Browsing Tag

sowing seeds

Vegetable Garden

20 Tips to Help you in the Vegetable Garden

January 24, 2014
Grow Your Own Kale

Grow Your Own Kale

Very soon I’ll be returning to the community gardens projects I’m involved with and as the time gets closer, I’m feeling that familiar bubble of excitement.  The days are lengthening and the birds are beginning to chirp away in the hedgerows when the sun shines, reminding us that we will soon be enjoying another ‘grow your own’ year with friends and neighbours.

But wait. It’s still mid Winter. There’s not very much we can sow right now so what will we be doing? Over the coming weeks I’ll be guiding the groups through all the areas involved with growing vegetables. We’ll be looking at crop rotation, companion planting, moving compost heaps as well as washing down the polytunnels and cleaning the pots. We’ll be discussing what we would like to grow and eat, how we can continue to make the gardens more sustainable and how we can reach out to more people in the community and teach them the skills and many benefits of being involved with a community garden.

If your mind is beginning to wander to the growing year ahead, the following list may help you. I’ve collated some of the posts I’ve written over the past couple of years that might help you to practice patience, seed choice and care as well as tips on when and how to start sowing.

grow your own squash

grow your own squash

1. First things first, here’s a handy annual vegetable planner that will give you some idea of what needs to be sown when. Remember, if you live in a cool area, sow your seeds later than if you live in a warmer, sheltered one.

purple peas2. In the Monthly Jobs section there is a monthly guide on what you can be doing or planting now so take a look if you’re itching to get out on a sunny, warm day.

3. January/February are great months for sorting through your seed tins, checking what seeds you have and what to buy. Here’s a post that will help you figure out what seeds are viable – and how long you can expect them to last.

4. One of your goals this year might be to put up a greenhouse or polytunnel. This post will help you decide where to begin and this one asks the question about whether cheaper is better.

Runner Bean Seeds5. If you want to start sowing your seeds early and there are late frosts or snow forecast, this post describes planting under a cloche – it’s something we used to do a lot of before we put up the polytunnel in our own garden.

6. For the very impatient among us who are wondering exactly when it’s safe to sow our seeds for best results, you might find this post useful.

7. It’s vital that we look after our seeds to get the most from them. This post here will help you keep your seeds in tip-top condition.

8. When the sun comes out and the soil dries out a bit, I’ll be heading out to do some weeding. This article explains how to weed pernicious weeds without chemicals and this one gives 16 natural alternatives to weedkillers.

grow your own swiss chard

grow your own swiss chard

9. If this is the year you want to grow your own vegetables organically, here we look at exactly what it means to be organic.

10. When it comes to choosing the correct seeds for your plot, it helps to know what soil type you have. Here’s a fun experiment you can do at home.

11. Lots of seed packets will tell you it’s okay to sow parsnip seeds from February onwards. My experience was quite different.

12. Choosing what to grow and keeping tabs on it can be quite an art. I’ve found Pinterest to be very helpful.

grow your own potatoes13. If you like to grow potatoes, there’s a few posts to help you on the blog and in particular one written last year about choosing blight resistant potatoes and eradicating the need to spray against blight.

14. As the time comes, you may have a few questions on how to sow seeds. This post shares tips for sowing seeds in recycled containers as well as a YouTube clip with seed sowing instructions.

seedlings15. Once your seeds are sprouting, do you know how to identify them if your labels have fallen out of the tray? This post might help you.

16. If you’re new to growing vegetables you might find it quite expensive to begin with. Here’s ten steps to creating a budget garden.

17. Would you like more vegetables or herbs growing closer to your kitchen? Here’s some tips for container planting.

grow your own flowers and veg18. If you have a small space, there are certain considerations to get the best from your plot. This post helps you figure out what vegetables to grow in a small space.

19. If you don’t have a greenhouse or anywhere to start your seedlings off, a seed bed might be the answer for you.

20. Lastly and just for fun, here’s ten facts about our best friends – the earthworm.

There are many more posts on this blog to help you with your vegetable growing experience, as well as gardens to visit and our own growing experiences here in the Carlow hills. If you can’t find the answer to a vegetable growing question, leave a comment and perhaps I can address it in a post over the coming year.

So best of luck and here’s to a successful vegetable gardening year ahead!

Vegetable Garden

Starting Seeds Indoors : How do you know when it’s safe to sow?

January 15, 2012

How do you know when it’s safe to sow?

Seeds : How do you know when it's safe to sow?

You’ve made your lists, drawn out your crop rotation plans, have your seeds and compost ready, and before long you’ll be itching to start sowing seeds.The pressure builds as magazines and social media start to fill with stories of planting dates and there’s a noticeable jostle over who’s sowing seeds indoors when. Does that sound familiar? If you’re new to vegetable gardening beware, it soon will be and before you know it you’ll be sowing too and then wondering why your seedlings are seriously struggling or have died.

As such an avid social media user, last year I remember feeling a sense of panic that I’d left my sowing too late, yet it wasn’t even March! I know from experience that we can be three weeks behind the growing conditions of warmer gardens, but it was difficult not to feel left behind when being bombarded with everyone else’s reports.

Why is it important to sow seeds at the correct time (temperature)?

Seeds : How do you know when it's safe to sow?If you attempt to sow seeds below their preferred temperature, it can result in slow germination, seeds rotting, problems with plants developing and ultimately disease as they wont have started life with the best start.

Seeds need heat to germinate and the requirements vary from plant to plant.

For instance, the optimum temperature for climbing beans is 25°C but they will germinate between 15°C and 35°C. The optimum temperature for spinach is 10°C but they will germinate between 5°C and 30°C with less success.

How do you know when is the best time to sow seeds?

Seeds : How do you know when it's safe to sow?

Leggy seedlings sown too early with too little light

Part of being a successful gardener is learning to work with, understand and appreciate nature and her elements. That means noticing the wind directions and the signs of seasons changing, the fluctuations in temperature.

Keeping a diary of not only what and when you sow but weather conditions that can be referred back to will become an invaluable aid.

If you’re thinking of sowing seeds indoors that can be transplanted out as the temperatures rise, or plant seeds directly into the soil where they will germinate, you’ll need to have an idea of the soil temperature.

How do the guides work out the sowing dates?

We can roughly work out when the best sowing dates are using average temperatures from previous years. Having an idea of when the last frost date is in your area will help you to plan when to sow your seeds indoors, ready to be transplanted outside and hardened off once the soil temperature has warmed up.

Take runner beans for instance. You have two choices:

  1. Sow the beans directly into the soil once the soil temperatures have reached  a minimum of10-12°C for three days or more (between May and June, depending upon where you live), though ideally 15°C for optimum germination. NOTE: this is the easiest method! For us living here at 305m above sea level, I would be aiming for early to mid June however, if you live in a warm, sheltered area, mid May should work for you.
  2. Sow the beans in compost in modules ready to plant outside when soil temps are 10-12ºC or more.

Seeds : How do you know when it's safe to sow?Beans take between 7 – 14 days to germinate and you could allow approximately 3 – 4 weeks in the pots before transplanting outside.

As an example, if I’m looking at the calendar, aiming to plant my beans outside on 11th June, I would plan to plant them in pots during mid to end of April (keeping an eye out on long-range weather forecasts). This should also allow time to harden them off before planting i.e. acclimatising them to the outdoors gradually.

Seeds : How do you know when it's safe to sow?There’s no science here – most guides will suggest you sow runner beans between April and May.  The above was just a demonstration of how they arrive at that.

Where do I find the frost dates for my area?

In Ireland the most helpful resource I’ve found for frost dates are the reports published by Met Éireann that give 30 year average temperatures from 1961 to 1990. These can be used as a guide for the average number of (ground) frost days that occurred each month as well as minimum and maximum temperatures. Bare in mind that the weather conditions from your nearest weather station might not resemble those of your garden. In our case it can differ by up to 5ºC so again, keeping good records including temperatures might help you.

For more accurate current readings Met Éireann also publish daily records, those combined with the averages could give you a very clear sign of the final sowing dates.

If you want to be totally sure however, soil thermometers are readily available either online or from garden centres.

Whenever you choose to sow, it’s a good idea to start gathering resources in case of unexpected frosts that can either be used at the beginning of the year to protect sowings and seedlings, or at the end to protect from autumn frosts. Start stocking up on horticultural fleece, collect newspapers or pick up old net curtains from boot sales so that you can cover precious seedlings should a cold snap occur.

If you’re looking for a general guide of sowing and planting dates for Ireland and the UK, you can download a free, Greenside Up Annual Vegetable Planner here.

Do you begin the gardening year by sowing seeds inside or do you sow directly outside once the soil temperatures have warmed?