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Heated Propagators and Growing from seed

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sweet peas on heated mat

By late Feb /early March I have itchy gardening feet and want to get started. I cannot resist the lure of the seed packet. Most years I start with sweet peas as they are relatively hardy and when short on space later in the Spring, they will withstand the outside weather, next will be Broad beans also fairly hardy. I sow the hardiest first and then as spring goes on, I sow the more tender veg and annuals such as courgettes, and Ipomoea (Morning Glory)

Early in the year, such as now, even in a conservatory or green house, germination may need some extra heat so here illustrated in the image (left) I am using a propagator mat (silver mat between the trays) which I find very useful at this time of year. It plugs in and the propagators sit on top; the gentle heat helps to germinate the seeds.  You will need a lid on the propagator, or the seed trays in a poly bag,  to reduce moisture loss which is important for germination. You can also buy a complete unit as a heated propagator but I like the matt. I can mix and match what I put on it, sometimes just a few plants, or a whole tray.  Gardening magazines are full of gadgets and if the average gardener purchased only a small perecentage of what is on offer, a  warehouse would be needed in storage. I am not against gadgets, just not convinced as the the value of many. If you have a good gadget which you think really works would love to hear from you.


Once germinated it is important not to leave them on the warm mat for very long, just a matter of days  to establish the seedlings. Too long and the seedlings will become weedy. Move into a cooler but frost free spot. Gradually remove the propagator lid to get the seedlings accustomed to growing indoors without protection. The same process will happen later in the year when hardening off the seedlings to get them accustomed to growing outside. To do this, place seed trays in a sheltered spot on mild days bringing in overnight when the temperature dips, gradually leaving out for long periods until permanently outside.  

By  April the conservatory will be full of seed trays of vegetables and bedding, as will the greenhouse, and it will be time to start planting out the hardiest to make space for the greenhouse crops usually tomatoes and cucumbers. Sowing early in the year used to be about trying to get an early crop, now it seems with the very poor summers its about getting a crop worth harvesting at all.


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