At this time of year, the ground can still be too cold to sow seeds direct. The answer is to sow under cover or in a greenhouse if you have one. You can even use a windowsill in the house that does not get long periods of strong sunlight or the seeds may overheat. Facing east or west is best. But even that might not be warm enough for things like tomatoes and courgettes. The answer is to use either a small heated propagator or a heat mat under seed trays.
Seeds vary and need different temperatures for optimum germination. A partial list of temperature can be found here
The photo shows trays of tomatoes, courgettes and strawberry seeds shown on 22 March. They will each germinate at different times and will need pricking out into small pots in a few weeks.
This is a “Trio Top Electric Windowsill Propagator” from Kings Seeds. There are other makes. It is also worth checking out our local Derbyshire suppler Two Wests & Elliot The usual disclaimer, I have no connection with either company other than as a customer.
Look out for updates as the seeds germinate and information about what to do next.
Seeds grow with very little help from us. These are lettuce, Tom Thumb and Little Gem. We plant smaller varieties because they can picked and eaten in one go. No limp lettuce from the fridge when you grow your own.
Top left are Tom Thumb, bottom right Little Gem
There is nothing special needed, you can use margarine containers with holes in the bottom as seed trays. Use fresh, bagged peat free compost as soil from the garden is too heavy and dense. Water sparingly, don’t over water.
It has not been the easiest of seasons with lots of cool, dark and wet weather especially since September. We have enjoyed harvesting a few test crops and are looking forward to planning for the 2020 season.
One success has been the compost and we have ended the year with around a cubic metre of good compost ready to cover the beds over winter. That was from five batches made up to October. The last batch failed as it had too much woody stuff (carbon) and not enough green material (nitrogen.) It will now sit there until next year when it will be mixed with the inevitable mountain of grass cuttings.
Click an image to enlarge
There is still a lot to do but at least we know that the beds are working especially the solar pods, which were completed in early October. Details can be found here: “Solar Gardening: Growing Vegetables Year-round the American Intensive Way” (1994.) It is available here at Google Books.
It is real treat to have home grown lettuce at this time of year! The pods will be used to get an early start in February/March next year. The bed behind the first pod has been covered with a wheelbarrow full of compost to protect the soil from compaction by heavy rain.
The three 1M square solar pods
Inside pod 1, some left over lettuce plants and springs greens
If you have ever wondered why food is such an important part of climate change then read this article from Grain. It questions the belief that agriculture accounts for a third of greenhouse gas emission and say it is nearer 50%!
The changing climate is already having an impact on food supplies. We are all vulnerable, wherever we live, which is why we need more sustainable and resilient ways to grow food.
The health of the Earth’s soil is crucial to storing carbon.
So what does it mean when scientists conclude the Earth’s soil is being lost 10 to 100 times faster than it is forming?
“It’s undermining our ability for long term sustainability, in a nutshell,” scientist Louis Verchot says.
At last the message is getting out! By treating agricultural land differently, we could increase food output, improve spoils and lock in CO2. It is not rocket science! It does not need fancy new technology in fact or needs common sense old technology. No government needs to pass new laws or have any input into this. We could start doing this now! Yes, today, now!
The only groups fighting against it are agrochemical companies because they can see their profits plummeting.
Gardeners can be part of the change by quite simply learning more about what healthy soils. The first thing is to learn how to make and use lots of good compost. Next is to stop digging!
I have always said that growing your own food is the most anarchic thing you can do. Politicians and big business do not like independence, they want us to be docile consumers. To be the least bit self-reliant subverts that. That’s what makes me smile every time I get veg from the garden!
Growing food is easier than you think, you can start in an afternoon – see how
It is a real pity that Ryton Gardens will no longer be open to the public. It was major tourist attraction in the past and Garden Organic will lose a lot by closing it. How many other casual visitors were inspired by what they saw? A much smaller garden, closed to the public except for occasional open days is no substitute.
We need an organisation to promote and encourage organic growing both to improve food security and to combat climate change. Part of that has to be a place where good practice can be seen by casual visitors. Most of all we need an organisation that can recognise the crucial role that sustainable food growing has in combating climate change.
Maybe it is time for a new group, charity or organisation to take over that role and really get things moving. Take a look at the edible garden display at RHS Harlow Car to see what can be done. I Just wish the gardens were organic.
It is good to hear that Garden Organic have finally secured a deal with Coventry University for the purchase of the site. The bad news is that they will close the gardens to the public later this month.
It will not be the same when as I visited for tea and scones nearly 30 years ago and discovered organic gardening. I was recovering from a life threatening illness. Finding organic growing at Ryton not only saved my life it is where I met my partner of 21 years!
Ryton Gardens a few years back
It is two years since the Garden Organic announced they were looking to sell the site for housing. After a concerted campaign against that they started talking to Coventry University who have been long term tenants.
Why sell the gardens?
At the time there were justifications for the sale like “organic is now mainstream” which totally missed the point and made wrong assumptions about public knowledge of organics. Their aims and actions should always have been to engage and educate through demonstration gardens, courses, the dissemination of research and by working with members and local groups. It is encouraging to see those intentions restated in the three-year, 2019-2021, business plan:
“By 2023, there will be Garden Organic networks of local organic groups, organic demonstration gardens, education and training events, projects and programmes, and Ambassadors/Trustees throughout the UK.”