Please Be Seeded and I’ll Begin

These are the continuing adventures of the seedship enterprise currently occupying the only decent-sized window sill in the house and half the greenhouse. Regulars will remember that my initial seed exploits involved three sources of seeds. It’s fair to say that results have been a bit mixed.

Unless a particular plant is REALLY averse to root disturbance, I sow into small pots rather than larger seed trays. Seedlings then get pricked out into module trays – the ones that have 40 cells and fit into a standard seed tray. They then advance into an appropriate pot where they will grow on until planted out in the fullness of time.

So, in no particular order, the results of my efforts so far are:

Hardy Plant Society Seeds

This has been the first year that I’ve benefited from the HPS seed distribution. My choice was mainly grasses though I added some more flowery things for variety. Quantities of seeds received varied between varieties but were generally enough for a single sowing. No chance of a second if the first failed. And I’ve had a very mixed bag of results. Where, e.g. Stipa tenuissima and Briza mazima, there were goodly quantities of seeds, germination and subsequent growth has been excellent. But where the seed quantities were small, e.g. Stipa gigantea which managed a single baby out of half-a-dozen or so seeds, germination has been poor or hasn’t happened yet. But I’m allowing more time for the non-germinators at least.

Snazzy labels too! Different colours identify different sowing batches. And Flora’s supervising.

Gill Heavens

Gill gets a whole section to herself, not least because she not only sent me a very generous selection of seeds but also a helper to assist with the seed raising. I’ve already sown two batches of most of the seeds she sent me and have enough for a third batch of most. And they’ve generally come on in leaps and bounds, save for Cardiocrinum which are currently in their refrigeration stage and won’t appear for some weeks yet. My only disaster has been with some Tagetes, which looked fine one morning but were nowhere to be seen the next, save for one survivor. I’d wondered if I’d pricked them out too soon but the absence of any bodies makes me wonder if something has got into the greenhouse for a snack and then nipped back out again – I’ve carefully hunted for an itinerant slug without success. Still, a second batch is doing nicely on the window sill.

Meanwhile the cosmos decided to get very leggy and flop over. I’ll be re-potting them tomorrow using the secret gardening trick of planting deeper to hide the evidence.

Higgledy Garden

Ol’ Ben, down in Cornwall, has been my annual seed supplier of choice for a few years now. I have quite a few packs of his to sow once the current lot are processed through the developmental chain and I can get into the greenhouse. I know he’ll say that I could sow his hardy things outside in autumn and again now in spring but I’ve got to get real. If resident cat finds a little patch of seedlings, his thought process says “bed” and he curls up on them. Worse, a neighbour’s cat has managed to bypass his territorially-protective aggression and is allowed to defecate with abandon, a process which generally involves digging a hole and then digging all around the aforementioned hole to cover the evidence. So nothing can be planted out until it’s big enough to survive invasion.

I know that bed’s a mess. It’s due for renovation once it stops raining. The plants destined for it are all ready …..

But I’ve now managed three batches of sweet peas. I’ve given up with toilet roll cores. The feel of Cushelle loo paper panders to the delicacies of my nethers whilst not disintegrating in use and exposing my fingers to a fate worse than death. But the cardboard cores are weeny and weaky and, generally crap (notice the cunning pun there?) for seed sowing. So I’m using bio-degradable root trainers that I discovered in a local DIY place after failing to find anything in a local garden centre (I’ll be writing about that next week so tune in for a little rant). Sowing five seeds to something a bit more than an inch in diameter is just about right for me. And I now have enough to fill my long raised planter.

So ….

I now need to decide what to do. I have limited window sill space and want to progress with sowing more annual flowers. But my dilemma is when to give up on the non-germinators amongst the HPS selection.

Meanwhile, I remain befuddled by Thompson and Morgan seeds. I received a pack of sweet pea seeds with a gardening magazine just as I was sowing the final batch of Higgledy ones so sowed 5 in each of two root trainers. The Higgledy seeds have all done their job and are now about 2 inches tall; the T&M ones haven’t done anything. It can’t be growing conditions as they’re in the same propagator in the same compost. I’m open to suggestions.

Not a lot of photos in this post, sorry. I’ve got a new camera. Decided to upgrade from a Canon compact to a Panasonic bridge. Need to find the on switch. Then read the manual to find out what all the knobs are for. Life is exciting!

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10 thoughts on “Please Be Seeded and I’ll Begin

  1. Hi John, looks like you have sown lots already and are getting some great results! My sweet peas grew leggy like your Cosmos and I tried that trick of potting on deeper today – although they are still flopping over a bit. I have found toilet roll cores really good for sowing broad beans and planting them straight out. I have also tried biodegradable pots and sowed sweet peas five to a pot and found they disintegrated really easily and the roots grew into the pot! So the other way round from you. Oh well, onwards and upwards. Best, Ciar (aka Seedy Mum/ Carrotsandcalendula.co.uk)

    1. My loo roll cores completely unravelled around the spiral glue strip. But they’re held together with rubber bands until I plant them out. The roots should grow out through the pot sides provided you keep them damp. But my sweet peas (except those from T&M) are growing nicely and not at all leggy like the cosmos. I nip the tendrils off whenever I’m pinching out as I’ll tie them to their supports rather than let them self-cling.

  2. Well I’m really pleased my contributions to the experiment are behaving themselves, except for the leggy cosmos that is. Mine always go leggy and I do exactly what you are going to do today. Seems to work. Won’t be long and they will be in flower …… 🙂

    1. They weren’t leggy when I pricked them out. It was only in the greenhouse (heated and plenty of light cos I cleaned the glass!) that they progressed from being tidy little plants to towering floppy things. Maybe they were objecting to being removed from under that cosy grow light. Someone on Twita suggested I’d sown them too soon but I checked my diary and see that last year I sowed cosmos a week earlier and they were fine (without the grow light though the greenhouse was warmer then).

  3. I have a bajillion seeds on the go, vast majority from my first foray into the HPS seed exchange. Probably about two thirds of varieties are doing nicely and the rest nuffink. At the moment I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, I probably have not given them long enough or they are too warm or top wet or something. Could be it’s just variable quality although the Hardy Planters are serious about their perennial plants. You have my blog listed in your website, thanks, I get the occasional click through. I have a seed following post scheduled to go up later this morning, check it out! Cheers.

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting. With a handle like yours I’d expect nothing less than a bajillion! The HPS seeds that have germinated have romped away but about a third of the varieties haven’t woken up. I’ll check out your blog after today’s greenhouse session. About 120 petunias need potting on. And I’ve used up all my rehydrated coir so need to “dissolve” another bale.

    1. It’s a Lumix DC-FZ82; not as posh as you setup but probably more than enough for me! Apart from a much better zoom than the Canon G12, it has a few onboard features like burst recording so I don’t have to wait for the right moment to press the trigger, just choose it from 30-odd frames for every second of recording, and post focus which I tried last night and it’s good (for my imperfect eyes at least). So I can cheat from now on. Once I figure out all the knobs, dials and levers. And there’s a free offer – send of a copy of the receipt to get a pair of walking sticks with camera mount on top!

  4. The HPS seeds are, as you know, collected and processed by enthusiastic amateurs, so may not germinate so successfuly. Some seeds also need a cold spell to germinate. Sorry if I am telling you things you all ready know.

    1. Indeed, Brian. I’m not complaining at all about HPS seed; rather noting that in my case it seems to have fallen into two extremes – romping away or little/no germination. Some, like Astrantia are always challenging; they’ve been in the fridge for just over 5 weeks and are still dormant; if they don’t wake up in the next fortnight, I doubt they’ll bother. Conversely, Aquilegia, which are undemanding but should still take 1-3 months to germinate, are not far short of the size of some little plug plants that arrived a week ago from a grower. Incredibly Some Hibiscus trionum I sowed on a Friday had germinated by the following Monday evening! The unpredictability of seed sowing is what makes it fun and is why, I think, getting a plant from seed to flower is so satisfying. As was finding a tiny little slug today, buried in the compost cell from which one of my disappearing Tagetes had disappeared.

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