So one minute it feels like spring the next minute we’re plunged back into winter. Of course, this is perfectly natural at this time of year as the seasons change. It’s possible to have snow and hail showers even in April but I am so desperate now for some warmth and some sunshine and I know I’m not alone. It doesn’t help that this time last year we were basking in sunshine and temperatures into the seventies. But then again we all know how last year’s weather turned out.
After a stormy night with gusts of wind that disturbed my sleep I thought I should check the plot just to make sure a couple of cloche-type constructions I have up there were still in place. They had collapsed but the plants underneath were fine. Some remedial repair work was needed though. Our timing couldn’t have been worse as the blue sky turned dark and grey and a squally snow shower blew across the allotments. There we were, Wellyman and I, trying to fold a sheet of polythene which turned into a sail in the strong winds as tiny snow flakes whipped at our faces. There are times when I wonder why I grow my own and this was one of those moments.
This is the time of year when there’s much debate as to when to sow. Most of us are champing at the bit to get our hands on some compost once Christmas is over. In January though, light levels are low and some of the coldest weather of the winter is still ahead of us so it is wise to be restrained. There does come a point however, when, regardless of what the weather is doing outside, you just have to go for it. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. For me I would much rather take a bit of a risk and sow a little early perhaps and if the worst comes to the worst I can resow. If I’m fortunate and the weather is good then I’ve got a bit of a head start.
This year has been a frustratingly slow start with many seeds struggling to germinate in the greenhouse but a bit of sunshine is all it takes now for the greenhouse to be lovely and warm inside. So in the last few weeks seeds have germinated and there are now heartening signs of growth. Spinach is growing well, as are my red leaved dandelions and my pot of pea shoots. Signs that my first salad pickings aren’t too far off.
Sweet peas germinated in the warmth of my kitchen have been moved to the colder greenhouse to encourage strong growth. Tempting as it is to try to get plants to grow more quickly, forcing them on in the artificially warm conditions of my home will only produce soft plants which will struggle when introduced to the reality of outdoors life.
Back in January before we had our first cold spell I noticed Verbena bonariensis seedlings appearing in my gravel path. It’s a plant I love but I tend to buy in good-sized plants in mid-spring as these have had a head start on the self seeded plants that appear in my garden. The mild weather up until that point must have encouraged these plants to appear; I wouldn’t normally expect to see them until April. I gently pulled them from the gravel and potted them up and put them in the greenhouse. There was a point when it looked like they were all dying but in the last few days strong healthy buds have started to appear. Sheltering in the greenhouse today with snowflakes hitting the glass it’s hard to believe that these little plants will be taller than me by the summer and swaying in a gentle, warm breeze. Tucked underneath on one of the shelves of my greenhouse staging are pots with dahlia tubers in them. I potted them up last week into slightly damp compost. Planting up dahlias early, as long as you can keep them somewhere frost-free until mid May, means a much longer flowering season.
For me this need to persevere and keep going is one of the reasons why I love gardening and growing so much. In many aspects of life I have a tendency to pessimism, or realism as I prefer to call it but growing sort of forces me to get on with things. It would be easy enough for me to look out the window and become quite downhearted by the weather at the moment and think I’ll just stay indoors where it’s warm and cosy. I know though that if I don’t sow and don’t prepare that I’ll curse myself in several weeks time when it is more like spring. It’s the window sills full of little pots of newly pricked out seedlings and signs of growth that tell me to plough on regardless. I’d love to hear about the seeds you’ve sown so far.
I do understand just how you feel. I’ve been busy pricking out seedlings today, I’ll post with more details soon. Christina
I’ve been particularly lackadaisical about sowing seeds so far this year. Not quite sure why, though time has been rather fleeting for a few weeks, and the weather indeed rather topsy-turvy. I have finally sown a few seeds in the greenhouse, and we have tomatoes and cucumbers indoors on a windowsill as my husband was impatient to start some off a few weeks ago, but I shall have to find my sowing-mojo and make a more serious attempt soon!
It’s difficult trying to find the sowing-mojo when the weather is so up and down. It can be hard to know what to do. I’m hoping for some warm weather soon although it looks like winter is holding on this year.
I’m holding back on my veggie seed sowing at the moment, all I have sown are my meconopsis seeds. These were sown in January and left outside to get frosted, then brought into the conservatory which is just kept frost free. After about 3 weeks they sprouted and are now looking very healthy and ready for potting on into plug trays which I must do soon. I think I will wait for it to be a bit warmer before sowing any more.
Ordinarily I think I’d be with you on the waiting to sow but I need lots of plants for photos for the book and as my deadline looms the stress is building. I wish it would warm up.
The Garden Smallholder said:
I’m with you on the sowing seeds debate, your post and attitude is very refreshing. Nobody can predict the weather, or when the best time to sow will be. We all have different methods and ways of doing things. All we can do is be sensible and try not to do battle with low light levels, and if other factors cause problems then just try again. For me, that’s part of the ‘grow your own’ attraction.
Thank you. Every year is different so I think it’s difficult to have hard and fast rules on sowing dates. Obviously if you’re sowing directly into the ground it should be warm but sometimes you can be lucky with early sowings and get ahead. We have quite a short growing season really so anything to get a few extra weeks.
I’ve got chillies and peppers growing away in the light box indoors also have tomatoes in there but these are now getting very big so maybe I was a bit premature, maybe I should of held off on the tomatoes until next month as they are growing fast. I have been storing oca and mashua tubers in the bottom of my fridge in dry sand and they have started shooting does anybody know what I should do as its only the beginning of march and its freezing cold so I don’t want to pot them up and leave them in a cold greenhouse, any advise welcome as I don’t want to loose them.
Hi Gaynor, I’ve just planted up my dahlia tubers into moist compost and I’m keeping them in my greenhouse. How cold is it where you are? Have you got somewhere cool but frost free like a porch or window sill that you could plant them up and keep them there until it warms up. If they are starting to shoot it’s probably a good idea to plant them up. Maybe you could wrap the pots up in fleece to give them a little extra protection if you do put them into the greenhouse, or just bring them indoor on a night if frost is predicted.
It’s crazy at the moment isn’t it, one moment gorgeous Spring sunshine and getting excited over seeds germinating on the windowsill, next it’s snow. I moved some germinated purple beans and lettuce from warmth of kitchen windowsill to chillier coldframe a few days ago, and given the icy temperatures was a tad worried about them. Had a quick look today though and they’re fine.
Hi Andrea, The weather is a real pain at the moment but at least we’ve got some sunshine and the clocks change in only 2 weeks so the longer days should hopefully make some difference. Fingers crossed.
I haven’t really started any serious sowing yet. I’ve got peppers and onions which I started a little while ago, they’re doing well, then last week I sowed sweet peas, peas and leeks. They’re outside in the cold greenhouse but haven’t germinated yet, which isn’t surprising considering the weather we’ve got at the moment, it’s so cold, if only it would warm up a little.
Some warmer weather would be nice. My broad beans have taken an age to germinate and are only just poking through. This weather isn’t good for the impatient gardener. *sighs*
It is tough to do but here in New England we have to develop patience because we can’t set out plants until near the end of May. So, I will enjoy your posts for now.
Hi Judy, we tend to get our last frost towards the end of April but this year the start to spring has been unusually cold and has held everything back. The thing is in a few weeks we could be basking in warm sunshine our weather is so unpredictable now.
Crazy weather isn’t it, one minute beautiful warm sunshine, the next horizontal snow. As for seed sowing, chillies, peppers and tomatoes are growing quite well, and I have cosmos, echinacea, rudbekia and knapweed seedlings in the greenhouse, but I am behind with my peas, which are refusing to germinate, and need some more salad leaves to get on with it too. So as ever, a mixed bag. As to verbena bonariensis, mine are so far stubbornly refusing to germinate, but I shall persist, if I can grow the in a cold polytunnel in May and still get flowers from them that year there is still time to get the to do their thing. Still time for most things – I just hope my broad beans are OK under their fleece blanket… Think I will declare tomorrow an edibles sowing day, I want spinach seedlings like yours!!
My broad beans have struggled this year which has surprised me as they are the one plant that doesn’t seem to mind the cold. My peas for pea shoots took an age too. The cold weather hasn’t stopped the greenfly appearing in the greenhouse though. *sighs*
Caro (urbanvegpatch) said:
In past years I’ve succumbed to the temptation to start sowing early, had windowsills full of seedlings in modules and then waited impatiently for the weather to change so that I can start to harden off my little plants. Too frustrating. This year I have, as yet, sown absolutely nothing. In fact I’m still deciding what to put where and, when I next go into the garden, I’m going to dig up and replant lots of my herbs rather than sowing. I shall of course then be completely rushed off my feet at the end of March, beginning of April but it will be interesting to see if this way works better for the garden. A sort of ‘All things come to those that wait’. Hopefully. C x
It’s always a hard one to judge. I probably wouldn’t have sown as much if I didn’t have to grow plants for the book. It has certainly ramped up the seed sowing stress levels this year and of course the weather isn’t helping. I think I’ll have grey hairs by June. I think your way might well be the most successful this year considering this prolonged cold spell. 😉 WW x
I know exactly what you mean!
On February 18th I couldn’t stand waiting any longer. I planted onions, carrots and lettuce in an outdoor container. Of course the weather turned rather cold and nasty a few days later. But I have plenty of seeds – I could re-plant. Now three weeks later, we get some mild weather, and behold! little seedlings are poking their heads up! I have covered them up tonight to protect from frost, but in the morning I will uncover them so they will get a good dose of sunshine. This whole week is supposed to be sunny – Hurrah!
Hi Lea, I’m pleased to hear you seeds have germinated. Some seeds seem much less bothered by the cold weather, although saying that my broad beans have struggled which is strange. The sunshine is good though and it soon warms up in the greenhouse now so fingers crossed the weather will improve soon. WW
Aubergine, chillies and peppers I sowed in January. And broad beans, alpine strawberries and lupins as well. Now I’ve got tomatoes and salvia patens and some ammi majus. It is always soo difficult holding back, but things seem to be doing well. Yesterday I sowed peas in guttering pipes, for some reason I cannot grow peas, but I’ll keep on trying. About being a realistic pessimist: my husband says that I at times give pessimism a bad name 😉 – I also call it being realistic!
It’s good to know it’s not just me that can’t hold back. Do you have a heated greenhouse or do you start your seeds off indoors? Have you tried soaking your peas in water before sowing them. I don’t do it but I know some people who recommend it. I like that last bit about giving pessimism a bad name. That did make me chuckle. 🙂
I have an unheated greenhouse, at present wrapped in bubble wrap, so temps do mainly stay at least just above freezing. Today I’m going to sow a batch of pre-soaked peas, see if they want to grow.
I hope the pre-soaked peas work. 🙂
I think that any gardener reading this will empathise with what you’ve written, I certainly do.
I’ve sown nothing yet but will do soon. xx
Hi Flighty, It would be good to have some warm weather soon. This cold spell is certainly testing my patience. WW x
It sure would! It’s getting to everyone now. xx
With the weather so freezing cold at the moment, I’m rather glad that I haven’t been tempted to start sowing my veggie seeds just yet, itching to get going though so I just hope that it gets warmer soon. Have some meconopsis and primula seedlings that are coming on nicely, they will soon be ready for pricking out into plug trays, just as well that they like this cold weather!
I have some cosmos and echinops sprouting in a cool room indoors. I woke up this morning to find that stormy winds have flattened all my narcissi in the garden. Talk about a depressing start to your day! I took this week off and had big gardening plans and ordered loads of seeds, bulbs, trellis and Nemaslug but it is all accumulating in a big pile indoors. I could scarcely bare to go outside to the post office this morning, it was so cold. Painting the bedroom instead.
I’ve just sown my cosmos this weekend. It’s so frustrating when gardening plans are dashed but at least it means we can get on with indoor jobs and then when the lovely summer weather comes we can be outdoors. I’ve been spring cleaning and decorating too.
I’ve been later sowing and really haven’t got going yet and am reluctant to do too much as its forecast cold, I think, for at least another week. I have started some things though. I couldn’t completely wait, so I’ve started some chillis, celeriac and some salads, coriander and parsley indoors. I also sowed my sweet peas but they are outside in my minigreenhouse and that gives hardly any protection and the last few days they have been almost frozen so I don’t think they’ll do very well. I definitely wish I had a proper greenhouse. I’ve really got to get that sorted!
Hi Annie, The greenhouse has definitely helped this year although the cold temperatures have meant some plants have struggled to germinate in there. At least we’ve got some sunshine at the moment but some warmer weather would be nice. WW
It is very tempting to start sowing seeds to early especially in the north. My first vegetable seeds are now germinating but most of these are destined for either the polytunnel beds or the cold frame. the hardier brassicas will get planted out in April but under mesh to protect them from the wind. On sunny days it is even more frustrating even when you know it’s still too early and that even late sowings will catch up with the early ones! gardening teaches hard lessons.
It certainly does. We have such a short growing season when you think about it that it’s just too tempting to try to gain a few extra weeks. WW
My tomatoes are looking good and I shall pot them on this weekend into individual 9cm pots. A second sowing of broad beans has come through and can be planted out next week. And pea shoots have survived the sudden drop in temperature outside in the pop up greenhouse.
Hi Sue, My broad beans have struggled this year and I have no idea why as they shouldn’t really have been bothered by the cold. I’ve got them in modules in the greenhouse but they have taken ages to germinate.
Due to the fact that we’ve just moved house I think I will be mainly buying in transplants this year. Good organic growers locally grow a good selection. Have planted some salad stuff though.
I’m probably going to buy in some plug plants this year to ease the load. You’re lucky to have good organic growers around you. WW
I wish my Wellyman was as helpful in the garden as yours. Mine is more concerned with the kitchen’s produce than the garden’s!
Hi Hannah, I’ll pass that on to Wellyman. 😉 I am really lucky that he likes pottering in the garden and on the plot too.
I’ll have to hold him up as a shining example and we’ll see if I can get a reaction!
🙂 Good Luck!
Anna B said:
Hi Wellywoman! I know what you mean about this weather but it can feel so fresh out there too and if you’re properly wrapped up, a day outside can be just what’s needed right now. The sunshine really does help though and I’m craving for it too. In terms of seedlings, I’ve got the mammoth leeks that I sowed on Jan 1st, no idea what I’m doing with those to be honest, I’m fearful of letting them get too cold but can see that they’re a bit on the soft and weak side. My indoor lettuce is doing really well now and is ready for potting on. I’ve got chillies, just poking through today. Also, some sweet peppers, and some experimental tomatoes in my heated propagator. Then scabious, cucumber and beetroot on my windowsill. My potatoes are chitting and I might put those out next weekend. I might start my sugar plum tomatoes next weekend too. I was going to sow my carrots today but never got time. They’ll be sown in tubs next week and put in the cold frame. I’ve got a ton of flowers to sow too…it will be never ending soon!! I’m just taking my time though, I love to start early but don’t feel like I’m in any major rush. My broad beans are outside. The only thing I worry about this year is peas. I’m giving it another couple of weeks for those. My first tulip came out today and that really cheered me up 🙂
You’ve been busy, Anna. And I can’t believe you’ve got your first tulip. I was getting really worried about mine as there were no signs of them pushing through. Shoots have started to appear but I’m some way off seeing flowers.