Sow and Sow

IMG_6944The ‘Sowing’ page (see the tab above) has been updated for this season and you will see that I have been sowing with a vengeance from February this year, adding to the late summer and autumn sowings of 2015. It may not be obvious from the list that there has been no real organisation in what has been sown, despite my good intentions, although in a haphazard way perhaps there has: throughout last season when I saw or read about plants that took my fancy I looked for and bought the seeds immediately, usually from eBay. This is in addition to favourites from last year, left over and saved seeds, freebies and trial seeds to report back on for Which? Gardening.

My essential tools for sowing, excluding the kitchen table, are shown in the slideshow below:

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IMG_6937Once sown and placed in the plastic bags they are stacked on the Contraption beside the Aga, the constant warmth rendering a ‘proper’ propagator unnecessary. The trays are checked at least once a day, moved up and down the shelves to share the lighter and/or warmer positions and moved to the smaller greenhouse as soon as they germinate. Where temperatures are expected to dip to freezing in this greenhouse I ensure the small tubular heater is set to come on overnight to try to maintain at least a degree or two above this and generally this has been successful. As space here fills up, the more established seedlings will need to be moved to the larger greenhouse where I am having to rethink the already well-used space.

Seedlings are pricked out into cells as soon as they are large enough, usually when they have got their first true leaves. This instantly doubles the space they take up so for most sowings so I mostly restrict myself to one tray of each with only a few exceptions – for example I am trying to raise enough Linaria ‘Pretty in Pink’ for the two beds in the rose garden, after having seen Chloris‘s pretty linaria last year. I have been passing on spare seedlings to a friend but am currently suffering a shortage of the 12 cell trays which I buy from eBay in packs of 50, along with 9, 6 and 4 cell trays but the 12 cell version is easily the most well used, particularly in this early stage. Using these trays rather than round pots and other ad hoc containers makes far better use of the space, particularly in the smaller greenhouse. The trays are placed on water absorbent matting in large trays on the main staging and narrow trays on the upper shelves.

IMG_6941Space is already at a premium in the larger greenhouse which is currently home to overwintered fuchsia, dahlias, chrysanthemums, two large pennisetum and autumn sown seedlings as well as potted narcissi and hyacinth and several batches of potential wedding flowers. The border is planted with Winter Sunshine sweet peas, some of which are potential wedding flowers too. It would have made life easier if some of the autumn and later summer sown seedlings had been planted out during the mild weeks at the end of last year – and if I hadn’t given chrysanthemums a go! The Golfer was primed to knock up some temporary extra staging for me, but I managed to find a bargain alternative on eBay instead, a slightly dented shelf not putting me off, and his services were no longer required.

IMG_6939IMG_6940I find the whole process of sowing, checking for germination, pricking out and potting on so pleasurable – and raising plants successfully from it almost seems like a bonus! Having the time to be diligent about the process makes a difference of course, as does the knowledge gained from year-on-year experience and sharing of information with other bloggers, and failures are becoming less frequent. To me, the transformation from tiny seed to fully grown flowering plant over a relatively short period never ceases to be miraculous!

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24 Responses to Sow and Sow

  1. I love a crammed greenhouse….

    I’m also sowing some seeds from Which?, the courgette, the sunflower, the salvia & I think the lettuce leaves.
    Happy growing.

    • Cathy says:

      I got everything I asked for this time so same as you plus more… 😉 It is indeed exciting having a crammed greenhouse although this year I must try harder at planting out inthe autumn…!

  2. Liz says:

    Hi Cathy,

    Looking good! How I wish i had a greenhouse. One day maybe.

    I’ve sown my first seeds today – lettuces and california poppies. More sowing tomorrow. Very exciting. Only on a much smaller scale than you (a couple of pots and trays).

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Liz – hope things are OK with you as you have kept a low profile for a while. I grew Californian poppies for the first time last year and was thrilled with them and am hoping they will self-seed. This year’s are a different colour but I will re-sow white and red if they don’t self seed. Enjoy your sowing

  3. rusty duck says:

    It is miraculous and I’m caught by the same bug. And yes, as predicted, I have run out of space 😦

  4. Renee says:

    Wow! That’s a lot of seeds. And so organized… I’m in awe!

  5. rickii says:

    Miracles need more assistance than I ever seem to be able to give them, but you are an inspiration.

    • Cathy says:

      I will not become complacent though rickii, as sometimes I take a bit of a risk with frosts and there was the year when I had dodgy compost…

  6. What a lot of lovely seedlings growing! I am quite envious of the aga providing constant heat for seeds germinating! I love this time of year too discovering new seeds each day that have germinated. My house is steadily getting taken over with seed trays in a lot of rooms and potted up dahlias!

  7. I have greenhouse envy! Wonderful!

    • Cathy says:

      To think that I once thought the extra large greenhouse that was here when we came was TOO large! It was in the wrong plcae, certainly, but I wouldn’t dismiss it as too large now!

  8. Great job, I am now feeling like a slacker as I havent started any seeds yet, telling myself that the light levels are too low. Now today of course that excuse is no longer available to me so I better make a start. Ps I look forward to seeing progress shots 🙂

  9. Anna says:

    Oh it looks as if you’re well ahead of the game Cathy. I’m full of admiration for your industry. Here some sweet peas went in at the start of the month to join the autumn sown ones and that’s it so far. The heated sand bench in the greenhouse was switched on this afternoon so action is imminent.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Anna – it’s good to get the whole process started again. I wonder what you have begun sowing now as I am sure you will have taken advantage of these lighter and warmer days

  10. Brian Skeys says:

    You have prompted me to get a move on Cathy. I need some greenhouse shelves, I will have a look on eBay.

    • Cathy says:

      These aluminium ones were about half the normal price and were exactly the size I wanted so do have a look and see what is available. They arrived almost the next day too

  11. Chloris says:

    Wow, you have been busy. Once they are all pricked out then you will have a serious space problem. You have inspired me and I have been busy sowing seeds today. Incidentally, I sowed the Linaria direct, once the soil warmed up a bit.

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, although there are worse problems in life than running out of space in the greenhouse I suppose so I can count myself lucky! I have to confess I don’t sow anything direct – Partly because I don’t feel there is anywhere suitable to sow them and also because it easier to keep an eye on them when they are all in one place. Germination of the linaria was excellent, so far so good

  12. I share your love of seed sowing and all that follows – and of using modules! Though I am having problems with my tomatoes this year, they have gone all floppy, very disappointing. I may have to start again 😦

    • Cathy says:

      And you introduced me to the narrow trays which I use on my upper shelves in the greenhouse – perfect width for the quarter seed trays and the cells. Once I realised I could buy the cell trays in bulk I haven’t looked back. Hope your tomatoes pick themselves up…

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