Sowing seeds early in the year can reward you with plants that will flower or crop earlier than usual.
To boost your chances of success, there are several things you can do to counteract the effects of low light levels and stuffy indoor temperatures – both of which can encourage damping off. This fungal disease can sweep through trays of seedlings, usually attacking them at roots and the bases of stems, causing them to topple over and die.
When you’re ready to go, check out 10 seeds to sow early in January.
Use a heated propagator
Most seeds germinate between 18°C – 22°C, which is not normally achievable early in the year – even indoors. A heated propagator will provide a consistent temperature throughout the day and night, which ensures the best chances of germination without heating the whole room. Models range from budget propagators that provide a basic level of heat, to more expensive models that enable you to adjust the temperature. Always use a propagator lid to keep the heat in and save energy.
Use a growing lamp
With low light levels early in the year, seedlings can quickly become leggy and etiolated. Growing them beneath a lamp will ensure they grow strong and healthy.
Practise good hygiene
Wash pots, seed trays, propagators and anything else that comes into contact with seeds and seedlings thoroughly, then rinse with greenhouse disinfectant.
Use new compost
Don’t use up old bags that have been lying around outdoors, even if unopened. For best results, start a new bag of compost.
Blend your own growing medium
Create your own special growing medium for particular seeds by adding vermiculite, perlite, and/or silver sand or fine grit.
Use fresh seeds
Start with new packets of seeds as these germinate fastest and more seedlings result – old seed may not come up at all, wasting time and resources.
Water seeds in after sowing, then water them as sparingly as you dare after that, but don’t let your seedlings dry right out. Check them daily.
Transplant seedlings promptly
Seedlings that are growing in seed trays should be transplanted as soon as they have their first pair of true leaves, to give them the space they need to grow healthily and to avoid damping off. Use a pencil or dibber to prick out and transplant seedlings into their own pots.