Most seeds have germinated

I thought it would be useful to update you on the seeds which have and have not germinated.

Germination1

germination2

First the peas,if you remember this was seed which was over 5 years old. Well, one seed has so far germinated. This is more than I expected so is a bonus. It is still possible for the rest to germinate but I think the conclusion I would draw from this is that 5 years is too long to store pea seed. I have sown more, current seeds.

seed trays1

The French Lavender has germinated. I am quite pleased with this. The packet stated that it could take up to five months to germinate so I thought I was in for the long haul.

Next Cauliflower All Year Round. Again this was old seed and about half of them have germinated. Not particularly good but it is almost free seed. I think the overall conclusion must be that it is always worth trying old seed, but do not rely upon it. The one seed which is not even worth trying is parsnip. This really does not germinate unless it is fresh and then it is fussy.

There is still no sign of my potatoes or carrots but it is early days. It is not helping that my cats have decided my potato plot is a good toilet. I suppose it is good compost but the movement of the earth is a bit disconcerting.

Of the rest of the seeds sown in the greenhouse, they have germinated and are looking very healthy. It is time to start to prick them out. In a month’s time I will be busy planting them outside.

Sowing cabbages and calabrese

Brassica is the family name for cabbages. It also includes a number of other vegetables, most of which are easily identifiable as belonging to the same family- Brussel sprouts, cabbages (of all types) calabrese, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Chinese cabbages. It also includes swedes, turnips, radishes and kohlrabi.  If you know which family or genus a vegetable belongs to, then you will know what it’s nutrient requirements are and where to plant them in your crop rotation.

Anyway, today I started to sow my seed for cabbages and calabrese. I am not overly fond of cabbage, although, oddly enough , I like Brussel sprouts. So I only grow a few cabbages and then only of certain types. The varieties of cabbage I sowed today are

Cabbage Red Jewel

cabbage red jewel

and cabbage brigadier

cabbage brigadier

They are both F1 Hybrids. I sowed both these 3 or 4 seeds in 3″ pots. When they have germinated and developed a bit, I will prick them out into separate 3 inch pots after which I will plant in my vegetables patch. The frosts should, by then, be passed. Most cabbages will stand up to bad weather, but germination is much better when you have some warmth and you will get earlier cabbages by sowing indoors.

Red Jewel, as the name suggests is a red cabbage. It has good storage properties and pickles very well. I like to cook it with apples, although it equally good cooked alone.

Brigadier is one which will give  you a giant cabbage with heads up to 14lb (6.5kg). It is very tasty eaten raw or cooked. It has a high sugar and vitamin C content. It is Fusarium resistant. All round a good cabbage to grow and eat.

I also sowed some calabrese seed. The variety is Calabrese Aquiles.

calabrese aquiles

The seed catalogue cannot make up its mind whether it is Broccoli or Calabrese. The seed catalogue says broccoli and the seed packet says calabrese. Anyway, they are the same plant. The only difference is whether it matures in summer (calabrese) or winter (broccoli). This seed was sowed much the same way as I sowed my cabbage.

As I have said before, I enjoy the process of sowing and pricking out. If you do not or if you do not have the time (or patience),all these seeds can be sown in rows 2 ft (60cm) apart. When they have grown and look crowded, they should be thinned out until they are 6ins (15cm) apart. Then just let them grow and harvest when ready.

Sowing Herb Seeds

Herbs are such useful plants to have in your garden. They add extra taste to food and they look great. You do not have to grow herbs in a separate part in your garden, although a separate herb garden can be very attractive. Herbs also look good in flower beds or even in the vegetable patch. You should try to keep your herbs near your kitchen door. It’s much easier to pick them when it is raining. Most herbs can be grown in pots, so you don’t even need to have a garden to grow them.

Today I have sown a number of herb seeds.

The first one is Thyme: Old English.

thyme old english

I have chosen the variety Old English It is a neat plant with low cushions of aromatic leaves and mauve flowers in the summer. So it looks good in the flower or rockery as well as in pots on the patio.  It is a hardy perennial, so the plant will increase in size from year to year. Thyme is lovely cooked with roast meats. It also has good antiseptic properties.
I sowed the seed on the surface of compost in a seed tray and covered it with vermiculite.

Next to be sown is Chives.

chives

They are part of the onion family and in fact the leaves smell strongly of onion when you touch them. You use the leaves but they are not as strong a flavour as onions and can be used raw in salads, sandwiches on in baked potatoes.You can also eat the round mauve flower-heads which appear during the summer. Because of their smell, chives are useful to grow next to carrots as part of your deterrent to carrot root fly. If grown next to roses, they also help to control rose black spot. altogether a very useful plant. They look good too.
I sowed them on the surface of compost in a seed tray and covered with vermiculite.
Chives grow into tiny bulbs which can become overgrown, so every two years or so, you need to dig them out and split the plant up so that they are thinned out.

Next up to sow was Sage.

sage

Sage is an evergreen plant which gets quite large. If you do not cut it down it also gets very woody. I find the plant very tactile. It has textured aromatic leaves and, if allowed to develop, mauve blue flowers. It is used with meat and to make stuffings (remember sage and onion stuffing). It is also good at repelling cabbage butterflies so you could plant it near your cabbages.
Every little helps! I sowed the seed on the surface of compost in a seed tray and covered it with vermiculite.

Basil: Sweet Green

basil sweet green

Basil is a herb used quite a lot with tomato dishes, it stops the ‘tinny’ flavour you can sometimes get when cooking tomatoes and has a subtle flavour of it’s own. If you grow it close to tomatoes it improves the flavour of the tomatoes and it also helps to deter white fly. I sowed the variety ‘sweet green’  which is a half hardy annual, so I will be doing the same sowing next year. Like the rest of the herbs, the seed was sown on the surface of compost in a seed tray and covered with vermiculite.

French Lavender

lavender stoechas

I like lavender and today I have sown French Lavender seed. You have to be very patient waiting for it to germinate – it can take up to 5 months. It is worth the wait because the plant has lovely flared pink flowers and aromatic silvery foliage. It is a hardy perennial, so once planted it’s there for a good long time. Like all the other seeds I sowed today, this was sown on the surface of compost in a seed tray and covered with vermiculite.

The reason for sowing seeds on the surface of compost is that they germinate better with the light on them. However, they are likely to be disturbed when you water them, so vermiculite is used to cover them. This does not exclude the light and protects thm from spraying.

Sowing Peas

Today, I sowed Peas. Unfortunately I do not yet have this year’s vegetable seed order, so my pea seed is old. (Sow before 2006). This is quite old and may well not be viable. If it does not germinate, I shall sow again with new seed. However, it’s worth a try.

This year I have sowed three varieties – Endeavour and Balmoral both of which I have grown in the past with good results and Canoe which I have not grown before. If it germinates, it will be interesting to see the results.

I sowed all the peas in 3 inch pots, 3 seeds per pot. I would usually sow them 2 seeds to the pot but as I expect the germination to be lowered, I have added 1 seed per pot. When they are large enough, I will plant them out in rows 1 foot apart. I will plant them so that the pots touch each other. This will give the right spacing.

I also sowed Lettuce, Ultimate mixed seed in a 3inch pot. This is a mixture of red lettuces which I like because they add colour to a salad plate. They also taste delicious.

Morning Glory was the last seeds I sowed today. This was a mixture of colours and are a useful climber. The seeds germinate better if they are soaked overnight in warm water. This softens the hard outer shell. I then sowed them 2 seeds in 3 inch pots.

Sunflower and other seed sowing

Today the main focus of my seed sowing is Sunflowers, although I have sown some vegetables as well. I have not yet received my vegetable seed order this year so I am using old seed. I don’t know whether it will still be viable but the only way to tell is to sow it. I will let you know results when I know.

The first seeds I sowed today was Sunflower Bees Knees. This is an F1 Hybrid variety. They are pollen free so suitable for cut flowers for those with allergy problems. They are only 4-5 ft tall, so should stand up well to windy weather. I sowed them 2 seeds per pot in 3inch pots.

Continuing the sunflower theme, I sowed sunflower Russian Giant. This is the tall variety that children grow for competition. I am not overly fond of them as they have huge heads (12 inches in diameter) which are really too heavy for them to support themselves so they always end up hanging their heads as though in disgrace.These were once again sowed 2 seeds in 3 inch pots.

Next I sowed Vanidium Jaffa Ice. Although these are not sunflowers, they look very like them. However, they are only 2 ft tall and have purple to black centres. They also have silver green foliage. I sowed these in a seed tray.

I have sown Delosperma Floribunda Stardust. This is a half hardy perennial which attracts butterflies. It is only 4 – 6 inches tall and is ideal for rockeries and hot dry places in your garden. The flowers look like Michaelmas daisy flowers, so it should look attractive. I shall keep some in pots and dig some up after they have flowered and protect them against frost. I will also leave some in the garden to see it they will survive. I sowed these on the surface of a seed tray of compost and covered the seed with vermiculite.

The last of my flower seed sowing today is Nemesia Tapestry mixed. I love Nemesia flowers. They are so different. I have grown the variety KLM in the past and the blue and white flowers really are spectacular even though the plant is so small. Nemesia is only 10 inches tall so they are ideal for the front of borders, for pots or in the rockery. The variety Tapestry has large flowers in a range of colours. They are quite bright.

I have sown two varieties of lettuce: Webbs Wonderful and Triumph.  The Webbs wonderful variety is one most people know and buy from their local shop. The seed is at least 5 years old so it will be interesting to see if it germinates. If it doesn’t I will buy a fresh packet of seed and re-sow. The Variety Triumph is an Iceberg type of lettuce. It has some root aphid reistsance which could be useful. However, the seed should have been sown by 2006. We shall see.I sowed a pinch of each seed in seperate 3 inch pots and will prick out when they are large enough to handle.

Celeriac is one of the new vegetables I grew last year. I cooked it in Cider and it was delicious. It was easy to gropw and since I have part of a packet of seed left, I have sown it in 2inch cells. It is last years seed so hopefully will still be viable.

Cauliflower All Year Round is a good variety as you can sow and harvest it at any time of the year. The seed should have been sown by September 2006. So it may well not germinate

All my seeds are carefully stored in a plastic container which is kept cool and moisture free, so often they will remain viable.Some seed, however has a very limited period in which it will germinate. Parsnip is one of these, so it is no good keeping part packets of that seed.

First of March Flower sowings

I was going to leave sowing any more seeds until next wek, but the weather is so warm and I have started to get withdrawal symptoms, so I started sowing some seeds today.

I started by sowing Portulaca Grandiflora ‘Kariba’ mixed seeds in a seed tray. Although this is a half hardy annual, I like to sow inside particularly at this time of the year. The fact that I can sow these earlier inside than I could in the cold, wet soil outside makes up for the time lost by pricking up and planting out. I first came across Portulaca by a free packet of seeds in a breakfast cereal. I sowed them in an empty patch of soil not expecting much. When they flowered, I was stunned. They have really bright ‘jewel’ coloured flowers. This particular strain is an F2 hybrid which has extra large double flowers. It is well worth a place in the garden.

Next I sowed Cosmos Gazebo mixed. I sowed this on the surface of the soil in a seed tray and then covered the seeds with vermiculite. The seed germinates better in light and the vermiculite will not exclude light but will stop the seed being moved around when watering.

I have sown two varieties of Calendula. Candyman Orange and Candyman Yellow. These both have bright double flowers carried on strong multi-branching stems. They will make a bright splash of colour in the summer. These were both sown in seed trays. Carefully labelled so that I will know them apart when it comes to planting them out. The common name  for Calendula is Pot Marigold and you can pot them up and use them as indoor plants if you wish.

The last seeds I sowed  today were Nasturtium Jewel of Africa and Nasturtium Ladybird. These have large seeds, so they were sown in 3 in pots 3 seeds in a pot. Although the genus of these flowers is common, they are very different both in habit and colour. Nasturtium Jewel of Africa is a climber getting up to 8 ft tall. It is also a good plant for hanging baskets and this is why I have chosen in it. However, it could equally well be used to train over fences or trellis. It has cream marbled foliage so this should be attractive also. The snag (or perhaps the useful) thing about nasturtium is that the black fly love it, This means they will not attack your other plants but it can make a mess of your nasturtiums. Nasturtium Ladybird on the other hand is only 8 ins high. I chose it because it has unusual flowers for nasturtiums. They have golden yellow flowers with 5 bright red spots on each flower so this should be attractive.

Last seed sowing for February

The weather is at last warming up a bit. It is sunny and almost at the average temperature for the time of year. This means that already the cold greenhouse is warming up. It’s actually reached 15 degrees and, provided the sun stays out (it looks as though it might!) I would expect the temperature to rise further. Unfortunately, the clear sky will mean that it will be cold at night. However, part of the floor is concrete slabs and this will store the heat during the day and release it at night. It will still be cold, but probably not cold enough to freeze.

Today, I sowed the last of the seeds scheduled for February. There is a variety of seeds.

First, Brachycome variety Bravo mixed.

Brachycome bravo

Brachycome’s common name is Swan River Daisy. I don’t know why it is ‘Swan River|’ but it certainly looks like a daisy. It is tallier than a common daisy (8-10ins) and this variety is a mix of three colours. Planted together, they look great for a long period of time. Although this is a hardy annual, and therefore you could, if you wanted, sow them in situ, I like to sow my plants in pots and seed trays. I feel like I have more control that way and I actually enjoy the process of pricking out and potting on. These Seeds were sown in a seed tray on top of the compost and lightly covered with vermiculite.

Next came Echinops ruthenicus variety Platinum Blue.

Echinops ruthenicus

This is known as Globe Thistle and actually looks like a miniature thistle. It is not prickly though. I used them in my wedding bouquet when I got married. The seed was sown on the surface of 3 inch pots, two seeds per pot and covered with vermiculite.

Although I already have Lavender in my garden (I actually have a variety called Hidcote) I want some more, so I have chosen a variety called Lavender Angustifolia Munstead Dwarf

lavender munstead

I heve sowed in a seed tray on the surface and covered with vermiculite. This variety is 12 –24 ins (30-60cm) tall so is ideal for edging and hedging. It has deep blue flowers all summer long and a god strong scent, so I Will enjoy this.

I always think Lupin are one of the most majestic of flowers, particularly if they are planted marching up a slope. I have sown a variety called Lupin regalis Band of Nobles

lupin band of nobles

They are mixed colours and will be 3 – 4 ft tall (90 – 120 cm). These were sown in 3″ pots with two seeds per pot. I will prick them out and grow than on when they have germinated. These are hardy perennials, so, if you wish they could be sown directly where you want them to flower. Wait until the soil warms up a bit though.

I would not normally have bought seeds for Foxglove Milk Chocolate.

foxglove milk chocolate

I have already got foxglove growing by my garden hedge, but this was a free packet of seeds and it seems disrespectful not to grow them. They look as though they are a bit wishy-washy in colour for my taste, but the insects will no doubt enjoy it. It is fascinating to watch bees buzzing from foxglove to foxglove getting almost lost in their flowers. These were sown in a sed tray on the top of the soil and covered with vermiculite.

Datura Sauveolens is a hardy annual shrub.

white angels trumpet

They are also known as Angels Trumpet and are closely related to Brugmansia but have upright blooms whilst Brugmansia are pendulous. They are richly scented at night and supposedly grow up to 15 ft. We shall see. I sowed the seed in 3″ pots, 2 seeds per pot.

The last seeds I have sown today are for Gazania hybrida Talent mixed.

gazania talent mixed

These are a half hardy annual; so need protection from frosts. They are 8 ins high (20cm) and are good for the edge of borders or even the rockery. Their flowers are very bright and they keep flowering for a long period during summer until the first heavy frost. They have silver leaves and are drought tolerant. You never know we might get a good hot summer yet!. They are also good in exposed places. I sowed them on the surface in 3″ pots and covered the seed with vermiculite.

This is all the February seed sowing complete. I shall probably leave it a week or two before starting to sow the seeds which require a bit more warmth and therefore  need to be sown in March.

First Sowings Of The Year

Hurray!! At last, the weather has warmed up enough to start sowing the hardy annuals.

Today I sowed some of my sweet peas.

I sowed Sweet Pea Miss Wilmott

sweet pea miss wilmott

Sweet Pea Chatsworth

sweet pea chatsworth

Sweet Pea Fragrant Ripples

sweet pea fragrant ripples

and Sweet Pea Orange Dragon

sweet pea orange dragon

They were all sown in3″ posts, 2 seeds per pot in  compost about 1.5 ins below the surface. They will stay in those pots until it is time to plant them out when I will not separate them, but will train them away from each other on the support.

I have sown sweet peas in ‘root trainers’ in the past and if I was growing for exhibition, I would do so again, but I find that they grow quite well in 3″ pots so I use those.

As with all sowings, these pots are clearly labelled so that I know what is in them. Many seedlings look the same until they have their true leaves, so it is very necessary to label clearly, particularly if you are growing more than one variety of the same plant. I have tried many ways of labelling plants and have found them all wanting until I found the Brother P-touch labelling system which I find works very well.

Sweet Pea seeds to sow in February

I have just received my flower seed order from Thompson and Morgan. After I have checked that I have ordered every packet of seed sent and that I have received every packet of seed I ordered, I next sort the packets of seed into the months in which I shall sow them. There are a surprising number of packets of seeds to sow in February.

Sweet Peas are among these seeds and I have got four varireties to sow.

Chatsworth is one of the varieties that people grow for exhibition (I don’t exhibit). It is also a good garden variety. It has beautiful wavy petals which are a cool lavender blue and has a great scent. In short, it’s the type of sweet pea everybody imagines.

sweet pea chatsworth

Miss Willmott is a much older variety, dating back to 1902. It is a much smaller flowered variety but the colour of the flowers make up for the size – it is a stumnning orange/pink.
sweet pea miss willmott

Orange Dragon has stems which are really long, so they are great for cutting. I have a vase of sweet peas on the window sill by my sink throughout summer. They are really great to look at and smell whilst I am washing up. The flowers of ‘Orange Dragon’ Sweet Pea are bright orange and red and, provided you grow them out of full sun, they keep their colour.
sweet pea orange dragon

Fragrant Ripples is my final packet.  This is a mixture of varieties which have rippled flowers and are fragrant. They are one of the special offer packets of seeds which Thompson and Morgan are offering this year and it will be interesting to see if they live up to their reputation.
sweet pea fragrant ripples

I always mean to sow sweet pea seeds in the autumn, but never seem to get round to it. I am always concerned that if I leave them in the cold greenhouseobver winter they will get neglected and will die. So I will sow them now and put them on a warm-ish window sill to germinate.

Sweet Peas resent having their roots disturbed. They also have very long roots, so there are many specialised pots made to sow them in. I have tried root trainers which worked very well. They are extra long pots which open up down the middle so that it is easy to remove the root ball intact.

root trainers

You can also get pots made or coir or peat to sow sweet peas in. These also work well as you plant the whole pot which then softens when in contact with wet soil, allowing the roots to grow through it. I have also sown them in normal 3″ pot. They do O.K. in these, but you do have to make sure you don’t leave them in the pots too long. Also be careful not to damage the roots when you take them out.

Improve seed propagation with a soil warming cable

A soil warming cable is a cable which goes in the soil , or more often nowadays, under the soil in order to warm it.  We used to buy these warming tools as cables and spread them within the soil in a zigzag pattern. Now they are usually bought in the form of a mat, either made of alluminium or, as in the case of the one sold by Thompson and Morgan, as a net.

Warming the soil makes it much easier to germinate seeds even when the weather is not reliably warm as well as help cuttings to root.

The alternative to a soil warming cable is an electric propogator, this will give you a much smaller area of warmed soil.

propagation mat

The advantage of the T & M soil warming cable (they call it a heated propogation mat) is that it covers an area of 16 ins by 48 ins. This is generally the full length and width of one side of your greenhouse staging. This gives you great flexibility in the type and number of pots and trays you use both for seeds and cuttings.