I decided to get sowing some seeds directly into the ground the other day. I don’t sow many seeds this way. Experience has taught me that the seeds and seedlings are easy pickings for slugs, snails and mice. Unlike plants in the garden I can’t get up to the allotment as frequently to check how everything is doing so I much prefer to start most of my plants off at home in seed trays, pots and modules, where I can nurture them to a good size before releasing them into the wild to fend for themselves. By this point they are much more able to cope with whatever the allotment might throw at them, whether its pest or weather related.
There are some seeds, however that prefer to be directly sown into the ground. They don’t like having their roots disturbed and it’s just as well really, with a limited amount of space to sow and grow on seeds it’s a bit of a relief that some can go straight into the soil. Of course with direct sowing does come problems. If you sow too early and the soil is still cold they will sulk, well wouldn’t you? Last year we had such a dry spring that lack of water was the problem. Quite a few of my early sown seeds didn’t germinate because I found it difficult to keep the seed drills moist. This isn’t normally a problem you would expect in spring, that’s what April showers are for after all, to provide just the right amount of moisture interspersed with sunny spells providing the warmth to provide the perfect conditions for seeds to germinate. Whether it’s climate change or just a blip in weather patterns we might not be able to rely on these perfect conditions in future.
The ground feels like it is warming up nicely. The old farmers’ way of checking the soil apparently was to sit on it with a bare bottom!! I have to say I didn’t go to these lengths. I don’t want that sort of reputation at the allotment and I find hands do a good enough job. If the soil feels nicely warm and it’s not too wet then it should be perfect to sow. Another good indicator is whether annual weed seeds have started to appear. If the conditions are right for them, your seeds should be fine too.
The weather here in Wales has been glorious for 2 weeks now and the soil is quite dry so there are a few tactics I’m going to adopt to see if I can keep the soil moist enough for the seeds to germinate. The first task is making sure you’ve prepared the soil well with some organic matter, this helps to retain moisture not just in the initial stages but hopefully throughout the growing season. Then it’s a good idea to water the seed drill before sowing and finally, once you’ve covered over the seeds, mulch the drill with dry compost which helps to retain the moisture under the surface rather than it evaporating away. That’s the theory anyway, hopefully in practice it will work.
The seeds I sowed today were two varieties of beetroot, ‘Boltardy’ and ‘Chioggia’. I had soaked the seeds overnight. I can’t remember where I read this tip but I had much better germination rates doing this last year. I also sowed some dill. I love dill’s feathery foliage chopped into potato salads, in omlettes and in sauces for fish but an extra benefit is the beautiful yellow flower heads make nice fillers in cut flower arrangements.
The other seeds were for my cut flower patch, Ammi visnaga and Daucus carota ‘Black Knight’. Both of these produce umbellifer flower heads which give arrangements an airy feel. I grew Ammi majus last year but visnaga is a chunkier form and ‘Black Knight’ is a cousin of Ammi majus but with crimson-black flowers which looked so unusual in the seed catalogue I just had to give it a go. Certainly Ammi majus was loved by hoverflies last year, so I hoping both these additions to my cut flower patch will benefit insects too.
I’d love to hear whether you started sowing outdoors yet.