Starting Seeds off indoors
Sowing seeds is easy and satisfying. If you have a warm space you can start now and get a head start on the growing year. You don't need a greenhouse - a warm sunny windowsill will work. Many seeds will benefit from being started indoors. Here a few tips to getting started -
Plant seeds in shallow containers such as seed trays (eg flowers, peas). Larger seeds can be sown in module trays or small pots (eg courgette, cucumber, sunflower). Clean up old pots from previous years and away you go! Clean them to make sure they are disease free.
Always follow the instructions on the seed packet. Many seeds will just need a good quality compost, while some will recommend fine compost or vermiculite to cover them. Scatter well to avoid over crowding or waste. Label each container - with the best will in the world you won't remember what you planted! Cover trays/pots with a piece of glass, a plastic bag secured with a rubber band or a plastic cover that comes with the seed tray. This will give the seeds extra warmth by creating a small microclimate and will give them a healthy start. If you are lucky enough to have a propogator, set the temperature to around 15 degrees and fill with your favourite seeds.
Once seeds start to show, remove the coverings during warm periods to allow aeration and ventilation. Always keep the soil moist, but not damp. As seedlings grow they will no longer need the cover.
Some seeds need to be 'pricked out' once they outgrow the tray, as they will not be hardy enough to go outdoors, but will need more space to grow. Make sure the plant has at least one strong leaf before loosening the soil around the base and pulling out gently. Pot into a bigger pot and keep warm. Keeping the compost indoors for a few days before repotting will ensure the soil warms up too so does not 'shock' the seedling.
Once spring has finally arrived, put plants outside on nice days to 'harden off'. Still bring them in overnight and do not plant out until the risk of frosts as passed.
Enjoy the garden!