Sowing seeds patiently

Organic Gardening with Jim Bantoft 101041 b news
Organic Gardening with Jim Bantoft 101041 b news

LAST month the theme was caution and weighing up an early start. Peering into the sealed packs to assess how generous were the portions is one thing, but sowing in the face of a continued depressed soil temperature is quite another.

However, a level of 46F is enough for potato seed, and now it has reached 50F. The nights are bedevilled with near freezing levels, such that any seedlings in unheated houses, even with fleece protection, are hardly moving.

Until there are increasing optimum levels, helped by a warming shower, it is still best to delay most outdoor sowings, though parsnip seed is said to need an early start.

In the past this column has advised the use of vermiculite and sand to assist germination outdoors, but in the present drought conditions your seed beds in addition need a few days advance use of a coarse rose to raise moisture levels. Creating such ideal conditions is better caught than taught. Learn from your mistakes. A first covering of seed with a dry sieved fine mix is a helpful start, whilst a layer of fleece has many benefits.

After tamping down the row your soil should be sufficiently moist not to need any further use of the spray or the can. Organic gardeners almost welcome the chore of grass cutting since it brings both a mulch and a source of nitrogen to the garden. Any potato beds, vacant or planted should receive a “green rain” of this product, helpful too for the worms, who will draw it down.

The old caveat has to be repeated that anything contaminated by weed or moss-killer must be discarded. On the subject of weeds now is the time to hoe out the slender speedwell (veronica filiformis) whose blue flowers and persistent nature are well identified.

Those bright green, feathery, and toothed leaves probably belong to the common poppy (papaver rhoeas) a plant with a tenacious root that needs the deep attention of a strong trowel. Bulbs have benefitted from the bright days, but those in pots are running short of nutrients at a stage when next season’s bulbs are building. A liquid fertilizer will help, or just sprinkle on a quick-acting fertilizer, watered in.

We all understand how light is important for maturity and fruitfulness, but it is a beginner’s mistake to place newly pricked off or repotted plants into strong sunlight.

Any plant that has suffered major root disturbance must be carefully nursed and that means warmth, but in addition it means almost total shade. It is a lesson hard to accept, but observation shows that shade is almost a necessity for all plants, never mind those in the nursery stage.

Indeed, any plant in a high temperature and dazzling light will never mature since it is struggling to stay alive. I now have as a new gardening aid some sheets of stout cardboard which can be positioned for just the right amount of shade.

Do not be impervious to new plants and new ideas and keep young in your attitude to all facets of the garden. To this end go to a garden centre and buy a few container plants of something you have never tried.