Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Hartley Bean Feast March 2011

Spring is in the air and the sun is shining. It’s an exciting time in the garden and greenhouse the potential of what is yet to come is immense. Already the greenhouse is bursting with shooting cuttings, sprouting seeds and bursting flower buds building up to the spring crescendo, but to keep things going and to fill the garden for the rest of the season, seed sowing is now in progress.

From March onwards and as the weather starts to warm you can sow hundreds of different sorts of seeds within the protected greenhouse environment. These are the half hardy annuals that need a bit of warmth to get started, that don’t need a brush with icy Jack Frost and will grow on within the greenhouse until you can plant them out. The great news is that there are loads of them and some fantastic cultivars to choose from. If you’ve got a greenhouse you can be weeks ahead of the rest and growing things that your neighbours may never have even heard of, so don’t put it off any longer (unless you don’t have a greenhouse) and get growing now.

That’s one of the best things about growing from seed, you can really choose exactly what you want to grow and are not limited to the few varieties often on sale at the garden centre. In fact if you want to grow some exotic, unusual or even a tree, you can usually find the seed to buy and have a go, sometimes it takes a few years for the plant to reach maturity and flower, but you still have the satisfaction of knowing that you grew it and also the saving, as buying seed is infinitely cheaper than buying a mature plant. Plus, most packets contain from 5-5000 seeds, so you’ll be able to grow lots of plants and then swap them, sell them or give them away.

If you haven’t chosen or ordered your seeds yet it’s not too late, you can do it online or just visit the garden centre for a choice of thousands. You’ll get carried away for sure, the glorious images are enough to tempt anyone to have a go and that’s a really good thing. Try something new this year, grow something trickier than normal and choose something to support the garden wildlife.

If you can’t sow now then don’t panic, there is a lot to be said for later sowing too so that plants flower and crop right into autumn, in fact where possible sow the same seed three times, once early spring, once in mid to late spring and once in early summer. This is especially useful if you have a large garden or are growing something that runs out of flower power after a few weeks and then runs to seed.

Sow Easy

It’s really easy growing from seed as long as you follow a few basic rules.

  • Use clean pots and modules.
  • Use fresh seed compost.
  • Bring the seed compost into the greenhouse to allow it to acclimatise to the temperature – this saves shocking the seeds.
  • Check the packet for instructions; every seed has different needs so be sure to follow the instructions.
  • Where needed, provide some basal heat via a heated propagator to get them started and keep them in a frost-free greenhouse to grow them on.
  • Make it easy on yourself and sow larger seeds, individually into clean modules filled with seed compost. You won’t need to prick them out and there is less stress on the plant. Pot them into individual pots of potting-on compost when the roots start to show through the modules drainage holes.
  • Don’t sow the whole packet, just sow a few and keep the leftovers in a cool dark place. Sow little and often to create a continuous harvest for plants such as salads and leaf crops and every 2-3 weeks in case you have a failure and to extend the flowering and fruiting of garden plants and vegetables.
  • Swap seeds and plants with friends and relatives to save money and to try new things.