Now is a great time to get your first seeds sown. The days are getting (a bit!) brighter, so seeds set out to germinate on the windowsill will get the light they need. There’s no great rush, as long as you get them plantedj in March you will be off to a fighting start, BB and I’m beginning with tomatoes and aubergines.
I wait until March to sow seeds as I find that my seedlings don’t get enough light earlier than this and grow ‘leggy’.
A quick note about potatoes
I mentioned this in my first blog, but just a reminder that if you are growing potatoes make, pop your seed potatoes on a sunny windowsill to ‘chit’. Basically, they need to grow little sprouts. These are the bits that annoy you when you find them on a spud you planned to eat in the fridge! These are called ‘eyes’ (pretty creepy, but lets just go with it). Inspect your potatoes and position them so that the eyes are upwards and therefore exposed to the sun. JOB DONE.
What you’ll need (shopping list with links to specific items, available on my first list here)
- Seed trays
- Fibre pots (loo roll cut in half or egg boxes also work well)
- Plant labels
- Multipurpose compost (I’m using one designed for sowing seeds indoors which is a light mixture but any multipurpose compost is perfectly fine)
- Vermiculite (optional)
- Spray bottle (you can reuse an old household cleaning bottle with a spray nozzle – but be sure to rinse it well first!)
- Tomato and aubergine seeds
I am growing four varieties of tomato this year. I am only growing cherry tomatoes as, try though I might, larger varieties don’t do well in my garden and we don’t get more than two or three. This is because they take much longer to ripen and tend to split or worse, suffer blight, before they are ready to be picked. I personally prefer the bountiful supply produced by cherry varieties.
I am sowing tomatoes directly into a seed tray, and I will prick out individual seedlings later (a blog to follow on that when the time comes).
Always sow more than you need in case some seeds don’t germinate or grow into weak seedlings. I am planting 5 – 8 of each variety. It is best to sow seeds purchased that year, but you can store leftover seeds in a cool, dry place. If you are sowing last years leftover seeds, sow a few extra in case you encounter germination problems.
Fill a seed tray with compost leaving a couple of centimetres at the top and pat down. Make sure there is sufficient depth for the seed to grow little roots before it is potted on layer (just the depth of two fingers is required). For shallow trays, you can fill a bit higher or right to the top and level off (which is messier!).
Add seeds in rows, about a centimetre apart. Label each row if you are growing different varieties.
Sprinkle a thin layer of vermiculite or multipurpose compost over the seeds. Make sure the area covered completely.
Vermiculite is very light and creates a loose covering over the compost making it easy for seeds to germinate and helps keep the compost moist. You must use horticultural vermiculite. If you don’t have any, a fine sprinkle of multipurpose compost is just fine
To water the seeds, set the seed tray in a dish of water and allow the water to be drawn up through the holes. Watering this way avoids disturbing your carefully placed seeds. The seed will be drawn deeper into the compost as the water soaks through.
Place the seed tray into a propagator. A heated propagator is best, especially if the room is not very warm or otherwise a windowsill propagator is fine. Make sure the propagator is in a sunny spot.
The vents on your propagator should be closed until the seeds germinate, them open them. If in doubt, leave them open!
The compost needs to remain moist, so spritz it regularly. It shouldn’t be soggy, however.
Aubergines need lots of warmth to do well. It’s best to get the seeds sown and off to a good, strong start. Since the UK summer is notoriously unpredictable, it’s impossible to know if the aubergines will do well. Last year I got none, the year before – which was when we had that epic heat wave – I had loads. If you have a greenhouse you will likely have more luck (I do not have one). Basically, just be aware that aubergines are more tricky to grow successfully that tomatoes 🙂
I am planting my aubergines in little fibre pots, basically as I am growing fewer and it will mean I won’t need to pot on as quickly as the tomatoes. You can grow in a seed tray like the tomatoes (exactly the same process) or little DIY pots made from egg boxes or loo rolls cut in half.
Fill the little pot nearly to the top, leaving about a centimetre, and add two seeds to each pot. One will grow stronger than the other and once the seeds have sprouted, we will remove the weaker shoot.
Top with a thin layer of vermiculite or compost.
Use a spray bottle to water the seeds. They will need a good spritz at first and then keep them spritzed and the soil moist as they grow. It’s best to use a spray bottle as this will avoid disturbing the soil and drowning baby shoots with a watering can.
Pop in the propagator and leave to germinate, remembering to keep them watered. As with tomatoes, once the seeds have sprouted, open the air vents.
Make sure your propagator lid is clean to ensure it lets plenty of light in and always place the propagator in a sunny spot
As the month goes on, I will be planting more seeds – salad, herbs and courgettes to follow – and we will be potting on the seedlings as they grow.
Let me know how you get on!