Sowing Seeds with D

There is a truth about living on our hillside, it gets cold and the cold hangs around for too long. This means when everyone else is sowing south of our hillside they all flock onto our Facebook Page and tell us to get sowing. We have an adage at Pig Row, if it looks like its going to snow, it's going to snow, if it doesn't look like it's going to snow, it's going to snow. That means any chance of us sowing seed in the greenhouse in February is very slim. We are optimists and even have what to sow in February on our cropping plan, but in eight years we've only sown once in that month without losing every seedling. Even heating the greenhouse is out because when it snows here you can't get to the greenhouse. Take last week, we had six foot snow drifts on the lane and in the garden it got beyond our waist. 

Sowing Seeds with D

The cold bit but there was a way we could do some sowing indoors, by the fire and with a small boy who was happy to give a hand.

Sowing Seeds with D

Guess where all our plant labels are? In the greenhouse under snow. So, not one to put off what can be done today for tomorrow, we made our own from a plastic pot we found lodged in a snowdrift by the front door. A few snips of the scissors and we have three labels.

How to make your own plant labels from your plastics bin

How to make your own plant labels from your plastics bin

We have started to use small seed trays to start off our seeds. These are a great product, even though they are plastic, they are strong and will last us for years, you can get five of them in a normal seed tray. We are slowly getting rid of plastics in our garden, it is something we should all strive to do as gardeners to lessen our impact on the world around us but if you must buy plastic, buy good quality plastic that will last you for years and which can be recycled. A lot of the seed trays being sold today are only good for one season and are of low grade plastic, and they end up in land fill.

If you must use plastic, buy good quality plastic for your garden

Good quality tools will last you for years, buy the best you can afford.

D and Andrew are using a peat free product, all gardeners and gardens should be peat free by 2020, as the use of peat is not sustainable. 

Go peat free by 2020

D and Andrew are planting chillies and tomatoes. They have decided to trial Tomato Sweet Aperitif (Lycopersicon esculentum) which has beaten Sungold for taste (Organic Centre in County Leitrim, Ireland, 2013) and grow Pepper Jalapeno (Capsicum annuum 'JalapeƱo') and Pepper Cayenne Chilli (Capsicum annuum Cayenne)*.

Sow chillies and tomatoes now

D takes handfuls of the compost and places them in Carol's best bowl - grrrr - and breaks up the lumps until the compost is fine and crumbly. It's a great task for small hands and it's fun too.

It's amazing what you can do indoors now to get ahead for the summer season

We sow the chillies first making sure that the seed is evenly spread. No matter what you think, don't over sow a tray with too many seeds, you will have to prick them out at a later date and you want to encourage a good root run. Less space to grow means poor growth, leggy seedlings and choked roots. Think about it, when you're on public transport what do you prefer, being on a half full bus or having your face pressed up against someone's armpit? Plants are like us, give them room.

Never over sow seeds in a tray, this is why

After covering the seed with a fine dusting of compost, we place them in the sink to soak up some water. This is better than using a watering can as it won't wash the seed to the side of the tray.

How to water seeds

How to water seeds

This is a great task to do on days with awful weather and we are certainly feeling the brunt of the beast from the east at the moment. We have had it worse but it's the temperatures that's getting us, icicles hang from everywhere, including us when we go to feed the chickens.

Cold out, so sow your seeds indoors

We then place a a dish cloth at the bottom of the tray, this is a new dish cloth/cleaning cloth, we have found these are great for soaking up any moisture but allowing that moisture to flow back to the roots later on. They're cheaper than the professional horticultural matting you can get for your staging, and at this stage in the growing we are keeping our seeds in the house and we don't want puddles of water all over the table.

Cheap soaker mats for seed trays

Cheap soaker mats for seed trays

We choose not to cover the tray in a cloche when they are undercover, most seeds trays come with this plastic lid and though they are great in a cold greenhouse, in a heated house they can quickly build up with moisture and end up creating an environment that promotes damping off. Damping off is commonly associated with Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium; these are fungus like pathogens which cause the seeds or seedlings to rot. You often find the soil itself can develop a hard like cap to the surface. This pathogen is often found in the compost you have purchased and it is always advised to use good quality commercial compost. But, you have to remember that even at this time of year, seeds have a lot to contend with, fluctuation in temperature, light levels and air circulation. We use a some fleece to cover the seed trays, it'll be whipped off as soon as the seeds germinate but allows some air circulation unlike seed tray lids which just create a hot house effect.

Use fleece rather than seed tray lids

That's it, that's how D sowed his seeds and now he waits for them to grow but in the mean time here is his film about how to fill a seed tray which he edited and made on Andrew's phone.

* We told you we would start introducing you to Botanical Latin.


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