Seed Club - spring in the greenhouse

Posted: Wednesday 3 April 2013
by Sally Nex

Well, thank goodness for greenhouses. I've practically been living in mine this month.

Well, thank goodness for greenhouses. I've practically been living in mine this month. It's been far too chilly to even think about sowing outside, and besides, I don't do frozen fingers.

Under glass, though, it's all lovely and cosy, and I potter around in there for hours among my little forest of seedlings. I've got everything from Ageratum to zinnias coming up - it's going to be a colourful year!

I've been struggling a bit with keeping them warm during the night, though. I do keep my greenhouse frost-free, but often that's still only just above zero. My little rudbeckias and antirrhinums – both from the Seed Club 'Blooms for Bees' pack – have been so unhappy they simply stopped growing. Worse, the tomato seedlings turned an ominous shade of purple. So it was back into the propagator with them till things improve. If you don't have a heated propagator, just move them into the house at night. It's a faff, but makes a huge difference.

My February sowings, on the other hand, are doing brilliantly. The baby Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride' are now pretty sturdy, and I've got a nice full tray of Verbena rigida 'Intensity' (from the High Value Perennials seed pack). Both now have 'true' leaves – the ones that look like those on the adult plant – and that means pricking out time.

I move my seedlings into 7.5cm pots of peat-free multi-purpose compost. I have two unbreakable rules for pricking out: first, water your seed tray half an hour before, so the roots come free without breaking. And second, only ever handle seedlings by the leaves. That's because if a leaf tears, you've always got another one. If a stem breaks, the seedling has had it.

Other than that, you can't go far wrong. Fill a pot with compost, make a hole in it, then ease the seedling gently out of its tray with the blunt end of a pencil. Supporting the roots with the pencil, transfer it over to the pot. Work the roots into the hole, firm it in, water it and that's it: your baby plant is in its new home.

That done, it's off to the greenhouse shelves with them and time to make some more sowings. This month it's the less ‘pernickety’ annuals like Calendula, plus big, beefy courgettes and cucumbers, sown in 10cm pots where I can keep an eye on them (they're caviar to slugs). I think I'll sow my beans indoors this year too - I sometimes risk sowing them straight outside, but not in this wintery chill.

I really must prise myself away from the greenhouse and get those last bits of digging done, or I'm going to get badly caught out. I have a feeling in my bones that the moment winter relaxes its grip we'll go from chugging along half-heartedly to turbo-powered ‘all systems go’. So use this lull to get everything ready: it's going to be a rollercoaster ride!

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Talkback: Seed Club - spring in the greenhouse
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patsy francis 06/04/2013 at 15:19

sally, its a busy time but well worth it, i don,t have a green house, but i do have a conservatory that doubles up as a greenhouse from february to may, i am a novice, so far tho, i have panzy cosmos, nasturtion, african daisy popping upwhen i see the new growth it inspires a feeling of hope. happy gardening sally.

Lyn 07/04/2013 at 08:52

Well done Sallt, i also start seeds off in the conservatory and kitchen window sill, it is very rewarding when they start to grow, then you can prick them out and find you have loads, good luck with your garden in your first year.
Have you thought about buying one of those plastic greenhouses, you can get one for less thsn 20.00.

Tom Edwards (CottageGardening) 07/04/2013 at 19:35

The only problem that I have is that I very quickly run out of space within my greenhouse and only have a number of suitable windowsills in the house. It would be nice to be able to get some of the veg plants outside and in the ground.

Tom (Cottage Gardening)

Sally Nex 12/04/2013 at 17:17

It's always a tricky moment when you realise your greenhouse space doesn't equal the number of seed trays you have to put into it!

Patsy - your conservatory sounds wonderful, I'm very envious. I suspect you are less of a 'novice' than you let on though - that's an impressive range of flowers you've got there!

Lyn - thank you! Those plastic greenhouses are fantastic to expand into, I really recommend them. I've also got a large coldframe I use as an extension to the greenhouse - invaluable for housing hardier seedlings.

Tom - I hear you, I'm desperate to get everything outside and growing now. Still, as I type there is sun shining in the window - you never know, spring might just be here at last...

Sweet pea2 14/04/2013 at 16:36

Hi everyone I'm a newcomer :D I live in west Sussex and started sowing in my new greenhouse as the weather has been dire. I have Rudbeckia cosmos heliopsis cucumber sprouts and golden beetroot just peeping through. Indoors on my Windowsills I have Melon, Tomato Marmande, sweet peas and bell peppers, I think I will need more staging in my greenhouse soon! Good luck everyone :D