Garden update Monday 4th March

We’ve certainly had a bit of everything weather wise in the last week! From almost summer-like temperatures to lashing rain and wind! Meteorologically, 1st March was the first day of spring, however if you follow the equinox phases then you will have to wait until 21st March to call it spring. Whatever you call it, we are entering one of the busiest times of years for gardeners.

What’s growing indoors?

Nonetheless, things are growing. Chits are chitting, nature is just getting on with it.

Chitting potaties
Chitting potatoes var. Vivaldi

The first tomatoes to germinate were, once again, Orange Paruche. They made an appearance after just five days! Out of all the tomatoes I have grown these have always been the first and most reliable to germinate.

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings var. Orange Paruche (left) and Gardeners Delight (right)

I invested in a propagator a couple of years ago, hopefully it will last for years and years. Mine is a fair size, similar to an A3 sheet of paper, but you can get small ones very inexpensively on Amazon. Here is mine.

Another very useful item is a light box. This is basically a cardboard box lined with tin foil, which helps to reflect light back onto your seedlings. I also invested in a grow light. This is a light that emits frequencies that plants respond to, which is red and blue wavelengths. They can also be called full spectrum lights. Again, you can source these quite inexpensively, like these.

On a budget?

If you cannot stretch to a propagator or grow light you can still grow successfully without them. A sunny windowsill is perfect. Using your light box to reflect light onto the seedlings by placing it behind them will throw a bit more light back onto them. This will help stop them from leaning towards into the natural light. Turning the seedlings around periodically will also help this.

Another method is to place a piece of plain white paper behind your seedlings to reflect light. I have a project to show you soon, on how to make paper light boxes.

What’s growing outside?

The onions and garlic are still growing well. I can see the stems on the garlic are thickening, to about the size of a pencil. They still have three or four months to grow so I am hopeful for my best crop ever.

In the greenhouse, sweet peas and pak choi are doing very well. The pak choi will be pricked out (put into their own individual pots to grow on) any time now. All of them have thrown down roots to the bottom of the cardboard tubes which is very encouraging.

Pak Choi seedlings
Pak Choi seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings

What else am I doing?

This month I will be sowing a huge amount of seeds, both vegetables and flowers. Indoors and in the greenhouse, and also direct. Lots of preparations have been made, with more to do. The cold frame has been taken out of its winter home in the greenhouse and placed on the plot. The fruit bushes have been pruned and mulched. The rhubarb has been repotted into a bigger pot and fed with chicken manure pellets. My instagram feed shows you more of the day to day stuff I am up to. Be sure to follow me for more!

Next…to pot on the tomato seedlings, for the second stage of their development.

What are your plans for mad March?

Peppers and tomatoes – time to sow

It’s time to sow the sweet peppers and tomatoes. Here’s how I do it.

I love, love, love sweet red peppers! And love, love, love cherry tomatoes. I can eat them like sweets. Picking them off the plant, warm from the sun, and popping them in my mouth is just the best!

However, we need plants first. If you have a propagator, now is the time to clean it up, and switch it on to warm up ready for your seeds. If you don’t have a propagator do not worry, you can make a suitable environment very easily.

Sweet peppers

Sweet pepper seeds ready to sow
Sweet pepper seeds var. Dulce de Espana

The seeds are easy to handle, so you can sow exactly how many you need. This variety is Dulce de Espana, a long, red, sweet pepper, similar to the Romano ones you see in the shops.

First of all, prepare a container with some multi purpose compost. Add some perlite if you have it, don’t worry if not. Fluff up the compost a bit to get out any large lumps. I have some small reusable seed trays, but you could use a yogurt pot, for example. Just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.

I should explain, perlite is a white gritty substance which can be added to compost to open up the texture. It aids drainage so the seedlings don’t become too wet.

Seed tray ready for pepper seeds
Seed tray with perlite and compost mix

Ready to sow

Flatten the surface of the compost with the bottom of another container, piece of card, whatever flat surface comes to hand. Spray the compost with a water sprayer so it is slightly damp,not wet. A very fine watering can rose is a good alternative.

Place a few seeds on the surface, a couple of centimetres (1/2 to 1 inch) apart. I cover mine with a sprinkling of vermiculite but you can also just use a sprinkling of compost.

Vermiculite is a product that helps to retain water and lets in light. It is very useful at seed sowing time. I spray water on the vermiculite to ensure it all comes into contact with the seeds nicely. Also, vermiculite is extremely light and this will help keep it in place.

Pepper seeds on the surface
Seeds on the surface
Seed covered and labelled
Seed covered and labelled

Now, if you have a propagator, place the seeds in there. They like temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees to germinate.

If you don’t have a propagator, you can place your container inside a small, clear plastic bag and tie it closed. Place it somewhere warm and light. I used to place mine on top of the fridge in the kitchen. Always warm and light, just like a propagator. Check them daily and once you see the first sprouts, remove the bag or take out of the propagator to grow on somewhere light but slightly cooler.

Pepper seeds in the propagator
Peppers and tomatoes on the right, flowers on the left

What about tomatoes and chillies?

So, I follow exactly the same process for tomatoes as the conditions they need are more or less the same. If you want to grow hot chillies, again the process is the same. All plants like heat once they are established, so if you don’t have a greenhouse, grow your peppers and chillies indoors. Most tomatoes can be grown outdoors, however I found I had better harvests from the tomatoes that grew in the greenhouse.

Do you have any questions or any hot tips on peppers, chillies and tomatoes?