Penny’s Gardening Blog – Growing from Seed

In My Gardening Blog This Week

I am going to suggest some easy seed varieties to try and explain how to go about germinating them. I am sure many of you are experienced at growing plants from seeds already so bear with me if you are finding this blog simplistic but I am approaching it from the angle of teaching a novice. There is nothing more rewarding than raising plants from seeds. It feels rather miraculous and magical not unlike the feeling of having a baby, but a lot quicker and without pain! (I suppose it is creation of sorts. It’s so exciting when you first notice some movement under the soil in your seed tray and then slowly the first seed leaves appear.)

Equipment you need

Growing Space   A green house is ideal place to grow your seedlings. A polytunnel is a close runner up. A light conservatory, porch or window sill will do.

Seed trays, pots or containers. Plastic seed trays, modules and pots are widely available in garden centres but you can improvise recycling plastic containers you may have at home that have held food etc. It is important that there are drainage holes in them though. One of my friends uses the Riverford milk cartons, cut down in size and makes drainage holes in the bottom. These are waxed so hold up to being watered.

Growing media.  There are a lot of different composts out there on the market. Get one that states it is seed compost as it will be finer in texture( and therefore more suitable). Basically you need a light loose medium that retains moisture and doesn’t develop a crust.  Oxygen and water are essential for germination.

Labels.   Plant labels are crucial( as unless you’re pretty experienced,)or  you will get into rather a muddle and not know what is what when your seedlings germinate. You can buy plastic labels or recycle plastic pots and cut them into labels. I use a pencil to log the variety and date sown.

Seeds.   The following seeds (I have suggested) are pretty easy to grow ( if you give them the correct treatment). There are billions to choose from so this is literally a drop in the dark! Many of my Gardening blog readers have probably ordered one of Riverfords boxes to grow- veg, herb or flower or maybe all three. If this is the case, try and grow different varieties from the ones to be delivered to your door. The flower box to grow delivery date is later in the season than usual so maybe try and bring on some seedlings to produce some earlier flowers for yourself.

Helianthus-Sunflowers. There are many different varieties, some grown for their height (great fun for family competition) and smaller headed with a more bushy branching habit that are good for cutting.

Tropaeolum –Nasturtium.  This herb is said to attract black fly keeping them away from your veg plants such as broad beans and cabbages. It is also a favourite with hoverflies which are great to have around as their larvae eat aphids. The leaves and flowers can be added to salads although it is said you should not consume more than 30gms a day.

Borago officianalis-Borage.  This herb is a fantastic companion plant, the blue flower being attractive to bees hence aiding pollination. It is equally attractive in the flower or vegetable garden. The flowers can be pinched off and used to add to a gin and tonic or a summer Pimms. They also look great added to a salad along with nasturtium and calendula flowers.

Lathyrus odoratus-Sweet Peas.  These are a must in any garden and are really pretty fool proof. They will provide you with flowers right through to the first frosts as long as you keep cutting them so stopping them from going to seed. I prefer the old fashioned varieties, although they have smaller flowers, they are daintier and are far more scented.

Sowing seeds in seed trays or pots or modules.

I really wanted to do a little video of sowing seeds to run alongside this blog but have been struck down with the lurgy and unable to get out there.

Put some compost into your chosen container and gentle tap to settle the compost, not quite filling to the top. You can sow in rows, individually or broadcast over the surface. Now cover with a layer of compost. The depth to which your seed should be covered is dependent on its size. Generally speaking it should be covered by about the same depth of compost as the seed size itself, so for very small seed, covered with an equally small depth of compost and for larger seeds with a deeper layer. Now gently firm down the compost with your hand and label the container with the variety and date sown. Water in, using a watering can with fine rose attached. For very fine seed use  a mister so as not to dislodge the seeds.

Place your containers in a light warm situation and keep your containers moist at all times but not drenched. You may need to water once a day.

Some people like to cover their seed trays etc with a pane of glass or a clear plastic bag to give extra warmth. This is fine but be careful as the seedlings emerge that they don’t get scorched by direct sunlight.

Check for unwanted intruders such as slugs and snails on a daily basis, being careful to look at the underside of the containers as this is where they often hide.

In My Next Gardening Blog

I will be look at gardening tasks for March and how to grow on germinated seedlings

6 responses to “Penny’s Gardening Blog – Growing from Seed

  1. Great information, but what about damping off? What is the cause and how can you stop it?

  2. Hello Anne
    Damping off is caused by several soil and water bourne fungi and can spread rapidly causing seedlings to die. If you have it already there are some copper based fungicides on the market although I am not sure how organic these are. I have also heard of people watering in a solution made with camomile tea or ginger but really dont know how effective this is. It may be worth a try.
    Prevention of it involves being scrupulously hygenic and careful about conditions. Do not overwater or sow seeds too densly. Make sure all pots and seed trays are clean. Use sterilized composts. Use mains water rather than from a butt. Make sure seedlings have plenty of light and avoid keeping them too warm for long periods. Lettuce can be prone to it. If you’ve had it in your garden before be sure to crop rotate. ie plant something other than lettuce in that area.
    Good luck and I hope this is helpful. Penny

  3. Thanks Penny, some really good info for a rather inept gardener like me!

  4. Hi Penny,

    As a novice veg grower, this being my first yesr, I am finding your blog very useful. After 4 years of think it a good idea to grow veg, I finally took the plunge by ordering a box to grow.

    This gave my husband and I something to work towards so have been creating a veg plot in the garden. We have double dug the patch and have added well rotted compost from our garden bin. However, as our soil isn’t great (clay) it’s been suggested we add well rotted manure. Is it ok to do this now or would it affect the plants which are due in a few weeks? I wondered if the manure might burn the plants, wouldappreciate your advise. Many thanks

  5. Hi Nivsey,
    Welcome to gowing and I hope you and your husband get some satisfaction and results from your first attempts.
    Having a heavy soil isnt all bad as if you can achieve the right clay balance and improve the soil it can be highly fertile. Improvements are largely carried out by deep cultivation in autumn and early winter to expiose the soil to weather action. But it sounds like you have done alot of digging which will help. Adding well rotted manure is great as well as your garden compost. If its on the heavier side of satisfactory and tends to get waterlogged, drainage can be improved by adding some grit or sand too. In really bad cases a drainage pipe may be needed.
    Its certainly not too late to do add well rotted manure. You have a couple or so weeks before you will receive your box to grow and as long as its is well rotted and lightly dug in asap, all will be well. Chicken pellets are an alternative for future reference.
    I hope this helps. Penny

  6. Hi there! It would be great to visit my site where you could find organic seeds gathered in the wild or from small local growths (heirloom).

    Maybe there is not big variety, but this is because all seeds are checked one by one, in order to ensure that they are natural organic with good germination. Tested and packed for 2012.

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