Seed Club - early seed sowing

Posted: Tuesday 26 February 2013
by Sally Nex

I just can't resist getting my fingers into compost in February. I know it's too early really, as there is frost on the grass and the days are still short.

Seed Club - early seed sowing

I just can't resist getting my fingers into compost in February. I know it's too early really, as there is frost on the grass and the days are still short. But now we're getting the odd splash of sunshine, between the ice and gales, I'm eager to get sowing.

There are seed trays already stacking up in the greenhouse, and the propagator is working overtime. Luckily, there are lots of seeds that positively relish an early start. Perennials, for one: I sowed the Seed Club High-Value Perennials collection first because I want them to flower this year.

Yesterday, the first fat-leaved seedlings of Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride' emerged. I felt excited all day. These first seedlings are particularly precious, since gaura is one of my all-time favourite plants. I adore its natural-looking, delicate flowers. They appear to dance and flutter in the breeze like little white butterflies. The half-hardy perennials from the Fast Flowers collection, including nicotiana, clarkia and antirrhinum, all appreciate a head start too.

There's no doubt that early sowing is a risk. Seedlings struggle to grow well when there's so little light and warmth around. But if you're lucky with the weather, it is possible to coax them along, and the reward is much earlier flowers.

When most of the seedlings have shown up, I will evict them from the propagator and put them into the greenhouse. It’s cooler there, but frost free. I don’t just move them to make space for sowing more plants (honest!). Artificially warm conditions with feeble, early-spring light, can cause seedlings to become long and lanky. And that's a recipe for weak plants.

I always have to juggle propagator space, though, as there's never enough. I will press my windowsills into service again this year for the 'Gardeners' Delight' tomatoes from the Award-Winning Vegetables collection. I've grown these old favourites before - red cherry tomatoes with just the right balance of sweet and tangy in the super-intense flavour.

I will sow five seeds per 10cm pot, and put a hat of clear plastic bag over the top to keep in the moisture. They should germinate on the kitchen windowsill, between the cookery books and the fruit bowl.

I can feel the gardening season revving up into the next gear. By this time next month, I'll have my first hardy vegetables in the ground. It seems hardly possible at the moment, but it's amazing the difference a few weeks make in early spring.

What are you sowing now? Have you sown any half-hardy annuals yet? Post your seedling tally in the comments section below and let us all know how you're getting on.

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SMURF 27/02/2013 at 09:18

Hi All. I'm a new grower and at the moment I have some lovely tumbling toms on the go, and have just seen the first signs of my water melon seeds popping up in the propagator. My Dahlias are appearing too. Has anyone grown cucamelon? I've seen them and was wondering how easy they are. Happy growing folks :)

andy b 28/02/2013 at 20:14

tomatoe seeds up.dianthus pricked out,many more on way,but still to cold really,march forecast is for more cool weather

Zoomer44 28/02/2013 at 20:36

Malope which were only sown on Sunday are already showing. Dianthus and Snap Dragon not showing yet. Chillies, Aubergines and leeks also sown but not expecting them to show for at least another week or two.

RobMagMum 28/02/2013 at 21:11

Hi.  I've got a packet of cucamelon seeds and i am waiting patiently to sow them.  It says to sow in April and treat as a cucumber.  My daughter's favourite food is cucumber and this is a project to please her!

Raymond Miller 01/03/2013 at 11:10

I have the first showing of Exochorda macrantha "The Bride"; will this display the same beauty as Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride'?

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