Plants you can sow now to en­sure a long flow­er­ing sea­son

Amateur Gardening - - Contents -

THE days are (at last) start­ing to get a lit­tle longer, but who knows what the weather’s go­ing to be like this month. Think­ing about seed sow­ing might seem a bit of a gam­ble, but it’s an in­escapable fact that some flow­ers – some veg, too – take time. That’s time to ger­mi­nate, time to grow and time to de­velop be­fore flow­er­ing or crop­ping. And sow­ing seeds in Jan­uary will re­ally help you get ahead of the sea­sons.

Cer­tain seeds – be­go­nias and pelargo­ni­ums, for ex­am­ple – can be sown in a heated prop­a­ga­tor in a green­house, in a con­ser­va­tory or on the win­dowsill this month. Plants with small seeds, in­clud­ing be­go­nias and lo­belias, ger­mi­nate into tiny seedlings and take many weeks – months even – longer to ma­ture than large-seeded marigolds and cal­en­du­las, for ex­am­ple. Start­ing early gives them the head start they need.

Peren­ni­als tend to have a long de­vel­op­ment pe­riod, and by get­ting them started sooner rather than later you will help en­sure that they flower in their first year. In fact, many peren­nial plants flagged as ‘first-year flow­er­ing’ will only flower in their first year if sown early.

There are also early ris­ers that don’t need any ex­tra heat. Chard or let­tuce, for ex­am­ple, re­quire noth­ing more than a clear lid to keep the sun’s warmth in and the chills out, while some seeds can be sown in open pots on the bench in a cold green­house. Radishes can be sown in the green­house bor­der.

If you didn’t get around to do­ing it in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber, sweet peas are happy to be sown in Jan­uary. Per­son­ally, I wouldn’t sow them out­side this month, but the lit­tle ex­tra pro­tec­tion of a cold green­house is all they need. Mean­while, pul­satil­las and other alpines can be left out­side, as win­ter cold is one of the fac­tors that pro­motes ger­mi­na­tion.

The one thing all these seeds needs is good light. Make sure the green­house or con­ser­va­tory glass is newly cleaned – the prop­a­ga­tor lid, too. If you’re us­ing a win­dowsill, clean the win­dow in­side and out. Poor light will en­cour­age soft, stretched stems that in­vite dis­ease.

Damp­ing-off dis­ease is the big­gest dan­ger, which rots seedling roots at soil level. Pre­ven­tion is the only cure and clean­li­ness is cru­cial. Use small pots or cells so that any in­fec­tion is re­stricted. Don’t over­wa­ter and never use wa­ter from wa­ter butts – it’s tap wa­ter only for seedlings.

I won’t pre­tend that early sow­ing is as sim­ple as sow­ing in March or April, but the ex­tra at­ten­tion it takes is a small price to pay for the re­sults.

Early sow­ing pays div­i­dends for the likes of del­phini­ums, echi­nacea and an­tir­rhinums. If sown this month, they will flower their hearts out this sum­mer

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