Monday 16 February 2015

And so to sow ...

Happy New Gardening Year !

The propagator is now switched on, and is incubating about 150 seeds... and it feels so good to be growing things again. My new propagator is the size of Australia and I hope, just as hot !  I guess I should have given a short speech before switching it on, then cut through some garden twine with beribboned secateurs , but in reality I just gave a silent thanks to the deities of the earth , that it is time to kickstart the new season.

Because the seed compost is kept in the greenhouse, I knew it would be very cold, so I filled all the seed trays and pots, before leaving them in the propagator for 24 hours to warm up.

Whereas my old propagator is large enough for one seed tray, my new one can handle three seed trays (one large and two small) and some pots too. This means that lots of different seeds can be simmering away in there, instead of forming an orderly queue and waiting their turn.

I wanted to choose seeds of plants which need a long growing season, and would benefit from this early sowing. 

Coleus were my first choice as they take a long time to reach a good size, but, boy, are they worth waiting for. For some reason they seem to have have fallen out of favour with a lot of gardeners, and are viewed as dot bedding plants. We love them for the sub tropical garden where they add colour and texture with their infinite variety of shade and pattern. I grow them every year and then donate them to the Exotic Gardener to plant out as he wishes. Every year we agonise over them for weeks and weeks as they remain stubbornly microscopic until August when they suddenly have a growth spurt and overnight become quite statuesque. I don't know whether they perform this way for everyone or just for us, but I thought I would try and outwit them by planting them early. This way, they will hopefully sulk in June and flourish in July. 

They prefer to be sown on the surface of the compost and have access to light. Don't sneeze when you are sowing them as they are teeny !

I also sowed Datura 'Double Golden Queen' after soaking the seeds for 24 hours. I chose this variety as I hope they will hold their heads up, rather than hanging them in shame. I have grown Datura before and have had reasonable rates of germination, but always been disappointed with the results, as flowers have been few and downward facing.

Ricinus Communis Impala was my next choice. Beautiful seeds, a little like mottled bean seeds, but never ever mix them up as Ricinus is extremely poisonous. Another one which will benefit from a long growing season, although they do grow like triffids anyway. Sown early, then coddled in the greenhouse, should hopefully result in very well grown, dramatic plants to plant out in the sub tropical garden, once all fear of frost is over.

Dahlia 'Bishop's Children' and Dahlia Giant Hybrids will hopefully flower earlier from this early sowing. I grow Bishop's Children every year and wouldn't be without them. The Giant Hybrids are an unknown quantity and I am interested to see what will emerge. Again all the young plants will be kept under heat initially, then moved to a cool, frost free greenhouse, before being planted out mid May.

If you read my last post 'Yes, we have no bananas ...' you may remember that I was musing on Musa and wondering which bananas to grow from seed. I ordered a variety from Jungle Seeds, and I am under no illusions at all, fully aware that I may get no germination at all, or, at best, low success rates. What the heck, it will be fun trying! I soaked all seeds for 48 hours in warm water as suggested in the sowing instructions, and before sowing them in little pots, used a nail brush to roughen the seed coat . I learned in my last post, from members of 'Hardy Tropicals UK' that germination is encouraged by fluctuation in temperatures in bananas (Musa), and the optimum way to do this is to take them out of the propagator for night time and put them back in through the day. Ensete, I believe, do not need this fluctuation, but need a constant temperature for germination.

Even given the fluctuating temperatures germination can take weeks or even months.
I went for these varieties of banks;
Musa Sikkimensis Hookerii
Musa Sikkimensis Paradisiaca
Musa Velutina
Musa Zebrina
Ensete Glaucum
Ensete Ventricosum

In true Blue Peter fashion I happen to have some that were made earlier, standing in the wings! My ebay purchases of 4 Musa Basjoo, were as cheap as chips and I am hoping that they grow away quickly now. They are in poll position on the kitchen windowsill, so they have no excuse not to ...