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Seed Sowing Time


On Friday the postman delivered the most important package of the year – our allocation of seed from the SRGC seed exchange! After collecting and cleaning seeds last summer and then joining the small army of volunteers who put the seeds into many thousands of small envelopes in November, this was the time to reap the harvest. All of the seed submitted to the exchange has to have been collected that year (2010), no old seed is allowed. Therefore the seed we received was as fresh as it is possible for it to be. My own practice requires that fresh seed is sown as soon as it is received, regardless of the advice in books. Actually the decision to sow today was not difficult given that an inch of new snow fell overnight and it was very cold outside.
Normally I would take the seed to the potting shed where all the tools are but last autumn we had a new front porch built which also acts as a mini conservatory. We have a heater on a frost stat in there to protect the more tender plants so the porch was a much more inviting place to work.

Firstly I collected the materials that I would need; the compost, some pots, labels that I had written out on Friday evening and, of course, the seeds. The whole is on a tray that I use to work on so that I don’t make too much mess!

I had brought the bag of compost and a bucket of sand into the porch the previous evening so that they wouldn’t be frozen. In the bowl you can see my preferred general mix of 2 parts compost to 1 part coarse sand and one part 6mm grit.

With a lot of different seeds to sow I like to work in batches and fill about eight pots at a time with compost. As has been discussed elsewhere this peat free compost does contain some undesirably large chips of wood. I just remove any of these from the surface of the compost and don’t bother with any in the body of the pot.

A packet of seed and the appropriate label is assigned to each pot and it becomes a small scale production line as the seed is sown, covered with a layer of grit and labelled. Next pot, please.

Generally speaking, I sow all seed on the surface of the compost, as with these pulsatilla seeds, and cover them with grit. Larger seeds like arisaema or paeony will get pushed down into the compost a little way.

If the seeds are large enough I will use forefinger and thumb to place then individually. Most are smaller like these narcissus. These are tipped into the palm of my left hand and the the edge of that hand is tapped with the middle finger of my right hand to encourage the seeds to roll off the edge onto the compost. The left hand is constantly moving across the top of the pot to try to get an even distribution.

Watering is done from below, even on a snowy day like this. I prefer to plunge the pots in a tray of water as I can then see the grit on the surface change colour when the compost is wet enough. Most of the seed pots are left outdoors with just a few designated for the cold frame. Today They had to go in the green house because the frames were not accessible.
So, this is how I treat my seed sowing, other GoYers will have their own preferd methods. Whilst we have been sowing specialist seeds here I apply exactly the same method to the seeds of any perennial plants that I sow. Half hardy bedding plants and vegetable seeds require very different treatment. The pots are only three and a half inches square and the seed sown thinly as, these being perennials, I am not wanting huge quantities of seedlings to deal with when they germinate.

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I'm sorry to hear you've had even more snow, Mr.B., but I would have been very happy to have sown seeds with you today! Your method is similar to my own, except I don't have a warm porch, just a dimly lit garage! I saw the tiniest signs of Sweet Peas poking through the grit on the pot tops today, hooray! They're in a cold frame so I'm pleased to see them growing, albeit ever so slowly.

8 Jan, 2011


Well-written blog with good pics to illustrate :o)

8 Jan, 2011


Great to see you are feeling so much better BB. Very interesting blog too. We have been threatening to add a large porch to the back door as it is east facing and the wind from the east is unbearable. I'll need to ply my other half with nice home made cakes and suggest we plan to do it this year.

8 Jan, 2011


Funnily enough Mr. B, I'm in the process of writing a blog re sowing, which I started yesterday (Sat.), and I thought to myself, I wonder if anyone on here are doing the same. I hope to finish the blog and publish today. Thanks for putting this on, its put my mind at rest, you know not going by the book and all that.

9 Jan, 2011


Some bits of gardening I'm okay at, and some bits of gardening I'm not - and one of the things I really can't get to work properly is sowing seeds! So thank you for the guidance.

9 Jan, 2011


well done,''bulbaholic''
you help me a lot.

9 Jan, 2011


Thanks for your kind comments, folks. I see one of the values of a blog site like this as being when members post information on how 'they' actually do things rather than the 'you MUST do it this way' advice often put out in TV programs and magazines.
Don't forget to read Littlelegs blog on sowing bedding plants posted today.
Make sure that your new porch has lots of space in it, Scotsgran, it has many potential uses over and above being just a storm porch.

9 Jan, 2011


Thank you Bb will keep that in mind.

10 Jan, 2011


ok...ok....i'll start sowing soon....seeing your pics has got my fingers itching to start now...only just sent off one order but i have plenty of collected seeds to start me off...raining for the rest of the week so ill be in my greenhouse...heres to a great gardening year...

11 Jan, 2011


I admire your technique Bulb, when do you expect the seed to germinate? I get weeds growing on my seeds trays, is the grit used to alleviate this problem amongst other things.
I'm wondering why you sow now rather than waiting until Spring, ie what the benefit is. Just curious and tempted :-)

18 Jan, 2011


You will give ma a swollen head, Da, but thanksd anyway!
I sow my seeds as soon as I get them; my thinking being that in nature they fall to the ground as soon as they are ripe. Garden collected seed is sown immediatly in August, Sept, Oct etc. The seed refered to in the blog came from an exchange and was sown within a couple of days of receipt.
A reason for NOT sowing this early is that they might just germinate very quickly and be liable to damage in future hard weather. Any pots of mine that do germinate quickly get taken into the greenhouse until spring but I find that most do not germinate until spring or summer at the earliest. Some of the seed can take several years to germinate!
Weeds and grit - The seeds are mostly sown on the surface of the compost and the grity holds them down and protects them. It also reduces the growth of moss and lichen, which is a problem here, and it helps with drainage. If you buy commercial seed compost it should have been sterilised to kill any weed seeds. Seed compost is the only compost that I buy because of this benefit.

21 Jan, 2011


Thanks so much for the explanation Bulb. I was particularly interested as its cold where we live and feel your technique may work for me. I need more coldframes to be honest. Going back to weeds in the seed trays ... I meant I get weeds germinating on my seed trays when they are outdoors, maybe brought in by the weed and wondered if the grit stopped this. I've propagated many a weed, lol.

25 Jan, 2011


so im not the only one who has nurtured a weed seedling by mistake Dawn....he he he

we had a great day today building our seed chamber inside our tunnel for the tomato seeds. we were given some corrigated pvc this summer and it turned out to be just the right amount to cover the frame. going to clean up the gas heater tomorrow and in attempt to save some cash we are trying out using an electric blanket underneath the seeds. an old friend has done it for years you have to be a bit sencible about the electrics and we will use a trip switch but it works out much cheaper.

it was lovely to get things started again..:-)

26 Jan, 2011


Hello Sandra, its so reassuring to hear that Im not alone in nurturing weeds, Im always trying new seeds so I dont always recognise seedlings.
Good luck with your tom growing seed tunnel, it sounds ideal. Like you say, with safety precautions in place the electric blanket procedure is perfect and will be good to be growing again.
Thought about messaging you anyway as my toms have had blight the last couple of years - tried to keep the greenhouse clean and ventilated last year but got it again, maybe the weather. Bought blight resistant seeds this time ;-)

26 Jan, 2011


blight is a huge threat Dawn...the first year we grew them..we grew some in a raised bed and some in big pots....the ones in pots developed the tell tale blight patches very early on we took them all outside and cut them down...the ones in the bed had a few spots here and there so we took off EVERY leaf that had even a tiny brown patch...the poor things looked terrible we also found an organic spray in the garden centre. but they soon grew strong and produced a great crop....i think you need two things to try and avoid the blight....look for it every day...and a lot of luck.....

27 Jan, 2011


Thanks for sharing your experience with blight Sandra. My blight seems to attack the stems and they rot. When I first spotted it last year I slrayed with Bordeaux mix but it didnt really help, mine usually get it mid July. Praying for a good summer with not too much dampness.

27 Jan, 2011


hope your new blight restant seeds do better this year Dawn..:-)

28 Jan, 2011


I'll let you know Sandra. Hope you have heavy crops too. Thanks Dawn

28 Jan, 2011

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