House & Home

Sowing the seeds

Time spent with nature and nurturing plants is a way of producing the feel good factor for lots of people. These challenging times have meant that many new people have been enticed into the world of growing and looking after plants. Welcome to everyone.

Starting out can be, quite daunting, but never fear, just give growing some plants from seed a try. For a few pounds you can grow quite a wide variety of plants, to brighten up your gardening spaces for next year. Follow a few simple guidelines to help you succeed. I can almost guarantee you will never get tired of watching those tiny seeds develop into plants of all shapes and sizes.

With summer progressing nicely it will be time soon to think about sowing some seeds ready for earlier spring and summer colour next year. Sowing direct into the soil or with the protection of a greenhouse using pots and containers and harnessing the end of the summer heat to fuel your plant projects, is perfect. Seeds usually require a minimum of 18°C to germinate, so now is an ideal time.

Annual seeds produce their foliage and flowers in one year. On seed packets look for the description Hardy Annuals (HA) as they can cope with some cool winter temperatures, but may require frost protection if the weather is really cold below freezing. Use a cold frame, cloches, a greenhouse or horticultural fleece to provide this help. Plants germinated usually in September 2020 can put on sufficient growth to remain robust before becoming dormant with the seasonal temperature drop. In early spring next year they will leap into life with increasing warmth and daylight to provide floral displays before you know it. In the spring you can gradually acclimatise your plants by a hardening off process before positioning in your garden, when the likelihood of frosts has passed.

Sweet peas (lathyrus odoratus), Ladybird Poppy (Papaver commutatum) and Bishops weed (Ammi majus) can be sown from seed in September to develop before winter arrives. Other common favourites include Calendula (common Marigold), Californian poppy (Eschscholzia) and Lupins.

In the absence of seed compost, use old compost from other pots and containers, even a little garden soil is equally good to propagate the seeds. Keep warm and moist without over-watering. Every seed packet also carries individual planting instructions, so take a quick look at these before sowing your seeds. Use clean pots to avoid any fungal problems and watch out for plant emergence.  Leggy, stretched seedlings will make poor plants. Prick out into single pots when a good portion of the foliage is visible above the soil-minimum 2-3 cm. Handle at the foliage end to avoid root damage, and excavate the root-balls carefully when transferring them to bigger pots. Ideally store the plants in a greenhouse over winter, keeping the soil just moist. Beware of excessive heat on sunshine filled spring days, and of ocurse  over-watering.

So what are you waiting for? Keep safe and keep gardening.

Did you know?

Even if a seed is planted upside down, the seedling always grows right-way up… plants can sense gravity. Inside the soil, the roots of the seedling grow towards gravity, while the stem grows away from it.

The largest seeds are those of the double coconut or coco-de-mer of the Seychelles, which can sometimes weigh up to 20 kg. 

Neither Brazil nuts nor coconuts are true nuts. Coconuts are the stones of drupes, while Brazil nuts are just large seeds. 

The oldest seed grown into a viable plant was Silene stenophylla (narrow-leafed campion), an Arctic flower native to Siberia. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed the seed as being over 31,000 years old.

Nuts are a concentrated, nutritious food — about 50% fat and 10-20% protein. Peanuts contain more food energy than sugar and more protein, minerals and vitamins than liver.

30,000 orchid seeds weigh barely 1 gm.


The Bawdeswell Garden Centre
Norwich Road, Bawdeswell, Dereham, Norfolk NR20 4RZ . Tel: 01362 688387

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