How many ways of getting it wrong are there? Every year of sowing my seeds seems to discover a new way of getting it wrong. But all newly sown seed need is warmth, moisture, nutrients and light, so it must be easy. End of article!
Let’s look at warmth. Most seeds germinate best in warm soil. If you take your trousers down in April and park yourself on the soil, you will find it is still not warm. Like all other months, April has warm moments and cold ones. So germination is better indoors in a greenhouse or on a window sill.
Once a seed has germinated, it will grow on in cooler conditions. But a seedling in cold soil often becomes slug food, so we prefer to grow in seed trays or modules in the greenhouse until a strong plantlet can be dibbed into the great outdoors in warmer soil a month later.
But then there is the carrot. This more or less has to be soil sown, unless you have the forensic dexterity to germinate hundreds of seeds in a paper towel or cornflour gel, and then transplant into soil without causing them to fang.
Looking back, the best carrot germination is in a fairly dry April, something to do with dry soil warming up faster, and slugs. Germinating seed need moisture, but not too much. As with all seeds, firm some extra fine soil around the seeds, so that enough moisture is in contact with the tiny seed for the two or more weeks they take to germinate. Catch 22 is that warm and wet soil favours both the carrot and the slug.
How thick to sow your seed? Seed packets typically contain over a thousand seeds, so the temptation is to sow thick. My experience is that either all seeds germinate or none in any given length of seed drill. Thick sowing means a lot of tiny carrots that never grow to a good size, or a painstaking amount of thinning later on, risking the sweet smell attracting the dreaded root fly. So it’s best not to sow too thick, but keep the spare seed for later sowings. And what is the difference between an honest Russia official and a unicorn? Nothing, they are both fictional characters.
What to sow this month
Outdoors: all the English favourites, such as maincrop peas and potatoes, leek, beetroot, calabrese/sprouting, radish, onion sets, lettuce, carrots & parsnips.
Indoors: early in the month celeriac, mid-month: courgettes, basil, sweetcorn and early May: cucumber, French and runner beans. Transplanting any of these outdoors before the weather is seriously warm is risky, so it may be better to sow later than this.