Tray-mendous way to get your seeds startedBy James Ashford
March 07, 2008
The arrival of March means that the worst of the winter is behind us and, although we had some sharp frosts this week, it is time to start sowing in earnest.
The soil outside is still much too cold for most things to germinate successfully, but there is nothing to stop you sowing a few seeds indoors.
Starting plants in pots and seed trays is a technique organic gardeners use a great deal with good reason.
Your plants get off to a good start in ideal conditions with no competition from weeds.
The tiny seedlings can be kept out of the reach of slugs and snails until they get big enough to survive the odd nibble.
Then, when the weather finally turns and conditions are right for them to go outside you can space out the young plants more accurately than you can with directly sown seeds.
They will also reach maturity earlier giving you something tasty to eat just that little bit ahead of the main crop.
Most of the regular summer vegetables like lettuce, courgettes and French beans can be started off in pots and seed trays at this time of the year.
Root vegetables are generally less successful as they don’t like to have their roots disturbed but beetroot will survive the transplanting process.
The extra warmth indoors will help seeds to germinate rapidly but once the plants start to grow away too much heat will make them grow too quickly. This makes the plants weak and ‘leggy’, leaving them vulnerable to pests and disease. Keep them on a cool, bright windowsill in a room with the radiators turned down and they should be fine.
Choosing the moment to finally plant out is a nail-biting business.
Too early and a sudden cold snap can spell disaster – too late and your windowsills will be over run with rapidly growing foliage.
You should try and ease the transition by hardening off the plants a little at a time.
Hardening off just means getting the plants used to the colder conditions outdoors a little at a time – a bit like getting yourself into an unheated swimming pool.