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Seed Sowing Newsletter March 2014

Ready Steady Sow!
Unwins March 2014 seed sowing newsletter

We’ve had some lovely dry weather at last and despite some frosty nights it’s beginning to feel like spring. Growing from seed is so rewarding and March is traditionally the start of some busy sowing months.  It’s time to get organised so if you know you’ll need compost, extra pots and a stash of new labels now is the time to order them.

Sowing times vary across the country; conditions in the north of the UK will vary from those in the warmer south so however tempted you are to sow seeds outside, if your soil is still waterlogged it’s better to wait a few weeks to be certain of germination.

But you can still get an early start with flowers and salads and vegetables in the kitchen garden by sowing into modules. You can transplant them when soil dries out and the risk of frost has passed.
Sowing indoors into cell trays or modules and using a propagator guarantees your seedlings are kept frost free. It also means you can sow exactly the amount of plants you need.
Whatever you choose to sow there are full sowing instructions on every seed packet including spacing and sowing depth to help you achieve the best results.

Happy Sowing!

Pam Richardson

 

What to sow now

Sow indoors.
While there is still a risk of frost many vegetable and flower seeds are more successful sown indoors. Get the propagator readyfor any seeds that need extra warmth to help them germinate.   Some annuals such as climbing Cobaea scandens and  ipomoea,  or bedding plants such as antirrhinum,  lobelia and nicotiana take a while to get going from seed and need a temperature of around 18-20C (64-68F).
If you don’t have a heated greenhouse use a windowsill propagator to give seedlings a frost free environment. Growing flowers from seed lets you choose the colour and variety you want in the quantities you need.
Growing herbs and vegetables from seed is a cost effective way of enjoying home grown produce and filling your veg plot whether its a large space or a small raised bed or container.  Sow your seeds thinly and be realistic about how much to grow.  It’s very easy to get carried away and end up with hundreds of seedlings of one variety when twenty would do!

Sweet peas
Unwins are rightly famous for Sweet peas and if you’re growing from seed you’ll find plenty to choose from, whether to exhibit, for cutting or simply to attract pollinators to your garden or vegetable plot
Sow our NEW Sweet pea varieties: ‘Madison’, ‘Just Janet’ and ‘Precious’  or pick a favourite, such as award winning ‘Aphrodite’ or old favourite  ‘Prima Donna’ .  If you want a mix of colours then our Sweet pea collections are a great value way to get masses of blooms and glorious scent!.
Whether you grow your sweet peas from seed or buy them as young plantsthey add perfume, height and colour to the garden or allotment.
If you really don’t have enough room for lots of seed trays don’t panic; many of our young plants including a great selection of sweet peas are supplied in multi sown 9 CELL TRAYS, with each cell having a minimum of 5 young plants.

Direct sow outside-Flowers
If you are itching to get started and you live in a warm part of the UK you could sow tough, hardy annuals outside where you want them to grow. Look for hardy annuals and wildflower seeds such as cornflowers, poppies and nigella and any seeds that that say SOW DIRECT on the front of the packet. Direct sowing is a good way of getting natural looking drifts of hardy annuals and wildflowers. Stagger your sowings every few weeks and you’ll prolong the display.
These annuals are hardy plants so they should survive the odd frost. Sow as thinly as possible and thin the seedlings out when they start to grow to give each plant enough room to thrive.

Direct sow outside-Vegetables
If soil is warm and workable you can start sowing a few hardy herbs and vegetables such as beetroot, early carrots, cabbages, hardy peas and broad beans into well weeded, moist but not waterlogged soil. If soil is wet and cold wait until conditions improve before sowing.
Sow little and often to avoid gluts of any one variety.
Protect seedlings of early vegetables with cloches or a layer of fleece to keep the soil a degree or two warmer and to discourage cats and dogs from scratching and fouling bare soil. If you have a problem with animals disturbing your seeds you could lay some thorny rose prunings on bare soil to deter them.

 
Sowing Tips...

Fill trays
Use a good quality multi purpose or seed compostto fill pots and trays. These composts are low in nutrients because seedlings don’t need much food and they’re generally a finer grade than soil-based composts to allow the roots of young seedlings to grow easily.
Fill pots and seed trays almost to the top with good quality seed compost or multi purpose compost.
Make sure the compost fills right to the corners but don’t compress it too much, seeds need a snug blanket, not a straitjacket!
Level the compost and tap the trays gently to settle the compost and to get rid of any air pockets.
To germinate well seeds need  sowing into moist compost; either water the compost once the seed is sown or, if the seed is fine and easily dislodged, just stand the pots or seed trays into a tray of shallow water and let the compost take up water from the base. It will turn darker as it gets damp.


Sow
Sow seed thinly and evenly over the surface of the compost.  Follow instructions on the seed packet regarding sowing depth and temperature but as a general rule fine seed such as antirrhinum should just be pressed onto the surface of the soil, if necessary cover very lightly with sifted soil or vermiculite.
Larger seed such as sweet peas and broad beans can be buried deeper, around twice their depth.
Once seeds are sown keep compost warm and moist but not wet until seedlings appear, which can take anything from 7 days to several weeks.
 Check seedlings in propagators regularly to make sure they are healthy and growing well.


Stock up on compost
Seeds and young plants don’t like growing in cold wet compost so bring some bags of multipurpose compost inside to keep the contents as warm as possible.
Keeping them under cover also protects the contents. Mice and birds often make holes in bags left outside; this can waste the contents and increases the risk of infection and bacteria getting in. 
Make sure you have enough compost, perlite or vermiculite nothing’s more irritating than starting work and then finding you’ve run out of something vital!
We use the word compost for that lovely homemade humus-rich product from the compost heap but commercially available compost is the one to use for sowing and planting.
Multipurpose composts range from nutrient free to those with about 6 weeks worth of added food. They are most suitable for seed sowing or to pot up plug plants and young plants that will be potted on before the nutrients are exhausted.
Soil-based composts such as John Innes composts are produced to a prescribed formula that includes leaf mould or peat, sand, loam (soil) and nutrients. There are loam based seed composts with no added nutrients and these are excellent for seed sowing.
The ratio of nutrients in the compost goes up with the numbers on the bags so John Innes No. 1 has the least nutrient content and John Innes No. 3 the most.  

 
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