Each year more and more people grow their own vegetables and flowers from seed. It’s easy, rewarding and good value for money.
THE SOWING COMPOST Success in raising seedlings in pots or boxes will, to a very large extent depend on the type of compost you use. Organic growers will choose a peat free compost without added chemical (artifical) fertiliser. If you want to be completely sure go for one with a Soil Association symbol whihch proves it is ‘Organic’.
INDOOR SOWING Fill the pots or boxes with the compost and firm using a block of wood or similar, leave the surface level at about 12mm (1/2″) just above the surface. Give a light from the top edge of the container. Scatter the seeds evenly – but not too thickly either from or direct your hand from the packet, then press them gently into the surface. Very small seeds, like Begonia should not be covered with compost, but larger seeds – according to size, will need a light covering to help anchor the developing seedlings. Next, give the surface a light sprinkling of water, and then cover with paper and/or glass to help conserve the moisture while the seeds are germinating. Never let the surface of the compost dry out during the germination and seedling development period.
PRICKING OUT Seedlings should be pricked out when the first true leaves are distinguishable. Always handle seedlings by the seed leaves, these are usually tougher and easier to get hold of than the true leaves. Remember to water the seedlings an hour or two before you are ready to prick out. When pricking out flower seedlings of mixed colours, be sure to include large and small seedlings. It is one of the quirks of nature that plants with richer and more unusual colours in a mixture, develop more slowly. Carefully ease the seedlings out of the containers, placing the seedlings in the prepared holes and gently pressing the compost around the roots and stem to leave the seed
leaves just above the surface. Give a light watering, and then protect the seedlings from direct sunlight for the first 3/4 days while they are recovering from the shock of transplanting. When the seedlings are established commence weekly feeding with liquid comfrey or similar Organic fertilzer.
OUTDOOR SOWING – SOIL PREPARATION Good soil preparation is most important for successful plant-raising outdoors. The soil is suitable for sowing if it is firm and moist, and the surface level is friable (crumbly).
BROADCAST SOWING You may find it more convenient to scatter the seed in broadcast fashion, say in patches of 1/2-1m square (1/2-1 yd.sq.) Or similar size circles, ovals etc. Vegetables like Carrots, Little Gem Lettuce, Onions and Radish and many annual flowers are ideal for growing this way. When you’ve sown the seed, lightly rake the surface to get the majority of seeds covered, then go over the plot, gently pressing the soil down level with the
back side of the rake.
SOWING IN ROWS In open ground, seed can be sown a little deeper than that recommended for indoor sowings, but do follow the advice given on the seed packet. Some seeds, like Sweet Pea, Beans, Peas, Beetroot, etc. are large enough to sow singly, but the majority of seeds have to be sprinkled in drills and later thinned. Cover the sown seeds, firm the ground by walking along the row, then rake the surface level.
THINNING-OUT It’s a good idea to have two goes at thinning-out. When the seedlings seem large enough to handle, thin initially to leave twice as many as you’ll require to grow to maturity. Two or three weeks later, you can take out the surplus seedlings. In the case of Lettuce, Onion, etc., use the thinnings in salads, transplanting some to where you have large gaps, to leave the row or plant complete with well spaced plants. Always water transplanted seedlings.
Reproduced with the permission of Suttons Seeds. (Edited for Organic growers.)