The Simple Things Gardening Editor, Cinead McTernan goes back to gardening school, with a course on sowing seeds. Read her top tips for healthy sowing and growing. No matter how many times I sow seeds nothing quite beats the buzz of seeing little green shoots as they start to germinate. The journey from seed to plant is like some form of alchemy and it still amazes me that in a matter of months these tiny things provide a season’s worth (or more) of foliage, flowers and crops.
If you’re new to growing, it’s a good idea to read up about sowing seeds or, better still, find a course that will take you through the basics and ensure you have success when it comes to growing your own plants.
I recently spent the most inspiring morning with garden writer Zia Allaway. She runs half day and day workshops from her Garden Room at her Hertfordshire home. She covers an interesting range of subjects from sowing to propagating, and from container growing to planning a veg garden.
I chose to brush up on my seed sowing techniques and though I’ve sown a fair few seeds in my time I picked up some clever tips that will ensure I get my seeds off to the very best start this year. Thanks to Zia I will try to be more vigilant when it comes to spotting the moment my seeds start to germinate when they’re in a propagator (or covered seed tray). Removing the plastic cover as soon as the green shoots appear will help prevent the dreaded damping off disease from killing-off a tray or pot of seedlings.
Knowledge is power as they say, and we spent an interesting hour or so going over the science behind seeds - why and how they grow. Zia believes that understanding the whole picture will give you useful pointers about how to look after your seedlings and plants when you start sowing yourself. It’s a great way to approach other aspects of gardening too - if you’re choosing a new plant, knowing where it originally came from indicates where it will grow best in your own garden: If a plant is used to the dry hot Mediterranean conditions found in its native habitat, chances are it won’t be very happy in a damp, woodland area.
The other great thing about gardening courses is that you have the chance to get your hands dirty. After coffee and cake Zia took us through sowing dahlia seeds and pricking out dahlia seedlings. Not only great fun, it helped boost confidence levels for those attendees that weren’t familiar with the techniques. I found it thoroughly inspiring and a morning spent talking seeds with Zia prompted me to do another round of seed-ordering when I got home that afternoon. It also sowed the seeds of an idea to grow extra plants to sell on my doorstep!