Before I really took an interest in growing fruit and vegetables, I didn’t really give a lot of thought to when you would sow seeds. It all seemed like such a minefield. Even the backs of the seed packets for the various types of vegetables seemed to confuse me more than aid me. I didn’t even contemplate that seeds had a germination validity period and older seeds would fail to germinate and deteriorate in time. I just thought that as long as the seeds looked ok, the weather was sunny and warmish, and the plants would be harvested before the really cold weather set it, all would be fine. How naive was I? I had a lot of questions that I needed to find the answers to if I was to be a productive and successful veg grower.
- Did they have to be sowed indoors or outdoors?
- What did hardening them off mean?
- What would be deemed as adequate protection?
- What is the best way to store seeds?
- What is meant by the term ‘Successional sowing’?
It never dawned on me that the sowing of these certain vegetables would be done at different times of the year dependant on the season of harvest. Spring, summer and winter cabbages all get sowed at various times of the year dependant of the variety. It took me a while to get my head around when each of these should be sowed and then subsequently harvested.
I decided that I had to find some way of organising myself so that I wouldn’t miss crucial planting dates and times. I needed to decipher what all of the codes and colour references on the back of the seed packets meant and also to devise some organised way for me to keep track of how and what needs to be planted, and when.
Since then, I have researched about various ways that fellow gardeners have come up with as a solution to my problem of organising seeds. By far the easiest method for me is to section my huge collection of seeds in month order that they should be sown. The current method of organising my seeds is that they are in sections related to the type of vegetables. For example, root crops such as carrots, parsnips and beetroots are grouped together and brassicas such as cabbages, cauliflowers and sprouts are together. The downside to this method is that I have to search through all of the groups and read the backs of the seed packets to see when they need to be sown. Quite a tedious and long winded affair considering that I have a vast amount of seeds. (I’m a sucker for buying seeds and choosing different varieties)!
I decided that the easiest thing for me to do was to organise my seeds by the month that they can be sowed and not in the category of vegetable type as they were now organised. As a result of this, I now have two storage tins for my seeds, both with dividers separating the months.
The seed packets are then stored in one of the tins behind the month relevant to when it can be sowed. At the end of this month, if the seeds can be sowed the following month also, they are simply moved to the next month’s section. When that month has passed and they can no longer be sowed again for this year, they are then moved to the spare tin, behind the relevant month, ready to start again the following year. This system seems to work really well for me at the moment as it means I simply have to look at each month to see what I can and need to sow. It is also a great way for me to keep track of what seeds are running low, which then helps me when I need to replace them, rather than guessing and ending up with a vast amount of some and none of the others.
This process also helps to put successional sowing into practice. The idea of staggering sowing dates means that I will have a steady succession of a particular type of vegetable rather than a glut of vegetables all harvested at the same time.
I also have a small notebook that I keep in my greenhouse that is also sectioned into month order and I write down the veg that can be sowed that month. As I get new seeds, I make sure that I add these to the seed tin and detail the sowing dates in my notebook.
My plan, eventually when I have more time is to create a one page, wipe clean table that can be displayed on the wall of my shed or greenhouse so that I can see at a glance what I need to do.
Here’s to a more successful and organised growing season.