Monday, 5 February 2018

A waiting game

At this time of year, many people get what is rather dubiously referred to as "Gardener's Itch". Sounds horrible, doesn't it? And it's very contagious - much more so than ever before, thanks to the social media! The term is used to mean that urge to sow some seeds and get something growing as soon as possible. Once someone starts, others feel bound to join in.

The only trouble is, it's not necessarily a good idea. Looking at the weather forecast for NE Hampshire for the next 10 days, I see that the maximum temperature is supposedly going to be 7 degrees Celsius, and the minimum -3C. This means that sowing seeds outdoors is really out of the question; even with protection it would be inadvisable.

 A few days ago I sowed some Broad Bean seeds, but even with the protection of my lovely Gabriel Ash coldframe, they are not going to be particularly happy.

The Broad Bean seeds are in the little black pots

I know that a lot of people will think me a kill-joy, but I really believe it makes sense to wait a bit longer before sowing anything much. If you happen to have artificial heating and lighting arrangements then I make an exception. Chillis and tomatoes are often sown early by those lucky enough to have the correct kit, but even then I think it's best to wait until after the middle of February, when the day-length passes the 9-hour mark. Seedlings grown on the mythical sunny windowsill are more than likely going to end up weak and leggy.

Many of my potted perennials and herbaceous plants are still taking shelter in the coldframes - the big one seen above, and this less fancy one:-

From this point onward I will use any opportunities that present themselves to acclimatise these plants to unprotected conditions, by opening the lids / doors for a couple of hours whenever we get a sunny day, because they must be craving some warmth and light after the gloom of Winter. [Note to self: must remember to close them before sundown!]

I shall also soon be making full use of my "Longrow" tunnel cloches.

In the Autumn I sowed some Lamb's Lettuce and Radish seeds under these. The Radishes have done nothing. They germinated OK but have gradually been whittled away by slugs, and produced no edible roots at all, so they were a complete failure.


 The Lamb's Lettuce has fared rather better. Germination was good and the slugs seem to like them much less than Radishes. Having grown incredibly slowly over the Winter, they are now beginning to speed up and I hope to get a worthwhile crop in the next month or so.

I have recently transplanted 36 seedlings into some old plastic washing-up bowls filled with a mixture of soil and compost, which are now in the plastic mini-greenhouses. This way they will get shelter from the wind and/or frost, as well as the benefit of fresh compost and plenty of light, so they ought to do well.

Lamb's Lettuce / Mache / Corn Salad seedlings

Meanwhile, the first harvest of Purple Sprouting Broccoli can surely only be days away....


  1. I've got it - Gardener's Itch! Onions! I want to get my onions planted! And sow my lettuce seeds. It is hard to wait any longer.
    Have a wonderful week!

  2. It took me many years of gardening and then I got a sudden realisation that seeds planted later really do catch up with early sown seeds. And the seedlings that are produced from later sowings are much stronger, sturdier and more viable as good healthy plants.

    I've scratched my itch by getting the potatoes chitting and the plant pots and trays washed out. The polytunnel beds are all weeded and ready for action and the net tunnel is next on the agenda.

  3. You have a really nice gardening set-up! While I'm one of those 'exception' people who lives in a hot climate and pretty much start seeds whenever, I personally feel plants like tomatoes and peppers are transplanted far too many times than is ideal for their root systems. My volunteer tomatoes always grow the best by far, and I can't help but think it an undisturbed root system has something to do with it! Of course, it isn't feasible for most people to direct seed tomatoes, what with weather and short season and pests, etc, so I guess we all do the best we can. And, as you say, that Gardener's itch sure makes it hard to wait!

  4. We belong to the late sowers group too. Plants just do not like the setback of having to wait too long before they can venture outdoors. I think that they almost forget how to grow.

  5. With more time on my hands I have developed a gardeners winter rash this year. Most of my efforts have been dashed eg overwintered broad beans - but not all eg overwintered Japanese onions.

  6. I am a patient gardener. I know that it is too cold to sow anything here, even in the house. The days are still short and lack of light produces elongated seedlings. I also have not enough place indoors to put all the seed trays. I only sowed the leeks while it takes a long time to reach the reasonable transplanting size. The end of March and in April is when I do most of the sowing.

    1. Yes, I have disregarded my own advice and sown some onion seeds, for the same reason. They are currently indoors on a windowsill, and have not yet germinated.


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