Sowing seeds for early Spring planting
Have you a sunlit space of constant temperature with access to water and the ability to exclude mice? If you have answered yes then consider germinating your own spring seedlings. I thrill at seeing my ‘baby’ plants emerge from the soil and realising the vegetable garden potential they bring. Here are a few hints to germinating seeds in containers:
- Select your germination container wisely. For small vegetable seeds such as cabbage and lettuce use black flat companion trays (without a gappy base grid pattern). Large seeds such as peas or small Eucalyptus tree seeds need tall pots because of their long tap roots. Black containers are ideal at this time of year as their colour aids heat absorption.
- Although seed germinating mixes can be purchased from most hardware stores (consider their purchase as they typically come in single use non-recyclable plastic bags) you can easily make your own. Into a bucket or wheel barrow gather together 1/3 of your best garden soil, 1/3 of your compost or worm farm castings and 1/3 of sieved, open mulch. The resultant mix should be damp, even in particle size, free from green and large decomposing debris, moderately drain and retain water.
- Fill your selected container to its brim with media, compact slightly. Just prior to sowing your seed water lightly, evenly and thoroughly and set aside to drain.
- Select the seeds that you wish to sow and write tags detailing the variety and date sown. (Cut up ice cream container lids become ideal plant tags.) Some vegetable seeds to sow now in readiness for late winter, early spring planting include: Broccoli and Broccolini, Cauliflower, Kohl rabi, Spinach, Asian greens (such as Tatsoi and Pakchoi), Cos and Oak leaf Lettuces, Sugar snap Peas, Cabbages, all types of Kale and Fennel (early planting helps to prevent bolting aiding bulb development).
- Compartmentalise your seedling tray into sowing areas sprinkle a small amount (maybe half a teaspoon) of seed in each area and label sprinkle to cover seeds with a little soil. As a guide seeds should be covered only one and a half times their width.
- Do not water! This might be a tricky exclusion but watering at this stage will displace and expose your seed – a fatal move!
- Carefully relocate your seed tray to a ventilated, fully lit site with visiting ease. The site you select is important, think of it as your baby plant’s nursery. For the first few days you may like to cover the tray entirely with an old glass window pane to maintain the humidity level.
- Your seedlings may only need watering twice before they germinate. Gauge their water need by the weight of the seedling tray and the appearance of the soil. To water sit your seedling tray onto a baking tray or similar and let it soak up water (using capillarity) for a couple of minutes. You want to achieve a fine balance between keeping your seeds damp but not wet.
- Your seeds should germinate in 1-2 weeks and then they are ready for a new environment and new treatment – but more about that another time!