Hartley Magazine

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

Sowing indoors to beat the weather.

Clay pots ready for broad beans.

From early February onwards, it’s time to sprout (or ‘chit’) new potatoes. Put them in a tray or egg box with the ‘rose’ end, upwards (where all the buds or ‘eye’s’ are clustered), at about 7C (45F). After four to five weeks the shoots should be about 5cm (2”) long and they will be ready for planting out, just before the last frosts in your area.

Peppers, chillies and aubergines which need up to five months to mature should be sown this month. Anyone who complains later in the year, that their peppers haven’t ripened, sowed their seed too late. The third week in February is ideal, mid-March is fine and the first week in April is the limit. They need light warm conditions and constant temperatures for germination. If you are unable to provide for their needs, buy young plants from the garden centre or via the internet later in the year. (This saves space in the greenhouse, too). Water the surface of a 10cm pot of seed or multipurpose compost with a fine rose, using tepid water and leave it to drain for at least half an hour, then sow the seeds on the surface, six to a pot, then sprinkle a shallow layer of fine grade vermiculite over them. Put the pot in a propagator at 18-21C (64 -70F) and they will germinate in about three weeks. Transplant when they are large enough to handle, lifting the seedlings gently by a leaf into a 9cm pot and grow on in the greenhouse at 10-15C. Make sure that there is enough space between the pots so the seedlings don’t become elongated in search of the light. Once the pots a good root system has formed they can be moved into their final growing position in a heated greenhouse in 25cm pots of peat free multipurpose compost or growing bags. If the greenhouse is unheated, sow later and don’t plant them out until May

Sow Basil, on the surface of peat free seed compost and cover with a fine later of vermiculite or sieved compost and put in a heated propagator at 15-25°C. Water the compost before planting and allow to drain, it should only be lightly watered as it is prone to powdery mildew conditions are too moist. Transplant into 8cm pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in cooler conditions.

Continue to sow ‘cut and come again’ crops of salad leaves in 15cm pots, plus round rooted bolding resistant beetroot like ‘Bolthardy’ which can be sown around the edge of a 7.45cm pot and planted in the ground as a cluster, without disturbing the roots after ‘hardening off’ along with broad beans, ‘Oregon Sugar Pot’ mange tout and sweet peas in pots plus onions, summer cabbage, spinach ready for planting out after ‘hardening off’. Sow celeriac in small pots or modules late in the month in a propagator, at 15-18°C (59-65°F).  this is just the warm up act, the serious sowing season takes off in March, so make sure all of your pots and trays are washed and ready. Happy Gardening. Matt