"January may not be the most productive month for the veg grower but if you’re itching to get 2013 off to a green fingered flying start then now is the perfect time for sowing leeks and onions indoors. Here’s our guide on how to begin…
"It may seem like a faff to fiddle around with allium seeds when we’re still pulling up last year’s leeks but growing them from seed is remarkably easy – even if, like us, you don’t have a greenhouse or propagator.
"Onion and leek seeds are dirt cheap and a single pack should contain more than enough for one season. There are a wide range of varieties to choose from which, along with price, gives onion seeds in particular an advantage over the more familiar ‘sets’ (pre grown bulbs stopped mid-growth which can go straight into the ground).
"To give your seeds the best chance of germination fill a tray or modules with seed compost and liberally sprinkle the tiny seeds on top. Cover with a thin layer of fine compost and gently pat down before watering. The trays then need to be enclosed in clear plastic to keep in the warmth and moisture – either seal in a plastic bag or wrap in cling film. Place your sown seeds somewhere with consistent warmth, for example an airing cupboard, on top of the fridge-freezer, or on a draught-free windowsill. Only water again if the compost dries out.
"When the first green shoots appear they need maximum light, so move to the windowsill if not already there. The cling film can come off, more frequent watering can begin and you’ll need to regularly rotate the tray so the seedlings don’t lean towards the sun in the same direction. If they shoot up and get straggly by all means keep them in check with a pair of scissors to around three inches tall – this will have the added benefit of focusing growing power towards the bulbs.
"From here on it it’s standard practice for veg seedlings – move to bigger pots when strong enough to handle, then gradually acclimatise them to outdoor conditions (hardening off) a week before planting out, following the timing guidelines outlined on the seed packet."
"This year, we're also trying our first sowing of seeds for the unusual 'Egyptian walking onion' which you can read about here."
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