One of the few things I’ve learnt in my vegetable career is that plants germinate better, stronger and faster when it’s warm.
Our 2019 new year’s resolution is to put all module trays in the airing cupboard this spring: a tricky pastime, but it worked well last year. After 3-4 days—about the time it takes to get 100 junk calls—and before the seedling emerge we’ll move them onto a soil warming cable in the greenhouse. They need less heat to grow on, but the cable warmth does help.
This is only for the extreme grower, who wants the first tomato in their village, but as all sports seem to be extreme these days why not vegetables? Last year we sowed f1 Sungold tomatoes mid-February, transplanted them to bigger pots, then into the greenhouse soil beds in early April. It was a really cold spring, but no frost and they kept growing. We had the first ripe fruit on 3rd June. Lucky I’m not competitive!
For soil sowing, it’s easiest to wait until April or even May. On an accurate weather forecast look out for a four-day warm spell, and sow then. The trickiest crops are the slow-germinating umbels such as carrots and parsnips. As readers keep telling me, you can germinate them indoors in a pot with warm soil or on moist paper towels, but you have to forensically transplant them as soon as you see the first signs of life to avoid multi-fanged roots.
Large ‘seeds’ such as 2nd early potatoes (more tasty than 1st earlies) and Aquadulce broad beans can be planted in late February, best results by far when covered with a thick fleece. In the airing cupboard mid-month we’ll be sowing salad crops, beetroot, tomatoes and peppers, but leave it for another month if you have no greenhouse to transfer the seedlings to.
The full-on sunshine last year was so good for growth if you had access to water, well proving how most crops do better with sun and warmth. Even better, it was bad for slugs and carrot root fly, and there is very little damage on celeriac and carrots we are lifting from the soil now. Hope you enjoyed your Christmas crackers as much as we did, what happened to the hyena who swallowed a stock cube? He made a laughing stock of himself.