Sowing seeds

It feels really strange to be sowing seeds now.  Outside everything is covered in snow and it feels like Christmas.  Apart from the ever increasing daylight.  This light is the first sign of spring here and now the sun rises at eight in the morning and it is still light when we get home from work.  But spring is still a long way away.  Traditionally, the danger of frost isn't really over till middle of June, but with warmer climate most people now start to plant out in May, but under close watch.   Even so this is the right time to start to sow seeds for an early crop.  This requires some preparation and thought and a lot of suitable vessels to sow seeds in.  I often buy seed trays and modules, but since most things have doubled in price in the last two years
I decided to make newspaper pots this year.

I think everyone should grow something to eat.  It's fun and there is nothing in the supermarkets that can compare with homegrown vegetables.  I have been growing my own for the past two years and really enjoy it.  I have a small allotment garden, but it's possible to grow quite a lot in pots on a balcony or even in a window sill.  I have already planted garlic outside because it needs the cold in order to develop cloves.  But at the beginning of March it is time to start to sow the first seeds.

I have put quite some thought into it this year and have written down how many plants of each vegetable I plan to grow.  Last year I was given some plants and that dictated a lot of what I grew.  I am now only going to grow what I really like to eat.  This year I need more broccoli, more carrots and more rutabaga.  And more lettuce of different sorts as well as rucola and spinach.  I love both.  No chard!  I tried it, it's just not good.  And I don't care if it looks good in the garden.  Plenty of things do.  I grow calendula, borage, mint, comfrey and violas to take care of the pretty part of the vegetable garden.  I did beans last year, They were kind of pretty too.  But I don't really like beans, so this year I'm sowing peas.  I love green peas... and beets.  And I want to grow more of some potatoes and less of others.  I was given 6 baking potatoes last year and they were just fantastic.  I also plan to try celery and I need two kale plants.  My sister in law told me that they make the best chips!  So I need try that.

It has been my experience that I sow too many seeds of each plant and end up with a glut which inevitably gets too much to keep up with and at least half of my seedlings die because I didn't prick them out properly.  This year I am only sowing a few more seeds than I want of each plant.
Then I plan to sow some seeds every 2-3 weeks, especially
lettuce, spinach and rucola.  That we I can extend
the harvest since those plants tend to bolt.

But back to the newspaper pots.  I made some last year when I had run out of pots and they worked very well.  They can be planted directly out so that the roots of the plants are not disturbed.  I have seen that in the UK they sell pretty wooden somethings to make them and being a great admirer of equipment in general and wooden equipment in particular, I want one.  But in the absence of a thingumajig I found a square vase that was perfect.

I was actually quite proud of myself for making them square this time, rather than round.  They fit much better into the tray that holds them.  I prepared the tray by putting newpaper in the bottom and then sprinkling a thin layer of soil on top.  This helps to keep everything nice and moist.

The pots themselves are very easy to make.  I used half the size of a tabloid, cut along the length.  Tabloid size is standard here for all newspapers.  So I cut the sheet in two and used two sheets to give it stability.  I then fold the piece leaving 1-2 inches / 3-5 cm (which becomes the bottom.  Then I roll the paper around the vase, scrunch the bottom and pull the pot away and put it in the tray.  I almost fill it to the top with soil.

Then I water it.  It's better to water before the seed is sown because watering will move the seeds around.  Alternatively water from the bottom.  I cover the soil with vermiculite or small size gravel.  It helps keep moisture in and looks tidy.

After sowing the seeds I label them.  This is very important.  I have often thought that I was sure to remember exactly what I sowed, but that is not so.  It's really important to label clearly and make sure that those labels don't get lost when the seedlings are potted on.  I finally cover the tray with a cut up plastic bag.

I put the tray onto a window sill and check it every day.  I lift the plastic off to ventilate if it looks too wet and once the seedlings appear I tend to take the plastic off during the day to let them get the most daylight.  I also stroke the small seedlings in order to mimic wind.  Or you can blow on them.  This will toughen them up and prepare them for real life.

I also use egg cartons for lettuce leaves.  Lettuce has really shallow root systems so that works perfectly. Toilet rolls are very good for peas and sweet peas and everything that has a long root system.  It is even possible to sow carrots in them and plant the paper rolls directly out in the garden when the weather gets nice enough.

I also use the plastic boxes that lettuce and strawberries come in.  Those really are perfect mini greenhouses complete with drainage holes and a cover.

The first seedlings are already appearing and I can just about believe that this time I won't kill them all, but grow them into healthy plants.  Oh, I look so forward to spring.


  1. I LOVE kale. I have never tried the chips but I always put it in soup. Good luck with your garden. I can't wait to see pictures!

  2. Those are a lot of plants! I wish I had more space to garden...our plot is rather small. I need to be starting seeds as well. Can't wait for Spring!! (And I can't imagine waiting until mid-June!)

  3. It is the great idea - pots from newspaper! Thank you!
    Ambra, what happens to the paper after watering? does it wet , not fall apart? does it retains shape?


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