Growing from seed – starting your plants the easy way

Growing from seed – starting your plants the easy way

Even if you have good soil that’s suitable for sowing seed directly into, very young seedlings are vulnerable. Slugs, snails, birds and rabbits are all looking for a tasty spring snack. Of course you can protect them with netting or mesh, but often they emerge when you are not around and some pests get through those defences anyway. In many cases it is much safer to start seeds in trays, pots or cell trays where you can protect them in the early stages. Also you can start them indoors on a windowsill, in the greenhouse or conservatory or in a frame outside. Here a higher temperature encourages faster germination and a flying start.


Even if you have good soil that’s suitable for sowing seed directly into, very young seedlings are vulnerable. Slugs, snails, birds and rabbits are all looking for a tasty spring snack. Of course you can protect them with netting or mesh, but often they emerge when you are not around and some pests get through those defences anyway. In many cases it is much safer to start seeds in trays, pots or cell trays where you can protect them in the early stages. Also you can start them indoors on a windowsill, in the greenhouse or conservatory or in a frame outside. Here a higher temperature encourages faster germination and a flying start.


1 Snail and lettuce seedlings


Traditionally most seeds were sown in seed trays and then pricked out into pots, or in some cases into the open ground. As a boy I remember sowing broad beans into deep wooden boxes – spacing the seeds a few centimetres (a couple of inches) apart. These were kept in the greenhouse until they were 10cm (3ins) high and then you dug them out of the box with a trowel or your fingers and planted them out.


2 pricking out 2


This worked fine, but there was always a transplanting check when they were planted out. In the process delicate young roots were damaged and these had to re-grow before the plants could get underway. This is true with anything you prick out and it’s a fiddly process. If you are going to do it then you need a steady hand and it is important to only handle the seedlings by the seed leaves, never the tender stems. Leaves can regrow- the stems cannot.


Then advent of peat pots meant you could start your seeds in individual pots without pricking out.  These were pots in a variety of shapes and sizes made from compressed peat.  They enabled you to sow individual or small numbers of seeds in pots, get them growing and then plant them out complete with pot without disturbing the roots: so no transplanting check. This type of pot used for seed sowing and rooting cuttings has stood the test of time. Today however Vitapots are made organic wood pulp, recycled paper, textile fibres and pure bitumen: completely peat free.


4 Sowing courgettes


Vitapots from Vitax help to create strong, vigorous root systems. They encourage fast growth by keeping roots moist and warmer than conventional plastic pots. Even outside or in a cold frame they insulate roots well early in the season giving some protection from frost.  Like peat pots they are fully biodegradable and can be planted with the plant thus avoiding root disturbance.  You can easily tell when the root system is well developed and the plant is ready for planting out because those young roots grow through the sides of the Vitapot.


5 Rooting through


In the early stages after sowing Vitapots can be packed tightly together in drip trays. Their flexible walls mean they are economical on space and help to keep each other moist.  They do however remain strong enough to handle, even when wet and they won’t disintegrate when you handle them.


Cleanliness is vital when growing from seed. Dirty pots can harbour fungal disease, insect eggs and harmful bacteria.  Using Vitapots, which are completely sterile, means that you do not need to be careful about pot washing. It really is important however that you use fresh seed compost or multi-purpose compost that is suitable for seed sowing.  This is particularly true when sowing smaller seeds such as lettuce and tomatoes. But even larger seeds like broad beans fail to make a good root system in most multi-purpose composts with a high proportion of peat substitute.


6 Broad beans germinating


Of course there is a choice of a range of different shapes and sizes. The larger the pot, the more compost it holds so the longer the plant will be happy growing in it before it is planted out. The deeper pots are particularly suitable for sowing tap-rooted subjects such as broad beans, runner beans, peas and sweet peas. In the case of the larger beans I would only sow one seed per pot; the same is true of courgettes.  We used to sow a couple of courgettes or marrows together and weed out the weaker seedling. This is no longer necessary and is wasteful when seed is expensive and germination quality is good.


10 Vitapots 8 Sowing peas


I start my mange tout and sugar snap peas indoors and plant them out as soon as the true leaves have fully opened.  I would choose the deep pots and sow three seeds per pot spaced 3cm (1ins) apart. These will grow together as one plant and I can position them with the supports accordingly.  I usually sow a few seeds directly into the ground too – but those grown in the Vitapots will develop faster and crop earlier.


9 Mange tout peas


Check out the Vitax GardenWorld website for more growing tips and information about biodegradable gardening products.


 

 


My-garden-school-advert-3 (1)