damage these new plants.

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Firstly though, prepare the pots by filling with a nice blend of moist compost, lightly firm it and then make a hole in the centre with your finger. I use a spoon to scoop out a cluster of new seedlings. I then tease out a single seedling, holding it by one of its seed leaves. You’ll find the root and soil will come away too. Drop the seedling into the hole in the pot to the same level it was in the seed tray, and tuck it in with compost.

Place the newly pricked out seedling back into a protected growing area, spray it lightly with luke warm water and leave it to grow on. Repeat this process until all seedlings are pricked out.

Very quickly, what was one packet of seed will quickly become dozens of plants with the promise of a blaze of summer colour.

Perfect. Happy gardening.

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