Pricking out the Swiss Chard and Sweet Sultan seedlings

It’s time to be ‘pricking out’ my Sweet Sultant flowers and the brightly coloured Swiss Chard seedlings, and get them ready for their next stage of growing.

Yes, the garden is driving on towards summer, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

My windowsills are full of trays of seedlings, and so I have been busily pricking out and potting them into pots/plugs in preparation for their final planting out from late May.

What is ‘pricking out’?

‘Pricking out’ or ‘to prick out’ is a term used to describe taking an individual seedling from the tray or pot it germinated in, and then carefully planting it in its own pot or plug so that it can continue growing without having to compete with other seedlings.

The ‘pricking’ part refers to the precision needed to separate seedlings, and usually requires a small hand device, a bit like a needle, but usually (in my case) an old pencil.

The Sweet Sultan

Last year was the first time that I had ever grown Sweet Sultan flowers, after family friend (and keen gardener) Anne, gave me a bundle of seed packets that she’d had from the front of her magazine subscriptions. I’d picked out a few bee-friendly looking plants and sown them.

Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were amongst these and they were fantastic, and they looked lovely alongside my Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ plants.

Sweet Sultan Mixed purple flower
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ were wonderful – and a new plant for me in 2017.

I sowed these flower seeds at the same time as my Swiss Chard, and so they are ready to ‘prick out’.

 

My Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' seedlings ready to prick out.
My Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings ready to prick out.

With the seedlings all pricked out, they will now be able to continue growing on to their next stage. I managed to grow 22 seedlings in that pot, and so i added two more seeds to fill my 24-plug tray. That will be plenty.

Sweet Sultan 'Mixed' seedlings all pricked out
Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings all pricked out and ready to grow on.

The Swiss Chard

My Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ have been a delight to grow. This is my first year growing them, and I have undoubtedly sown far too many and will probably become sick of Swiss Chard by the time I’ve got to about July.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
The Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings were soon up out of the compost. Here they are at 10 days old.

However, their brightly multi-coloured stems (almost Rhubarb-like) make them a fun addition to the garden. They’re far from ready to go out yet (they’re too small and tender), but they had to be carefully pricked out so that they could grow on.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings

I think these can often be sown direct, but I didn’t have my raised beds built until I’d been able to get outside to demolish the old shed (that provided the wood, and the ground space for the raised beds) first.

Armed with my trusty HB pencil, I dibbered out the seedlings one-by-one, and put them into a plug tray where they can grow into individual plug plants.

Most of the Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings pricked out
Most of the Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings pricked out

Once these plants get outside, they’ll soon straighten up, as they’ll grow upwards aiming for the sunshine. Right now, they’ve grown a lean like most seedlings, as they chase the light on a windowsill.

My parents have just moved house into a bare garden, and like me it has an unbroken lawn. Their plan is to have a load of raised beds and containers… so I know exactly where to smuggle some brightly coloured spare Chard plants in to πŸ˜‰

I’ve already pricked out a load of Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seedlings, and the Parsley ‘Laura’ seedlings are now potted on too. It’s a productive time, and it’s so important to keep on top of growing as we head through April, otherwise they’ll get behind, or too leggy to be any good.

As ever, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a happy gardening week ahead (despite the rain).

Andrew.

A snowless Saturday and a windowsill of seedlings

It’s a busy Saturday in the garden as Winter eases off. There’s sowing, pricking out, and shed sorting to do!

Finally! A weekend day where it isn’t raining, snowing, or icy cold with the remnants of freezing temperatures and winds that chill you to the bone.

I was very pleased to be up and outside in the garden with RubyCat by 9am AND without a coat. I had loads of jobs to get done.

I was pleased to finally find a Daffodil that hadn’t been flattened by wind, rain, or snow. A cheery lone fanfare of Spring’s arrival.

A container-grown yellow Daffodil
A container-grown yellow Daffodil celebrates a lack of snow.

First up, was to finish putting up some more shelves in my shed. When i moved in, this shed was shelf-free, and I brought some cheap pine shelving with me, but with the demolition of the rickety old shed, this has given me enough planks to turn into shelving. The most significant shelf being the full length one that runs under the shed window.

To make this, I bought some inexpensive brackets from my local DIY store, and then took the old shed door and cut it down the length – thankfully it was 6 planks wide – so it made the perfect 3 plank wide shelves. I put those up with my new drill/screwdriver, and was then able to start pricking out some seedlings.

I planted some Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seeds a few days ago, and they have shot up, so I took the opportunity to use this new-found workspace to start potting them into individual plugs.

Cleome ' ' seedlings (left) with Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed'
Cleome ‘Colour Fountain’ seedlings (left) with Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ (right) have been pricked out.

I also took the four surviving Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seedlings (RubyCat had been pulling them out of the pot and spitting them on the carpet until I moved them out of reach!!). I potted these on, and sowed some more as they were so pretty last summer.

Cosmos flowers in garden
Some of the Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ reached about 4 feet tall.

I found a little pot of Honesty seeds that I must have collected from my parents garden a few years back. I added these to a pot of compost – not expecting much – but they had been stored carefully in a sealed container. You never know! Once you’ve got Honesty, you tend to have it forever seeding itself all over the place.

I also sowed some Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ seeds. I think that these were the variety that grew from that old out-of-date Erin seed kit. I’m growing these again because the slugs and snails did not touch them.

Ten days ago I also sowed some Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ – my first ever time growing these – having been completely inspired to by the blog and videos by Katie at Lavender & Leeks (thanks, Katie!) and it turns out they’re packed with nutrients.

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' seedlings
Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ seedlings showing their coloured stems.

These seedlings were up within a couple of days and now I’m staring at the pot thinking that I might have too many! πŸ˜€

In addition to my first-time Chard, my first-time Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ seeds have been growing on a cool windowsill in my spare room.

Broad Bean 'Crimson Flowered' plants
Broad Bean ‘Crimson Flowered’ plants are doing well

Whilst I’m only growing half a dozen, I’ve done two sowings and gotten 5 plants! The first 3 plants shot up, and the next 2 did too. Are Broad Beans usually temperamental?

The plants are now in the shed to begin a hardening-off process, and they joined the Lupin ‘Band Of Nobles Mixed’ (remember them?) which I sowed a year ago in 2017. These plants take a while to mature, and somehow they’ve survived a year on windowsills, despite the recurring threats of central heating. Hopefully the slugs and snails won’t eat them in the first evening.

My windowsills are now covered in trays, propagators, and seedlings. It finally feels like spring has arrived and the garden of 2018 is coming.

What jobs did you get done in the garden this weekend?

As ever, thank you for reading. Go-on, share this blog post somewhere, and have a happy gardening weekend!

Andrew