Sowing seeds

by Kate Bradbury

Last year I sowed all my seeds in the first week of January, eager to get my brand new garden off to a flying start.

Pots of freshly sown seeds in compost Last year I sowed all my seeds in the first week of January, eager to get my brand new garden off to a flying start. Everything was sown at once - from Eryngium leavenworthii to tomato 'Gardener's Delight' and my front room looked like a badly run nursery. I ran out of labels quite early on, so convinced myself the 'surprise' element of my new seedlings would be both exciting and educational. Of course, it turned out to be a very frustrating experience: not only were cordon tomatoes planted in hanging baskets and pumpkins confused with courgettes, but everything was slightly leggy (due to the short days and low levels of sunlight) and there were too many plants for me to look after each one properly.

Most plants ended up growing well eventually, but I've been more reserved this year; I've only sown chillies (so far). Having grown 'Cayenne' for the last couple of years, and with one still not quite dead after being 'overwintered', I opted for varieties 'Demon Red' - specially developed for growing in pots and on windowsills - and 'Devil's Brew', which promises to be 'blisteringly hot'.

Chillies are one of the easiest crops to grow, and definitely worth growing if you are a beginner. A sunny windowsill is all that's needed for a crop and they'll even fruit without a fortnightly high-potash feed (although more chillies will be produced if the plant is fed). I gave a plant to my cousin last year, expecting it to be dead within weeks. In September he sent me a photo of a chilli-laden plant, along with questions on how best to overwinter it. He's hooked.

Wary of low light levels and leggy seedlings, I've set up a small lamp over my heated propagator. It looks a bit like an SAD lamp for plants, but hopefully it will do the trick. Tomatoes and broad beans will be sown this weekend - after all, it's nearly February...

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2011 at 17:32

It's been my experience that leggy seedling growth is more due to too warm temperatures vs. too little light...if you move them to a cooler spot (a drafty window with sun) you may have better luck...

Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2011 at 20:58

well i've just got my 4th batch of tomatoes in my first batch has got brilliant groth

Gardeners' World Web User 21/01/2011 at 23:10

Where do you keep your tomatoe seedlings?

Gardeners' World Web User 22/01/2011 at 12:09

I always think of chillies as being one of the hardest things to grow...I think this may say more about our relative levels of competance than anything about chillies. *resolves* will try harder to make growing chillies easier

Gardeners' World Web User 22/01/2011 at 12:15

as a professional, we never sow too early..... there is plenty of time yet, plants don't do well when sown only in less ideal conditions (colder, shorter days etc), getting constantly checked... They quickly catch up and excel earlier sown plants if you do them right later on.... remember we had frosts in to May last year..... sowing now, I would expect to harvest then in good conditions!

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