Wednesday 22 October 2014

Grow it yourself diary: Week 95

Lettuce germinates within just a few days

I was surprised to see that the lettuce, spinach and oriental greens (mustard, pak choi and rocket) seeds that I sowed on March 2 germinated within just a few days. I thought they might be a little slower at this time of the year.

Seed sowing is, of course, a science – there are lots of variables that can impact on proceedings, but if you provide the right conditions in terms of moisture, light and heat then seeds will germinate pretty reliably.

Heat is a challenge obviously at this time of the year (though the weather has turned lovely and mild by day this week). By putting my seed trays on a heated bench, I am providing them with the right temperature – different seeds have different temperatures at which they germinate, but the average is between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius.

So, at this time of the year a heated propagation unit (or keeping them indoors in the house) is the easiest way to achieve these temperatures.

The second key condition is moisture – a seed needs to take in a lot of moisture in order to germinate so the potting compost in which you sow them needs to be permanently moist. This is why many GIYers cover seed trays with cling-film, freezer bags or plastic cloches as it prevents the moisture from evaporating in to the air and means that you don't need to water the seeds as much.

You really need to check in on your seedlings daily at this crucial stage of their development to make sure they have enough moisture.

The final condition is light, though obviously not all vegetable seeds need light to germinate (since most seeds are stuck down in dark soil). Some vegetable seeds, such as lettuce and celery need light to germinate, which is why these seeds are not covered, but left to rest on the surface of the potting compost.

All vegetables however will need light to grow once they have germinated.

Things to do this week

* Sow early potatoes in single rows, 15cm deep, 25cm apart and 45cm between rows. Main-crop spuds are sown in mid to late April. Increase spacing to 35cm.

* It is vitally important to include potatoes in your crop rotation as they are susceptible to disease if grown in the same ground year on year.

* Earlies will be ready about 14 weeks after sowing. Maincrops take 18 weeks.

* For a GIY video tutorial on growing spuds check out www.giyireland.com/videos/ detail/potatoes.

Date for your Diary

GIY meetings this week in Skerries (tonight), New Ross (Tuesday), Waterford (Wednesday), Limerick (Wednesday) and Kildare (Saturday).

Meanwhile, also on Saturday join GIYers from across the country as South Down GIY welcome back expert organic gardener Klaus Laitenberger at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre from 2pm-5pm. Cost is £6 and includes refreshments. For more details visit www.giyireland.com/events.

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