Get your garden growing
It’s time to stop gazing at those seed catalogues and put your planting plans into action
It’s March, which means that it’s seed-sowing time – that annual ritual of faith in which we gardeners invest so much of our hopes, dreams and ambitions for the summer ahead. Rituals of faith aside, I’ve always thought of the process of raising plants from seed as something akin to cooking, where the other key ingredients are water, heat, light and the correct growing medium.
As with any recipe, it helps to know how, why and when those ingredients might vary slightly as regards quantities. Broad bean seeds, for example, are relatively unfussy as regards temperature and can be direct sown into cool spring soil. Not so tomato seeds, which must be container-sown under cover and given heat and some molly-coddling. As for the tobacco plant (Nicotiana sp.) whose fragrant flowers are one of the sweetest perfumes in the summer garden, its miniscule seeds require both heat and light, germinating best when left uncovered on the surface of the compost.
All of this might sound complicated but it’s simply a case of following the instructions on the individual seed packet just as you’d follow a recipe in a cookbook. In fact, beginner gardeners have a distinct advantage over beginner chefs because, unlike a sponge cake that fails to rise or a sauce that won’t thicken, a seed by its very nature will do its damnedest to grow.
Poorly stored seed will have poor germination rates so always buy from a reputable supplier. Mr Middleton offers a brilliant selection including the Thompson & Morgan range, Quickcrop stock the excellent The Vegetable Seed Company range, while a fine range of organically produced Irish-grown seed can be sourced from award-winning Brown Envelope Seeds and Irish Seed Savers. Other reliable seed companies include Seedaholic, Tamar Organics, Chase Organic Seeds, Chiltern Seeds, Jelitto and The Real Seed Company. For hard-to get/unusual varieties, try the English gardener Derry Watkins’ website (specialplants.net) and Jungle Seeds.
See mrmiddleton.com, quickcrop.ie, brownenvelopeseeds.ie, irishseedsavers.ie, seedaholic.com, tamarorganics.co.uk, deelish.ie, chilternseeds.com, jelitto.com, jungleseeds.co.uk,
If you’re direct sowing outdoors in the garden or allotment, make sure the soil is free of weeds, stones and other debris before raking it to a fine, even tilth. You’re aiming for a crumbly, evenly-textured soil that’s damp but not sodden and which has begun to warm up in the spring sunshine. Pegging down a sheet of thick black plastic over freshly raked soil, even for a few days, will help wet soils dry out while also raising soil temperatures.