Greenhouse – Sowing begins!

The wind is howling and the temperatures are falling; I just checked the forecast and terrifyingly we are threatened with temperatures falling to minus 5°C for the next two days and remaining cold for at least the next week.

Certainly it isn’t the time to be out in the garden but it is relatively warmer in the greenhouse and seed sowing has already begun to supply plants for the vegetable and cuttings garden for the summer to come.  Last year I sowed some seeds in the early autumn but the plants grew too quickly and were leggy by the time they were planted out.  There are some plants that I will sow later this year because I discovered they need more heat to grow strongly.  Zinnias, although I can’t complain about the crop would benefit from a later sowing so I’ll sow those in early spring. Continue reading

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Seed sowing and the greenhouse

The greenhouse was delivered in March 2011 and so was too late to be used for sowing seeds that year.  I also needed to know how hot it would become in summer and if it could be used at all for summer crops.

Last year I sowed some seed but I started most indoors on a windowsill but then had to go away so they didn’t do very well as they didn’t receive enough light and I switched the propagator off worried about it starting a fire or just cooking the seeds.  I succeeded with sweetcorn (but they didn’t receive enough water when they were planted out so the crop wasn’t as good as other years.  To be honest my local supplier has a huge range of small plants ready to plant out in trays of 4, 6, or 12 (depending on type) and that is really about the right number for me to plant.  They are usually about a Euro and a pack of seed costs a lot more than that!  The only issue is that sometimes the trays aren’t named correctly; two years ago I ended up with a lot of tomatoes all of the same type when I had thought I was buying different varieties.  There is also sometimes quite a variation in the quality of the plants, which makes me think that many are grown from saved seeds rather than quality seed.

Italian gardeners don’t always want to grow the same vegetables that I do so those I have to grow from seed.  Sweetcorn comes into this category – here it is corn (not sweet) and grown as an animal feed, using vast amounts of water too, which never seems very environmentally correct.

This year I have started with more purpose!

I began on January 19th mainly because my Italian gardening magazine suggested that this was the best day for sowing Aubergines according to the moon. I sowed the following: Verbena ibrida, Nigella African Bride, Aubergine small round Vietnamese seed, Scabious, Suttons mixed, Broad beans, Coriander, Scabious Perfect Blue, Sweet Pea Beaujolais, Pepper New Ace, Pepper Beauty Bell.  All except the sweet peas went onto a propagating tray at 20°C.  But I didn’t use the greenhouse! I thought the great differences from day to night time temperatures might prove a problem so I’ve placed a seed tray stand in the spare bathroom on the third floor of our house.  This is giving me some extra exercise as the stairs in the house are all very steep!  The peppers and baby aubergines germinated in 11 days as did both varieties of Scabious; the broad beans were quicker at 9 days and the others are yet to germinate.

From the left, peppers, peppers,scabious blue, Scabious mixed, and Aubergine marble sized for Thai cookery

From the left, peppers, peppers,scabious blue, Scabious mixed, and Aubergine marble sized for Thai cookery

I sowed a lot of the small aubergines as the seed came from Vietnam and I was unsure of how viable it would be.  I will have to be very strong willed and only pick out the strongest seedlings.

The seeds are germinating quickly (I sowed the following on January 31st: Aubergine, long thin, Vietnamese, Leeks, lungo della Riviera, Helianthemum, rock rose, Digitalis ferruginea, Aubergine, White Egg French, Aubergine Round white flushed pink, French, Aubergine Loa Lavender, French, Clemone Pink Whiskers, Orange scented Thyme, Spinach, Pak Choi Red, Jekka’s Herb Farm, Sweet Marjoram, Monarda Bergamo). Of which the red Pak Choi from Jekka McVicar germinated in TWO days!

As I removed them from the heated tray and placed them into unheated covered seed-trays I found they were all bending towards the light coming from a north facing window – what to do?  I remembered that Janet at Plantalicious had rigged up a board using, I think, foil to throw the light back from the other side.  I did the same and so far this is working well.

Foil covered cardboard is working but I need to add more for the top shelf

Foil covered cardboard is working but I need to add more for the top shelf

I have already put the Pak Choi into the green house but without a cover as I am concerned that during the day the temperatures can rise.  After being badly organised for some time there is now a Max. – Min. thermometer in the green house.  I have been taking daily readings.  My fears about the variations in temperature are well founded, on Monday (February 4th) the daytime high was 39.7°C (yes that is nearly 40°C! and the night-time low on Sunday night was less than one degree, 0.9°C to be exact.  I don’t know how anything is surviving those kinds of temperature variations, but all the cuttings and small plants seem to be Okay.

Broadbeans are now in the greenhouse

Broadbeans are now in the greenhouse

I sowed the following 3rd February: Pak Choi green, Lettuce, Oak Leaf, Lettuce, Red Romaine, Parsley, Peppers d’Asti.  The Pac Choi has already germinated as has the Romaine lettuce. So I can look forward to some hours of pricking out as soon as the first true leaves have formed!

View of shelving in the greenhouse

View of shelving in the greenhouse