SPRING is approaching, the season for sowing.
Many gardening jobs can either be put off or done when the spirit moves you but sowing isn't one of them, as any farmer would tell you.
For gardeners, the window between late winter and early summer is small.
Don't let anything distract you, remember Murphy's Gardening Law: whenever you set out to do an important gardening job, another gardening job needs doing first.
Luckily sowing is the ideal lockdown activity, it takes time and patience and requires you to be around to water and generally oversee your seeds through their first anxious weeks of life.
Seeds can be sown in the open ground or in trays or punnets. I have more or less given up the open ground, even though seed packets recommend it for many seeds.
It's awkward having to scrape mulch away and seeds are exposed to birds and weather. Worst of all, my seeds - last autumn's poppies spring to mind - usually come up in crowded clumps, interspersed with irritating, weed-attracting bare patches.
Far easier to sow everything into a sterile seed raising mix in a tray with drainage holes in the base. Until seedlings are planted out they are safer under cover, in a well-lit shed or a zip-up plastic cupboard with wire shelves and a tap within easy reach.
As well as trays and/or punnets, you'll need a small, pointed stick called a dibber, available with all-important labels and pencil from around $4 a pack, and a watering can or hose attachment with an extra fine spray.
Before you start sowing, read the directions on the packet, especially regarding sowing times. Discard biennials like foxgloves, honesty and stocks that are better sown in autumn.
Sort what's left into flowers, herbs, vegetables and any oddments saved over the last year. Then look at your individual seeds: the bigger the seed, the easier to handle. For example, you can sow sweet peas and nasturtiums in punnets but fine seed like parsley needs to be sown in a tray and pricked out before final planting, either in the garden or a pot near the back door.
Never sow seeds too deeply. Sow at their own depth and firm down, seeds need light to germinate.
Seedlings take about seven weeks from sowing to planting out, so count backwards from when you can expect your last frost. The higher you live on the ranges the later this will be.
Seedlings from fine seed need either thinning or pricking out into punnets or another tray before final planting in the garden, to give their roots plenty of room to develop.
Watch seeds closely until they produce two ears. Then take one ear and gently lift the seedling with the help of your dibber. Drop into its new hole and firm down (also gently).
I love sowing seeds.
Watching them come to life is mysterious yet uniquely rewarding, one of the deepest gardening pleasures I know.
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