Sowing Seeds in Early Spring in the Kitchen Garden

Sowing vegetable seed outdoors

When you have prepared your seedbed, and are ready to do the sowing, there are several ways in which you can do it. The standard method is to make a shallow, narrow furrow, or ‘drill’ in the soil, and then sow a trail of seeds in a single line along it. It makes sense to do this as thinly as you can, with the seeds regularly spaced, as it saves money and, when you come to thinning or transplanting, time. If you do this, one of the easiest methods of sowing is to shake some of the seed into the palm of one hand, take a pinch of it between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand, and trickle it gradually into the drill.

As well as continuous sowing, there is the ‘station’ sowing method, by which seeds are sown in groups or stations with spacing between them appropriate to the crop. The seeds then germinate in Clusters, and when the strongest seedling in each group can be seen, the remainder are carefully taken away. Sometimes only the leaves and stems are re-moved, so as not to disturb the roof of the retained seedling; the decapitated root will die in due course.

You can also sow broadcast, that is, scatter the seed completely and thinly all over a given area, without any attempt at marking rows or producing any sort of order, but this is not very often done. Turnips for turnip tops can be sown like this; early carrots are another possibility. It is a useful method where space is a bit tight, as you can better make use of odd patches than you would if growing in conventional rows. Hand-weeding and thinning will be made easier if you make sure the patches are not more than two arms’ length wide.

Big seeds like broad beans, marrows, runner (pole) beans sow singly, in holes rather than continuous furrows. Peas can be sown in a much wider drill than usual, in fact wide enough to take two or three staggered rows. Pea germination is so erratic it pays to do this; in fact, with any of the larger seeds, it does no harm to sow a few extra in peat pots as reserves for filling in spaces.

You will be sowing seed of the hardiest vegetables only at this time (do not be misled by that warm spell into sowing-most of your seeds now): for instance, broad bean, leek, parsnip, summer spinach, spinach beet and Swiss chard. You can also sow onion, but only if the soil is workable and becoming less wet; it is generally better to wait until early in mid-spring.

In addition, if you have a sheltered, warm garden, you can try some, or all, of the seeds listed for sowing outdoors in mid-spring.

After sowing, crumble the soil back over the seeds with your hands, or draw it back with the corner of the hoe, and firm it down. Mark the ends of the rows and label them, and if there is no rain, water gently but thoroughly every evening with a fine spray, and again during the day if the weather is hot and sunny. If the seeds become dry while germinating, they are quite likely to die. Be prepared to cover with cloches or polythene tunnels if the weather turns very cold and/or wet. Both types of spinach will in any case need some form of bird protection, preferably netting.

Sowing seed under glass

Many more seeds can be sown under the protection of glass of polythene than can be in the open ground, but in this case they are usually in seed trays or other containers. The method of preparing these is described in Late Winter. Seeds which can be sown like this in the greenhouse or in a frame with brick or wooden sides, without artificial heat, consist of: alpine strawberries, Brussels sprouts, summer cabbage, summer cauliflower, and peas. Sow them thinly and evenly on the compost surface, and then cover with compost sifted through a 3mm (1/8in) sieve, to a 0.6cm (1/4in) depth and firm with a ‘patter’. Note that the peas are spaced 4cm (1-1/2in) apart and are covered with 1.2cm (1/2in) compost, and if you sow them in boxes in a frame, make sure the mice cannot get at them. Germination times for these seeds are:

Brussels sprouts 7-12 days

summer cabbage 7-12 days

summer cauliflower 7-12 days

peas 6-12 days

alpine strawberries 14-21 days

Sowing seed under glass (in heat)

Seeds which can also be sown in containers but which need a little heat supplied are: aubergine, celeriac, celery, cucumber, melon, pepper and tomato; celeriac and celery will germinate in 14-25 days, melon in 7-14 if all are sown in a temperature of 16-18°C (60-65°F).

Keep a close watch on the development of seedlings and young plants in the greenhouse; they can be quickly burnt or the compost become dry in the heat of the spring sun, as it shines through the greenhouse glazing. Space the plants out as they grow, otherwise they will get leggy.

26. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , | Comments Off on Sowing Seeds in Early Spring in the Kitchen Garden

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