WITH most of the winter cutback done, now is the time to think about growing things from seeds. Not so much flowering annuals as one would have done in the UK, but half hardy and hardy perennials and a few biennials such as holly-hocks that have grown in Spain since Roman times and of course vegetables.
From now onwards one can start to raise seeds in trays or pots in propagators or heated greenhouse or on tables placed in front of a window in a sunny spare bedroom or underbuild.
The seeds available include seeds that you might have collected from a favourite plant last summer and autumn, seeds from the limited collections available in Spanish horticultural shops and garden centres or selections from UK or French sourced seed catalogues or packets purchased in airport shops when travelling to exotic climes.
Although many companies now have their catalogues on the internet it is still interesting to obtain the catalogue books from some companies to enable one to browse through ever increasing interesting offers and have a handy up-to-date reference book.
Provided one makes an order, however small, once you get on a company’s mailing list the annual catalogue arrives automatically each year.
One set of catalogues I always enjoy receiving is those of Chiltern Seeds.
If you wish to obtain catalogues for the first time they can be ordered from www.chilternseeds.co.uk or [email protected] chilternseeds.co.uk.
There are three catalogues available, namely a ‘Preview’ of new varieties on sale with good photos and descriptions, the main catalogue of some 4,000 varieties, many of which are rare or unobtainable elsewhere and the ‘VegBook’ catalogue with many newly discovered and heirloom varieties of vegetable and herbs. The main advantage of growing from seeds is the wide range of varieties available for both flowering and edible plants but care is required.
There are six important success factors.
1. Obtain or make up your own fine seed compost. A useful mix suitable for most seeds is two parts of sieved and sterilised garden compost, one part peat or peat substitute, one part sharp sand, and one part vermiculite.
2. Label pots and seed trays with waterproof pens.
3. Keep emergent seedlings only just damp.
4. Warm the green-house until the risk of frosts are past and then shade to keep temperatures low.
Our greenhouse is on the west side of the house to reduce the hours of sunshine, as in Spain the temperature in unshaded greenhouses can easily rise to a hundred degrees centigrade.
5. If growing plants in pots or trays, grow strong plants and harden them off before planting out in the garden or in containers.
6. Above all patience and constant vigilance.
If you have never grown anything from seed there is a detailed step by step guide in the book ‘Your Garden in Spain – From planning to planting and maintenance.’
© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com February 2015.