Keep Calm and Prick Out

It’s time to start pricking out some of the seedlings and move them into larger pots and onto the next stage of growing.

The Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seeds that I planted a few days ago have sprung up, looking not much different from grass initially, and also the Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings have gotten to a size where they need to be moved on from their tray into their own spaces.

So, with my trusty old 40-plug tray, I filled it up with multipurpose compost, and with a pencil to hand, I carefully began the process of pricking out each seedling and setting it into a small hole in the middle of each plug. This took me a fair while. You need to be delicate with this process though, so time really is of the essence.

Tray of pricked-out Cosmos, Hollyhock, and Sweet Sultan seedlings.
Tray of pricked-out Cosmos, Hollyhock, and Sweet Sultan seedlings.

The Cosmos roots were quite long, whilst the Sweet Sultan roots were quite shallow but clumped. Carefully up-rooting each seedling, whilst holding a leaf (rather than stem) takes time, but it avoids the sickening feeling of snapping them and knowing you’ve just killed a plant.

I left one plug hole blank, so that I can easily get water through into the base, and this left me with room to add in the Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’ seedlings, and sow two further of those seedlings to make up the 39th plug. There was quite a range of sizes with these seedlings, with some quite tiny, and one quite large – odd considering that they came from the same seed packet, were sown in the same pot, at the same time. I guess everything is just a reminder of nature’s roulette.

All this pricking out has helpfully condensed my windowsill jungle together, and resulted in one of the three propagators being closed down.

Hollyhock Majorette Mixed seedlings
Two Hollyhock seedlings planted from the same seed packet on the same day, with such different results.

With these three sets of seedlings pricked out, I turned to the Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus Autumn Time’ seedlings. Only three of about five germinated, but I potted each one up in their own 3″ pot. I’ll probably grow a few more, along with the full size variety, but I’ll sow those seeds in a few days.

Are you at pricking out stage yet? Have you seen a contrast between seedling sizes? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, happy growing!


The 3 Little Propagators

The third propagator came into action this weekend, as British Summer Time arrived and I fill another windowsill with seedlings.

I’ve been on a seed sowing frenzy these last few weeks, and now I have 3 propagators full of seedlings and freshly sown pots, and a number of other pots, taking up space on 5 windowsills.

The first propagator saw an early leap from a Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’, with Sunflower ‘Helianthus Annus Autumn Time’ and a Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ close behind. These have now migrated onto windowsills, and more seedlings have since emerged from their pots. They’ll soon need pricking out so that they can grow on in their own pots.

Hollyhock and Lupin seedlings in pots.
The Hollyhock and Lupin seedlings were soon up.

I loaded propagator 2 up a few days later, and that swiftly followed with more seedlings – the Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings in particular sprang up (and have now been removed), with a slower appearance from the Antirrhinum ‘Chuckles’, but then this is older seed, so I’ll keep an eye on the progress and re-sow with newer seed if they fail to grow much. My original sowing of these seeds still inhabit my garden, so even if this fresh batch fails, I will still be taking them with me to my new garden, as they’ve self-sown into my garden pots. The Antirrhinums have been joined by Parsley Laura ‘Petroselinum Crispum’ – a flatleaf parsley I like to use in the kitchen, and Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’.

I realised that I had a couple of single-pot tall clear plastic domes, so I commandeered these into action – becoming micro propagators for Tomato ‘Minibel’ and Monarda Austromontata ‘Bee’s Favourite’ also commonly known as Bergamot. I’ve never grown Monarda, but apparently the bees love it and from the photo on the seed packet, they do look a bit like dead nettles with little delicate flowers. The seed was tiny, and I think it takes ages to grow.

Tomatos and Monarda inside propagator domes.
Tomatoes and Monarda inside propagator domes.

Meanwhile, on a cooler windowsill the Sweet Pea Royal Mix have nearly all broken the compost – there’s just three seeds left to appear. These haven’t needed a propagator, but like the rest, I’m making sure that they have enough light and water.

I’ve just filled up propagator 3. This time I’ve given in to previously hopeless attempts, and sown some Aubergine ‘Early Long Purple 2’ seeds after being re-inspired by GoTropical’s video on them and how he’d has had luck with them. I’ve only sown three, but I’m determined to get at least one fruit from them… ever, as they’re another great alternative to pasta for me.

Joining them in the propagator is Poppy ‘Coral Reef’ which is a pink oriental poppy, some Sage which I commonly use in cooking, and some fresh Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ seeds that I bought this weekend. I’ve had mixed luck with those in the past, but they’re very elegant, and historically they’re credited as the original Sweet Pea variety from 1699. These don’t really need the propagator, but I thought I’d pop them in, if only to encourage them along to the same stage as the other Sweet Pea plants on the windowsill.

Sweet Pea 'Cupani'
Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ – when they go right.

This is such an exciting time of year, and it looks like everything is go, despite it still being cold and misty some mornings.

How is your seed-sowing going? What are you growing this year? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy gardening,


Sowing the seeds of 2017

The propagator takes its first batch of seeds, as I plan for a garden I don’t yet know.

Inspired by the warmer spring weather here in the midlands of the UK, I’ve just been sowing a few of the seeds that I want to see in my garden this year.

The recent media-fuelled panic of the Courgette Crisis really irritated me, partly because it was self-perpetuated by the press, and partly because I eat a lot of courgette as a healthier lower-carb option to eating pasta or spaghetti. I’ve done this for years now.

Therefore, I’ve just sown some Courgette seeds that I found in an old packet. No guarantee that they’ll germinate, but I like to give nature a chance as it can do some exceptionally amazing things when the odds are against it!

The last few years have been abysmal for Courgettes in my garden. The herds of snails and slugs have taken great delight in munching through main stems and baby courgettes, along with mildew, and also my neighbour’s careless midnight wheelie bin trundles (they have a right of access through my garden), and of course blasts of sudden strong winds that see the courgette plant act like an umbrella in a gale.

But this year, in about 6 weeks time, I move house and I shall have a larger, blank, enclosed garden, which currently has a tired lawn reaching to every edge and corner, that’s been the playground of a toddler and a dog. So, I’m keen to soon plant things in this so that I don’t miss a year’s worth of growing. The courgettes are sown and I’ve also sown some other seeds too, and placed them in my trusty little propagator.

I’ve planted:

  • Lupin ‘Band Of Nobles Mixed’
  • Hollyhock ‘Majorette Mixed’
  • Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’

The Salvia has always been a great addition to my garden – I love blue flowers, as do bees, and I like bees too!

The Lupins and Hollyhocks were amongst a bundle of seed packets that were given to me by friend Anne, who knew I would be moving in 2017 (and she gave me some smart new shears too). These plants will give me some flowering height and I’ll probably add some poppies and sunflowers too, but I’ll sow them another time.

Bergenia 'Cordifloria'
Bergenia ‘Cordifolia’

Yesterday I even ventured to my local garden centre, where the car park was almost full, and wandered through the lush green plants for inspiration, I stumbled across some Bergenia ‘Cordifolia’ which reminded me of my mother’s garden so I chose a couple of healthy looking plants and brought them home for planting out in my forthcoming garden.

Anyway, with 2017 garden plans and dreams forming in my head, I bid you happy gardening!