Hartley Magazine

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

Sowing Lettuce

The other day I got the urge. You know the one: a spare hour, sun shining, greenhouse warmer than it’s felt for months… ‘Tomatoes!’ I thought. I could sow some tomatoes in the propagator, and get really ahead of things this year. I will have ripe, luscious tomatoes in July, June even!

A little voice was nagging at me, saying, essentially ‘Ahem. It’s the beginning of February’ so I popped into twitter, to ask the opinion of some fellow gardeners. If you aren’t a twitter regular, let me explain something. Twitter is great for making connections, wasting time, having fun, but one of its primary purposes is as a great encourager. Seeking approval for something risque? Ask twitter. The raciest course is always encouraged. So if someone writes ‘Shall I open a fresh bottle of wine or have a cup of Horlicks?’ a chant starts up: ‘Wine! Wine!’. If I say ‘Red dress or black for the do?’ back comes the cry ‘Red!’. And sure enough, when I wrote ‘Am I mad to sow tomato seeds today?’, gardeners from across the land wrote back ‘Go for it!’ ‘I did mine at Christmas!’ and so on, as I knew they would. But then came the naysayers, reminding me of the clogging up of windowsills, the daily fretting over plants growing taller and thinner and more sickly, of plants ready for the greenhouse weeks before the weather is warm enough. A cautious voice on twitter is worth three in real life, so I stepped back from the brink, and satisfied my urges with some lettuce seeds. In the greenhouse I sowed just six modules each of deep-red-leaved ‘Cardinale’, pale green ‘Reine de Glaces’ and tasty butterhead ‘Carmona’. Urges have been quelled, for the moment, and fresh spring salads are underway.

  • marie shallcross

    I keep looking at the seed packets, thinking I could just sow a few…after all, successional sowing is a good thing…even for tomatoes…

  • xmarkstheplot

    I’ve had the urge to plant too. But I remember last year when I got a head start planting seeds in the flat. It was all fine until the hardening off bit. The allotment is a 15 minute walk away and it involved lots of dashing back and forth after work to throw over fleece. Nearly everything died eventually. I’ll probably just sow straight into the ground this year, but I’ll give the lettuce types you suggest a go.

  • @TheFlowerFarmer

    but I want to plant tomatoes too! i say boo to the naysayers and i’m going to plant some now on principle just to prove ’em wrong!

  • Lia Leendertz

    Marie – tut tut! Too soon! You CAN get going with chillies and sweet peppers now though. Would that do?

    xmarksthespot – That sounds nightmarish. I reckon maybe mid-April for tomatoes? so they are ready to go out about the end of May? Any other timing thoughts from anyone else are wecomed…

    The flower farmer – I am preparing my ‘I told you so’ t-shirts and mugs now.

  • GirlAboutGarden

    Last year I sowed my tomatoes in January – very keen! I had amazing tomatoes all summer and my plants were way ahead very early on BUT I had the real faff of moving them round the house as I have NO greenhouse 🙁 There were also a few late frosts last year so I was taking them in and out like nobody’s business. If I had the facilities I would have sown them by now but as I don’t and I can’t be bothered with the hassle this year I’m going to wait until March!

  • clairebens

    On the tomatoes, I germinated my tomatoes last year in January in the hope that they would be giving me nice juicy tomatoes in June instead of July. They grew very tall and leggy on the windowsill and needed replanting in bigger pots twice before hardening off. They were all fine with no casualties but I got my first fruit in early August – not the early start I had hoped for.