Sunday, 3 January 2016

Sowing Seeds onions, leeks and tomatoes

It is a fault of mine that when I read that other gardeners are starting to sow seeds, I immediately think that I am far behind and need to get myself organised to sow as many seeds as possible.  Well I am going to make sure that I am happy with the growing conditions before I do anything.  I am becoming an advocate of slow and measured gardening.

It has been unseasonably warm right up to Christmas and now it is very tempting to sow some onions, leeks and tomatoes.  I do have some general purpose commercial compost and might wander down to the allotment and sow these seeds in some small 3 inch pots.  I will bring them home and put them in the airing cupboard to germinate.  They will have to be checked every day to make sure that they do not get drawn up.  It is called etiolation in the posh gardening books. 

I sowed onion Bedfordshire Champion, leek Blue Solaise and tomato Alicante. I have left the onions and leeks in the greenhouse on the allotment but I have bought the tomatoes home. 

I think that I am going to write in the blog when I am going to sow seeds.  I always label the seeds with their name and when I sowed them.  However, once the plants are transplanted into the allotment soil, I wash the labels and store them away without taking any more notice of what I wrote on them.  This means that I don't know when I  sowed seeds in the past.  I just have a general idea.  Now, I have been sowing seeds for about 50 odd years, and I know more or less when the best sowing time is for probably all the veg I am likely to grow.  However, with a better record I might be surprised by something.  I hope so because this is what makes gardening interesting. 

It has been raining for about three days now, off and on.  The ground is completely unsuitable for any kind of gardening so I will keep off the soil until it has dried out completely. I don't have much to do on the allotment at the moment except to put more supports up for the blackberry and loganberry.  I am going to move some supports that I put up for the autumn raspberries and use them for espaliering the new apples that I planted.  If I don't put up supports for the espaliers, I tend to step on them and break the graft at the union.  I've done that three times now!! That is really a priority because I like to train the lateral stems as soon as they are big enough and it keeps my big feet away from the plants. 

The rain means that I am not going to plant any garlic, onion sets or elephant garlic until the ground is a lot drier.  Lots of people have put theirs in during the autumn and winter.  I don't think that it matters one iota when they go in.  Mine will catch up and be caught up by alliums planted later in the season. 

I have been given some large pieces of cardboard.  These will be used as weed suppressers around the allotment.  They can be laid flat overlapping themselves and then covered with a good layer of shredded prunings.  I am also going to add the smaller pieces to the compost bins because cardboard seems to rot down remarkably quickly.  Most books and internet sites suggest that you take off any plastic based sticky tape holding them together.  I don't bother because it falls out of the compost really quickly once the cardboard has started to rot away well. 

All kinds of plastic, metal and glass fall out of the compost as it is rotting and being turned.  I try not to leave any of this in the compost and have a plastic bag handily tied to the compost pallets to gather up the unwanted elements of the compost.  I do not tolerate any broken glass on the allotment and it is removed immediately no mater what else I am doing.  The last thing I want on the allotment is a bad cut especially with the amount of manure I add to the soil. 

So I have several large piles of well rotted compost in strategic areas of the allotment and I was going to drag these across the surface of the beds after digging in the green manure. 

Should I use some of this to sow seed into? 

In the olden days before there was much "seed compost" sold in the garden centres - indeed before there were any garden centres, I used to sow seeds in ordinary garden soil.  My germination rate might not have been quite as good as it is with sterile growing medium but I still had my successes.  I have got into this mind set that if I use home made compost or garden soil, I will get very poor germination due to fungi diseases.  It is just what the commercial guys want you to believe and the way that they make their money. 

However, it would be a lot cheaper with the number of seeds that I sow each year to use my own home made compost.  I think that an experiment is going to have to be done.  There are several problems with home made compost.  Usually the commercial bods put a wetting agent into the compost to make sure that it remains damp for the longest time.  Using my own might mean I'll have to water the seedlings quite often.  Secondly, the compost can form a cap which is reluctant to allow water to penetrate into the compost.  I am wondering if adding horticultural grit or sand to the compost would help to prevent this problem. 

Now I think that I will wander up to the allotment, leave the cardboard by the compost bins and sow a few seeds.  Maybe I will even transplant some more sweet peas.  I have about 200 plants now in three inch pots all pinched out and growing their side shoots.  Do I need any more sweet peas I ask myself. I must still have at least that many growing in the large pots and needing to be transplanted.  I am loath to throw them away.

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