When sowing seeds for plants that will be growing in shade, it’s essential to follow a few guidelines. It’s harder for young plants to establish in shady conditions, so you need to get your seedlings off to a strong start.
Depending on what you’re growing and what kind of shade you have, you may find it best to sow into trays first or to sow direct outside once the soil has warmed up. They key is to grow strong seedlings that will be happy in their final position.
Here are five ways to get started.
Start in seed trays
Most seedlings need good light in order to grow strongly, so it’s best to sow seeds in trays or pots in a bright spot, rather than direct in their final position. If you give seedlings a strong chance to develop a strong root system before planting out, you’ll have a higher chance of success. Watch our video on sowing seeds indoors.
Sow direct before trees are in leaf
Some plants can be sown outside direct into a shady spot. An area shaded by deciduous trees or hedging, which won’t be in full shade until May or June, is ideal for crops that don’t need much warmth to germinate, such as chard and beetroot. Sow the seeds in March or April and they’ll get going before the site gets too shady. In summer, crops such as salads and radishes benefit from shade from the midday sun – sow them in dappled shade once the soil has warmed up.
Prick out strong seedlings
Choose the strongest seedlings to grow on when the first true leaves appear. Lift them out individually by their seed leaves, supporting the rootball with a dibber or pencil if necessary, and pot on.
Pot up for a strong root system
When thinning out seedlings, transplant each one into the centre of a small pot or into a modular tray. Firm the compost gently and water in, then place in a light, warm spot to grow on, until the seedlings have a good root system and are big and strong enough to plant out.
Plant out in warm weather
Shady areas are slow to warm up, so be patient and wait until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has lost its chill, before planting out young crops. Ideally, plant them in dappled shade in humus-rich soil, and add a thick mulch to hold in moisture.