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

The Greenhouse

I’m joining Helen at The Patient Gardener for her round-up of what’s happening in the greenhouse this month.

I posted about carrots grown in a pot in the greenhouse over winter here, we are now eating the crop and they are delicious.  I like carrots raw in salads and the purple ones I grew add an interesting colour.

The tomatoes are growing well, I am continuing with the on-going task of tying them to their canes.  As last year most plants I am allowing to grow three stems and the rest of the other side shoots I’m removing.  I may later try the off-shoots as cuttings (as recommended by Bob Flowerdew) and plant them up to produce new plants later in the season.  I’m not very sure of the timing for doing these so it will all be trial and error, has anyone else tried it?

We have had salad lettuce all winter and there are still some to harvest.  I have planted 3 melons and 3 yellow peppers in the back border but I’m concerned as there is a lot of roots from the Laylandii that have obviously been attracted by the irrigation tubes so that the soil in this border isn’t going to be as rich and moist as I would have liked.  I think I will have to put a membrane of some kind to stop the roots and maybe make this a slightly raised bed.

I germinated the seeds in the house as it was too hot for seed production.  There are some aquilegia from seed I collected from a plant in the garden and also some McKenna hybrids I bought.  The Achilea that germinated well are damping off; they were pricked out into my own compost which I fear is too rich for them, they need sharper drainage even at this stage.

I took sedum cuttings this week some leak and some stem cuttings (this site is great at explaining what you do), it is too soon to tell how well they will grow but I do remember my father taking leaf cuttings from a sedum plant of my great aunt and he was very successful.

A large empty pot contains Freesia corms that I’m very much hoping will grow to provide some perfumed cut flowers.

As soon as I put up the shade netting the temperatures dropped but even with the cold winds we are experiencing at the moment the temperature inside is comfortable warm.  I usually have the door open during the day and will soon, I hope, have it open at night too.

The broad beans I sowed in November are now cropping quite well. As I want the tomatoes to have more air and space I am harvesting by pulling up the whole plants.

Rainbow chard waiting to be planted out

Beautiful vegetable foliage counts for Garden bloggers Foliage Day on the  22nd, just leave a link with your comments on the GBFD post.