On the warm days it seems as if I’ll never be ready for spring and on the cold days it seems as if spring will never be here. I started sowing some seeds outside in August but they’ll germinate more quickly now.
Prepare the soil
Aerate, weed, cultivate and gently smooth the soil for your seed bed. Top it off with a 1cm (half inch) layer of potting compost. It supresses weeds, gives a good medium for the germinating seeds and won’t dry out to a hard crust.
Work out how far apart you want your plants to be
I always sow seeds in a grid (not rows). Mark out a square foot (30cm x 30cm) and decide how many plants will fit in it – one cabbage or potato, four lettuces (2 x 2), nine onions (3 x 3), sixteen beetroots (4 x 4), twenty five carrots (5 x 5). You can work out spacings from the seed packet – add the row and plant spacing together and divide by two. Round down rather than up.
Mark out the sowing positions
Make a small indentation with a stick (about 1/2 cm deep) in the potting compost where you want each plant (one, four, nine, sixteen or twenty five per square).
Sow individual seeds
Sow one or two seeds in each position. Tap them carefully from the packet. Even for tiny seeds like carrots you can sow a square very quickly. More vigorous seedlings and less thinning are worth the extra time.
Label and protect your seeds
Put a label in with the variety and date next to where you’ve sown them. Mark out the area if you might forget where it is and use fleece, windbreak or a cloche to keep out birds, cats and other potential pests.
Seed beds may need watering every day if it’s dry and windy. You’ve got to keep them moist until the seeds have germinated. Covering with fleece or shade cloth reduces drying and you can water through it.
You may have some gaps where seeds don’t germinate or some double seedlings. Try to pinch off the extras at soil-level rather than pulling them out as you can easily disturb the seedling you want to keep. If you’ve sown carefully there should be little thinning to do.
Unless it rains, water the seedlings regularly and keep an eye out for pests, particularly slugs and snails.