The recent history of my seed sowing is not a traditional gardeners tip more a recollection of my own gardening method or lack thereof. These seed sowing stories are neither best practice nor a road to success.
Allium Seedhead ready to Harvest
Sources of my seeds
I don’t like waste so I collect a lot of seed from existing plants. Sweet peas, poppies, calendula, aquliegia and legumes feature regularly. I have had recent success with growing yellow tree peony lutea from seeds. I used to collect wild seeds when on holiday or where I thought I could get away with doing so.
I buy more seed than I need or ever convert into plants. Salad and vegetable seed is usually a considered purchase as a result of previous success or catalogue recommendations. I am an impulse buyer of other seeds often for experiments or to try new flowers. I buy gardening magazines that have free seed packets on the cover.
I obtain seed from societies such as the RHS, cyclamen or alpine seed schemes. I haven’t found anyone local with whom to swap seeds.
Old stock of previous seasons remnant seeds (kept in an airtight tin) last longer than expected particularly tomato and salad crops. I don’t worry about fertility, if they germinate it is a bonus.
I suppose my garden benefits most from self seeders although many are weeds or unwanted specimens.
Reasons For Seed Sowing
My prime seed sowing is for vegetables.
Flower sowing is usually to meet an aspiration for shock and awe from the results. Seldom achieved but fun to attempt.
Some I sow intending to obtain more cut flowers but only really successfully with sweet peas which I recommend as well worth the effort.
I silly reason for buying them is because they are cheap. A local garden center treats them as a loss leader and all year they are 50% of the packet price. I buy more than I need and sow wastefully. I did well this year on a variety pack of sunflowers.
If I want perennials or gap fillers like Lupins I will try seed even though it may work out more economical to buy plants.
I have just returned from Ilkley Moor (and I wasn’t courting Mary Jane). I was tramping through shoulder high bracken that was thriving after the recent rain and the lack of competition at lower levels. Bracken are a coarse fern noted for their large, highly divided leaves (ferns on the other hand only have two divisions per leaf to create the arching fronds).
Bracken spreads by means of underground roots that pop up new fronds and from spores. Living near the moor I have several uninvited clumps in the garden. This type of encroachment is damaging for farmers and allotments and one of several problems of bracken. It is poisonous to humans plus most animals and can be a host for ticks. So I think that answers the question and it should be hardy ferns for your garden!
Ferns for ‘where the sun seldom shines’ grow in 10,000 species of which only 50 are hardy in the UK. Species of different sizes, shapes and colours can be grown together. Give each enough space so the fronds do not overlap. Spleenworts or Asplenium are related to hartstongue ferns
I have been reading the Penguin Encyclopedia of Gardening which aims to provide ‘….an explanation of words used in a technical sense in a horticultural context in the UK and USA.’ Set out as an A to Z this resulting post, missing a thousand definitions, is unlikely to rank highly with search engines.
The separation of a leaf or fruit from it’s stem. Most notable as a deciduous tree sheds its leaves in autumn. Two layers of cells are formed to facilitate this process, an abscission layer and a corky tissue layer. The corky layer cuts off the food supply to the fruit or leaf and protects the the wound formed when the drop occurs.
A botanical term referring to a flower having floral parts that are capable of division into essentially symmetrical halves by only one vertical or longitudinal plane passing through the axis. Examples include Peas , Snapdragons and Orchids.
The biggest butterfly in my garden is undoubtedly me the gardener. Whilst working on the beds or landscape I can flit from task to task or pause and forget what I intended doing. Even with ‘to do’ lists at the starts of the day I complete very few and add on many supplementary things instead. The garden’s requirements take precedent as I flit about with spade or watering can but I also ‘butterfly’ in another key direction.
Over the years my preference for plant or species come in and out of fashion and I favour certain groups for a few seasons and then move on or more specifically move off. I think of these as my specialties but in truth I don’t specialise and never really learn or attain the best results before changing. It is more a case of the garden will be greener and my horticultural pleasure multiplied by variety and change.
Flitting about in this manner has led me to collect books on specific species in a vain attempt to excel. To this end I often join a specialist society for a period of time that currently includes; the National Auricular and Primula, Cactus, Cyclamen, as well as RHS and AGS (alpine garden society). Added to this are my memberships of local clubs and societies where my enthusiasm last for about 5 years before I move on.
Current and Past Specialties
Rhododendron and deciduous Azaleas
Patio and miniature Roses and Rambler varieties.
Carnations and Dianthus
Primroses and Polyanthus
Daisy Compositae family of 30,000+ species
Soft fruit and apple trees
Shorter lived interest in Heuchera, Ivyies, African violets, Cistus,
It has taken 7 years to get a good crop of blueberries from my plants in a 12″ pot. See my earlier more detailed blueberry GTips from 2014. Now with the benefit of experience a good crop looks likely. The yield has increased annually but for soft fruit and my blueberries in particular 2021 looks the best yet.
Three Best Tips
Blueberries love a moist soil and plenty to drink. I put Strulch around the plants to retain moisture and water regularly. If using tap water rather than rain water I add some ericaceous feed.
I planted two varieties in the same pot which helps fertilisation. One was a smaller weaker variety.
The pot is now in a sunny sheltered position. The fruit grows on old and new wood so I only trim rather than prune
Repeated below is our post from 2009 when I first reported on the water loving skunk cabbage. In 2021 the RHS have decided that the proliferation of this plant is endangering native species and they should not be grown in the UK. The RHS say ‘after flowering seed heads should be cut off and burnt’ this should help the spread of the rouge amongst our aquatic plants in areas such as the Wye Valley and Lake District.
If you followed our tip to grow this plant I leave it to you what you may wish to do. I am not changing my mind as it is not yet a plant on the banned list under Schedule 9 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act
‘American Skunk Cabbage Lysichiton americanus is planted in groups along the streamside at the Valley Garden Harrogate. Over the years the plants have seeded themselves freely and now make a fantastic display covering the full length of the stream and beyond. The yellow flame-shaped flowers really called spathes, are 18 inches high and look magnificent reflected in the water in April and May. Then the flowers are followed by enormous paddle-shaped, leathery green leaves which remain until dieing back in autumn. Lysichiton camschatcensis has a hypnotic white spathe and lime green flowering head and a cross between the two species produces a cream spathe (I like to call a spathe a spathe). This spathe surrounds a cigar shaped stem called the spadix which bears many small, bisexual green flowers. …
I am moving away from plastic nets particularly the fine thin green version sold by some retailers. They break after one season, become brittle and inevitably end up in landfill or worse.
This season I favour chicken wire either galvanised or coated mesh. I have strung a 6 foot length between two stout metal poles. The poles have been fed through the holes at the edge every 6 inches or so. Thus I have a wall of netting for my sweetpeas to climb up.
Rather than use netting on softfruit I intend using horticultural fleece as a temorary covering because I hve a surplus of fleece and it deteriorates if kept to long.
Wire mesh can be adapted as a coarse sieve used on my home made compost.
Whilst not true netting I use wire frames for bird feed holders. I have a couple for suit blocks and seed balls.
original post on garden products April 2011
‘Netting can be very useful in the garden and there is usually one or more types for each particular application.
Climbers like Sweet Peas need something to cling on to as they grow. You can cut off the tendrils and tie the stems to a cane but that is labour intensive. I prefer to use a very open green plastic net. It is about the cheapest you can buy and if you throw it away at the end of the year it will have done its job.
For runner beans and climbing beans I use stronger plastic net also with a wide open mesh and strong poles. Again it is still cheap as a form of netting.
For protecting soft fruit like strawberries or building a fruit cage you need knotted netting also called mesh knotted netting. This is strong enough to keep out the birds. The mesh varies from 7mm squares to 18mm diamonds. The smaller gauge keeps out moths and butterflies and the wider for pigeons and small birds.
For herons over your pond a wider mesh of 45mm will not spoil the appearance.
Insect mesh netting is finer and more akin to fleece. It can deter carrot fly, cabbage root fly and caterpillars whilst giving a modest amount of shade.
Wind break or shade nets are made from higher density polypropylene.
Pond nets for leaves and debris can also protect your goldfish. A fishing line strung across the edge of ponds may deter cats and other creatures.’
Seed sowing reaches its height in the middle of April. It is worth looking at the labour saving devices that were not available to our parents and grandparents.
Seed Tray Review
Old wooden seed trays with slats and high sides are still in use. They need care when cleaning before new crops are sown.
Plastic seed trays from rigid polypropylene with drainage holes can be used time and again and are easy to store and clean. There is generally a pattern of ridges to improve drainage.
I like to use the thin plastic segmented inserts inside a normal seed tray like those in the photograph.
They are cheap enough to be disposable but last a couple of seasons with care.
They vary in the number of cells, 3×5, 8×5 or 4×6 for example.
Each cell can be for individual seeds or used for several fine seeds. It makes pricking out and planting far easier.
The cells can also be used for growing on after pricking out. 15 or 24 good plants can be raised in one tray.
Do not put plastic inserts in a tray without drainage holes or the compost may get water logged.
Seed trays can be used to hold individual pots in one place. Up to 15 square 3″ pots can be put in one tray and they are a bit deeper than a standard tray.
Seed Tray Tips
Take care when watering to get all the area damp. Be careful with small cells and those near to the drying sun.
Label your seed sowing with the date and type of seed sown.
Sterilise your used seed trays in Jeys fluid or similar
To water from the bottom fill a larger container and stand the tray in the water until enough has been taken up.
Do not leave seedlings too long before pricking out. Long roots soon become stunted.
Carefully push out the cell contents from the bottom if using this product.
2021 Experience So Far
I vowed to sow fewer seed packets this year as pricking out then fills all the available warm space before the frost goes. Instead I have filled seed trays and 7cm pots with cuttings and bought in seedlings, so my space problem remains.
The square 7cm pots fit together in a seed tray for watering and carrying (but I always end up tipping some out by accident).
I did provide bottom heat for those seeds I have sown except lettuce. This has helped germination but regrettably not for tomatoes.
I stand some seed trays on wicking fabric to benefit from capillary action when watering from the bottom.
I have managed to get more seed trays in my greenhouse so all is not bad news despite the weather.
There is still time to use the seed trays for annuals and other seeds like wallflowers which await my attention.
Winter quarters on garage windowsill. Short of light but a warm sand based seed bed
Early protection in the bagging area.
Tulips do not mind the cold snap we have experienced during April but the greenhouse appreciated the bubble wrap
There is a great variety of tulips on show at the moment
Rhododendrons were decimated by the cold snap – still I hope for better next year – third time lucky after last years frost.
I treated myself to a Knaphill Azalea’Viscosa’ a white thjat will flower after our northern frosts.
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