As February approaches - it’s time to think about sowing your seeds in time for Spring. You’ll need to start now, even when it’s cold outside.
When Does Spring Begin?
According to the Gaelic calendar, Spring actually starts in February. So you’ll begin to see the buds sprouting on shrubbery and the trees at this time of year, and there will be more light and longer days for growing.
However, we associate Spring in meteorological terms with March 1st. Either way, you’ll want to see some flowers or early vegetable growth when the weather brightens by Easter. Best to get started now. How? Time to germinate indoors, of course!
Let’s take a look at how you can make this happen.
There are many ways to look at this. But, of course, it depends on how you want your garden to grow!
Why Plant Seeds Indoors?
- Seeds may be too small and be washed away in sudden wintery storms and rain
- Protect seeds from hungry birds looking for anything to feed on in winter
- Protect seedlings from spring frost
- Some seeds just won't’ tolerate the cold
- Extend the growing season. Some plant seeds will not grow to fruition in time for summer if left to germinate outside during an icy spring or summer - so give them a head start with a longer growing season. Plants like tomatoes may not ripen in time in the Irish summer
- Some vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, take a long time to mature from seeds, so they need all the growing time they can get
- Some plants like Radicchio may prefer cooler weather
Germinating Seeds for Growing Fruit and Vegetables
Getting your vegetable garden ready for the full blast of spring growth starts now. It helps to have a more robust seedling and not to waste your seeds by protecting them from the elements.
Here are some vegetable varieties you could start with now.
- Castor Beans
Growing Flowers From Seed
You may want a ready supply of lovely blooms for your window boxes or beds out front or along the driveway when the weather grows milder. Your early flowers will also be great for feeding the pollinators at the start of the season - another reason to do it!
Here is a list of seeds you should start sowing indoors for bright early spring bloom and that shot of colour to make the neighbours coo.
- Morning Glory
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Pinks (Dianthus)
- Shasta Daisy
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sow your seeds indoors and help them germinate into seedlings.
1. Source or Create Seed Trays or Pots
Get a purpose-built seed tray or propagator.
Alternatively, recycle some old cardboard, like cut-up toilet rolls or egg packaging, to contain small amounts of compost.
You can also use old yoghurt cups with holes punched in the bottom to allow easy draining. Some people use takeaway boxes with holes poked in the bottom for draining.
The main thing is to find a container that can hold compost and allow water to drain freely.
2. Fill the Pots with the Appropriate Soil
Fill the pot with seed-friendly or multi-purpose compost. Water the soil to leave it moist and ensure it drains well.
Make sure your soil is healthy and free of debris, pests, insects, and other seeds.
Ensure you get the soil for sourcing commercial potting or purpose-built soil rather than taking it from your garden outdoors.
3. Insert the Seed
You need to spread your seeds evenly into the soil. There should be 2cm – 3cm between each source. Make sure each seed is covered with a layer of compost at the same depth as the seed is thick.
4. Cover the Soil
You will need clear plastic to put over the compost and seed trays. This will help keep the soil moist and warm - it prevents it from drying out in the winter whilst keeping the temperature even. It may also contain any pests indoors from getting into the soil.
Recycle where you can if you don’t have a purpose-built seed propagator - for example, use cling film, cut open or apply larger old freezer bags. A clear plastic bag sliced to form a single sheet will suffice.
Secure it onto the seed posts/ tray with sticky tape or wrap an elastic band around the pot to hold it in place.
5. Position the Soil in a Naturally Lit Location
Ideally, the container holding your soil and seeds must be positioned in a warm, naturally lit location with access to sunlight. For example, window sill. If you have a special heated propagator, all the better.
Be careful if you are leaving these on the windowsill – temperatures can drop dramatically at night, so be sure to remove them from the area in the evening towards a warmer location.
6. Watch for Germination and Remove The Covering
Watch the soil for signs of germination. Once you spot signs of growth and see green leaves sprouting - you will need to expose the seedlings.
You should remove the plastic or glass cover and grow them indoors at this stage.
7. Watch for ‘True Leaves” and Prick the Seedlings
A second pair of leaves, known as ‘true’ leaves, will eventually grow next. When this happens, you’re ready to transplant them into a larger pot or container of soil. This is also known as 'Pricking out' your seedlings.
When handling the seedlings - be gentle and handle them only by their leaves. Pulling at their stems will risk tearing them.
This involves filling in a seed tray with more compost and planting the transplanted grown seedlings in spaces about 5cm apart. This makes it easier for the seedling to progress from the 'seed' stage to the 'growing on' phase.
Ensure the soil is well drained in the new trays or pots.
When inserting them gently into the soil, you must bury the seedlings right up to the base of the first set of leaves.
8. Repotting after 2 Weeks
After about two weeks, the seedlings will grow large enough to be transplanted into bigger pots. Aim for a container at least 7.5cm across.
Alternatively, if the weather is milder, you can plant them outside in well-prepared and well-draining soil.
Conversely, don’t let the soil dry; observe it every day should it need watering to keep it moist.
There are a few things you may want to show for in the local garden or hardware centres:
- Buy in your seeds or keep them from the previous season by harvesting them from seed pods at the end of the last summer
- Plastic cover for the seed pots trays
- Seed Tray/propagator
- Multi-purpose, peat-free compost
- Growise Multipurpose Compost 50L - Growise Multipurpose Compost 50L is ideal for sowing seeds and cuttings. In addition, use this multipurpose compost for hanging baskets, containers, flower beds and borders. Growise is produced by Bord Na Mona, making it ideal for Irish weather
- Shamrock Multipurpose Compost 75 Litre - Give mother nature a helping hand with your garden and inject rich nutrients. Perfect for sowing seeds, planting tasty vegetables or using plant pots
- - It includes everything you need for a healthy garden, including seeds, coir and feed. However, it is still recommended that you lightly weed before use and keep the seeds well-watered after they have been planted
- A small watering can with a rose attachment to spread the water evenly
- Labels or label sticks for identifying your seedlings
What will you be growing this winter, and have you got any good advice or tried and tested tips for growing seeds indoors?