Well, the start of February is the start of the exciting seed sowing season, so here are some tips to make germination as successful as possible:
1) you need to use multipurpose (peatfree if you can) compost, rather than soil or compost from your compost heap/hot bin. You can of course use seed potting compost, but that is more expensive.
2) you should add around 30% Perlite to the compost, plus some sieved leaf mulch if you have it. Germinating seeds don’t need lots of nutrition, they need a growing medium that is open and free-flowing with lots of air in it, for the delicate roots to find their way through. If you don’t have Perlite, try sand or horticultural grit.
3) Many people think Perlite and Vermiculite are the same, they aren’t. Vermiculite retains more moisture (not good for roots). You should add Perlite with the compost mix for any germinating seeds. You should use Vermiculite as a top dressing (or grit or sand), to prevent die-back.
4) The worst thing you can do is to sow your seeds too thickly, this will cause them to wilt. Less is better.
5) some seeds (like spring onions, marigold etc) are black, and so very difficult to spot on the soil. So roll them in a bit of flour first of all, they then become white, and then scatter. This way you wont sow too thickly. Also, for other seeds, mix them with some horticultural sand first, so you don’t sow too thickly either.
6) Read the seed packet very carefully. Some seeds have to be scattered on the surface (they need light to germinate), some need to be covered with just a bit of Vermiculite, some a thin scattering of sieved compost, some are planted more deeply. And some larger seeds (like cucumber, sunflower etc), just have one seed per pot.
7) Larger seeds (like sweet peas, or peas/beans), sometimes need soaking overnight (although I don’t bother), and a few need ‘vernalisation’, so put them in the fridge for a week beforehand.
8) For more delicate seeds (like tomato, chilli and cucumber), it is best to have some ‘bottom heat’ if you can, either a heated mat, or a heated container. For these, if you have them available, try to have a see-through cover (sometimes just a clear plastic bag), to retain the moisture.
Well, during February I will be planting my tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks, peas, French beans, plus a whole range of annual flowers (like alyssum, lobelia, marigold, petunia, pelargonium, cosmos, etc), but more on that later. Good job I have got a much larger greenhouse being delivered next week!!
And I still have lots of spring bulb pots for sale in my front drive, all proceeds to charity, so tell all your friends and neighbours.
Happy gardening, spring is coming!!
PS – did my Big Garden Birdwatch, 2 great tits, 3 blue tits, 1 blackbird, 3 woodpigeons, 1 robin, 2 dunnocks, 1 coal tit, 6 house sparrows