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It’s been a fun month since my initial seed following post and I can happily say I’ve sown seeds from all three of my planned sources. I’m generally impressed with the results I’ve had from my new heated propagators; not complicated bits of kit, just some gentle heat from below seems to have made a big difference.
Using the grow light has also worked wonders; I wouldn’t usually sow this early as the result is leggy, poor seedlings which lean into the light – towards the window – but the current lot are strong and upright. Essentially the “special” bit is merely an LED “bulb” which I found at a wholesaler for about £12 but, if you don’t have an account with a wholesaler, you can get one via the likes of Amazon for around £15-16. The bulb has a standard E27 screw fitting and simply goes inside an ordinary anglepoise-type of desk light that takes this fitting of bulb. It’s very economical to run (like all LED bulbs) at a mere 12 watts. I use it for about 12 hours a day, giving 6 hours to each group of 2-4 pots that the light will cover.
Apart from the electrical items, my sowing arsenal comprised Growchar peat-free seed compost, vermiculite, a mister full of camomile tea and an old bottle fitted with a fine spray head. And, of course, the pots, pans and labels*.
I started early with a nice collection of sweet peas, 9 different varieties, from the Higgledy Garden Seed Emporium, now back home in Cornwall following a sell-out successful UK-wide tour (well some parts of the UK probably sold out of car parts). And I discovered that all toilet roll cores are NOT the same. For totally non-horticultural reasons, I’ve stopped using Andrex and now pander to the delicate parts with Cushelle. And Cushelle cores aren’t as sturdy as Andrex ones. About three days after sowing they started to unwind. Whoever invented the rubber band came to my rescue though; I’ll just need to remember to remove the bands as I plant out. And remember to buy at least one pack of Andrex next winter.
Anyhows, I sowed five seeds to each core. Ol’ Benjamin Higgledy will say that’s too many but if you’ve ever bought pre-sown plug plants you’ll know that everyone from Thompson & Morgan to Mr Fothergill multi-sows at that density (at least). This year, for the first time in a forgettable number of years, more than one seed failed to germinate! I averaged 4 out of every five. But not to worry, there are 20 seeds in each pack so I’ve enough for three more attempts. I will do a second sowing anyway but I’m happy with the rate of germination I got and 12 days after sowing, the plantlets were relocated to my greenhouse (heat maintained at 5C). They’ll soon make their second move to the cold frame (no artificial heat unless Wales becomes Siberia).
Meanwhile, Gill Heavens, over at Off the Edge Gardening, had been extremely generous in sending me a collection of seed she’d collected herself. Now I don’t know whether she gave the seeds a lecture before sending them or found an irradiated spider to nibble them a bit, but these seeds were definitely on
the gin steroids. They were sown on the afternoon of Sunday 12 February. By the morning of Tuesday 14 February, I had liftoff in some varieties; all bar one had germinated by the Wednesday morning (the one is Cardiocrinum which will shortly move to the refrigerator for a short while as it needs to catch a cold before it will do anything).
Some Carthamus Tinctoria seedlings decided to mess about a bit in class though. Whilst one grew away like a Triffid, the others misbehaved in different ways, generally refusing to grow once they’d shoved their cotyledons out of the compost. One even managed, somehow, to push itself out of the compost completely and I found it one morning lying flat on top of the vermiculite. I put it back to bed and it seems to be about to become the next leader of the pack.
But apart from the Cardiocrinum and all bar one of the Carthamus, the entire lot of “Gill’s seedlings” were pricked out on Sunday 19th. Exactly seven days after sowing. Not bad eh?
The seeds I had from the Hardy Plant Society seem generally to be more tardy and were late for afternoon tea. I have a little potful of Stipa pseudoichu which will reach pricking out size probably in a week’s time and a single seedling of Stipa tenuissima. Otherwise zilch so far. But it’s early days yet. Meanwhile I’ve eaten all the cupcakes. That’ll teach ’em to be slow starters!
Though I may just be having a run of luck. I sowed a batch of resident cat’s nibble fodder yesterday morning and today:
Next Sunday (26 Feb) I’ll be sowing a second batch of Gill’s seeds and a second batch of sweet peas; I don’t have the luxury of seconds of the HPS seeds. Some cuttings of a hardy Osteospermum may become interlopers in the large propagator as I’ve decided the parent plant’s now way past its best. I’m already growing some cuttings as a return present for Gill and now need to grow some for myself too. Suspended in water, the cuttings will produce roots in a week or so when, hopefully, I’ll also be able to prick lots more stuff out to clear the propagators for my annual flower escapades.
Until next month’s seedy report card……..
*Before someone gets all pernickety, I suppose I have to mention also a compost sifter, compost scoop, sieve (to extract only the smallest bits of vermiculite), my potting bench, tape label maker and the dictionary I used to check the spelling of pernickety (which, in North America is apparently spelt “persnickety”. Bet you didn’t know that!)