The ‘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:
Once 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.
Space 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.
I 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!