Sowing Seeds

When the weather is foul at Pig Row, we have three choices, work in it, retire to the kitchen for a cup of tea and a slice of cake or get in the glasshouse.
Now, in the height of summer this is impossible as the sides groan with burgeoning tomatoes and salad crops. In early spring though the decks are rather more clear and there is room for a chair, a potting bench and assorted empty seed trays, modules and pots. As our plans to get our potatoes in the ground where scuppered again after a week of heavy rain, it is never advisable to plant knee deep in mud, I decided rather than eat cake (for there was none) I'd plant some seeds. Now seed sowing can be a mystery to a new gardener, so this is how we do it on Pig Row, be it in modules or trays. When I sow in modules, I start with a good reusable modular tray.

I then fill with a good compost, adding grit when needed. At Pig Row we tend to do 70-30 split, this is due to the heavy soil we have. We don't want to cosset our seedlings, if they can't survive in this mix, they won't survive outside.

In the photo below I'm planting Lunaria Alba from the Cottage Garden Society seed exchange scheme. A great scheme for gardeners looking to grow plants for pence rather than pounds. 

As I am planting in modules, I water after I have covered the seeds with a dusting of compost. There is no fear that the seed will be washed to the edges as on Pig Row we only tend to plant large seed in modules. You will make mistakes, I did today, I sowed a packet of Exochorda Macranth ex The Bride (common name is Pearl Bush) and these seeds where meant to be sowed in September. Oh well, it happens and I will see what happens to them. Sometimes seeds find a way.

Always remember after you have watered them to add a label, as below. I write in pencil as it makes the labels reusable for year to year. At Pig Row we scratch off the writing with the edge of a knife or an open pair of secateurs. Please remember to push any sharp blades away from your body and do this on a flat table or staging surface and not your thigh or knee. Common sense must prevail when gardening.

When sowing into seed trays on Pig Row we tend to use a good seed compost or a good garden compost from our own recipe.

I fill the seed tray to the brim with compost to give the maximum space for a root run. No plant will like growing in shallow soil and seedlings need the best introduction to the world.

We then tamp down the compost.

There are two ways to sow your seed, you can broadcast them thinly across the surface of your tray (if you do this, water your tray beforehand rather than after or else you'll be in danger of washing away the seed to the edges) or you can try this way. With a seed label draw out several drills across the width of the tray (a great tip shared by Organic Gardening with Pig Row a few weeks back).

Then pour your seed into the palm of your hand and thinly sow the seed into the drills. Here we are sowing Crocosmia Lucifer (even the seeds are red). Whether you broadcast or use mini seed drills, sieve some compost over the tray to bury the seeds. Don't bury the seeds, see it like a sugar sifter, you want to sift and leave a smattering of soil that barely covers the seed. You don't want to bury the seed so deep that it gives up before it has started. Likewise, you'd never drop a pound bag of caster sugar on top of your Victoria sponge. The results are always disappointing if you do either. We then tamp down and water the tray after the drills are covered (this differs from the watering we do for the broadcast method, here we water before).


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