Time to sow the seeds of successAlison Marsden
After spending much of February and early March advising gardeners that it is too early to sow seeds, I am now reassuring people that they have not missed the boat and that early April is an ideal time to sow seeds of annual flowers and vegetables.
April sees rising temperatures and noticeably longer days so that after germination your seeds will quickly develop into robust, leafy plants rather than thin, straggly seedlings straining for light. And you are also much less likely to run out of windowsill or greenhouse space before the weather is warm enough to move plants outside into their final positions. Remember that it is the minimum night-time temperature that is important when moving young plants outside and even here in the South East frosts are common until the end of April.
But first you have to get your seeds and there are two common questions around seed sowing. Firstly does it matter which way up I plant the seed? and the short answer to this is “no”. Think about a small spherical seed – there is no indication of top or bottom – and in nature seeds fall or are dispersed by the wind or animals so there is no way for the plant to control which way up the seed lands in the soil. One of the wonders of nature is that the developing root will break through the seed case and always grow downwards. This is nothing to do with the light but a reaction to gravity. By contrast the new shoot will always grow up, away from the pull of gravity.
The second question is around how deep to plant seeds. All seeds need oxygen, warmth and water to germinate but they do not all need to be in the dark. The aim of covering the seed is to keep it in contact with water held in the compost to soften the protective seed coat and provoke germination. The key to how deep to sow is the size of the seed itself: all the energy the germinating seed needs is stored in the seed. A tiny seed is lightly covered with compost so that the shoot quickly reaches the light to photosynthesise. A runner bean can be buried much deeper to anchor the roots because it has a generous store of energy to power growth.
There is plenty of time to sow seeds right into early summer for a succession of flowers and vegetables.
Happy Gardening from Alison
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