What a lovely time of year here in Wales. No, not the current weather… stop looking out of the window… but the fact that I can now turn my attention once more to growing things. Not only ordering seeds, but also actually planting.
The beginning of February may seem early, but with my propagator removed from the loft, yesterday I was able to make use of all those toilet roll middles I have been saving for months and get my hands dirty.
Those new to gardening often read the seed packets and think that you can do no better than sow everything at the earliest possible moment, but those of us with a little more experience know that it may be prudent to wait. Sow too early outdoors and seed can rot, or germinate but not grow because it’s too cold, or grow very slowly and therefore be susceptible to pests and diseases. Hanging on and planting a few weeks later can produce more vigorous plants that romp away faster than the early plantings. Sow too early indoors and your seedlings can become weak and leggy before the conditions outside are favourable for planting. It’s a bit of a balancing act.
However, there are some things that really benefit from an early start. These are usually plants that are destined to be coddled for the whole of their lives – things like peppers (sweet and hot). So, yesterday I planted Lipstick sweet pepper, Lemon drop chilli, Alberto’s Locoto chilli, Roma tomatoes and basil. The lid is on the electric propagator and conditions should be good for germination… in fact capsicums germinate much more reliably when warm.
My interaction with seeds hasn’t stopped there, though. I have been frugal with my seed-buying this year. Last weekend I inventoried my left-over seed from last year, compared notes with a friend and we have coordinated purchases… sharing our surplus and reducing waste. I was so taken by this idea, that I’ve also set up a seed swap via Facebook for people doing the diploma in applied permaculture design.
Lots of seed does go to waste each year, and lots of people have surplus saved, so seed swaps are a great idea. You can get involved either online or in person. Patrick of Bifurcate Carrots blog fame runs a seed exchange network, for example. There are also lots of local events, for example, near me the Dyfi Valley Seed Savers have a Seedy Sunday coming up in March (just waiting for confirmation of the date), and there’s one at the Welsh National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre on 23 March as part of their Eco-fair. For something in your area, just search on the internet for ‘seed swap’ plus your location and you’re bound to find something. And don’t worry if you don’t have seeds to exchange – a small donation is usually fine; in addition, swaps aren’t direct, offers go into the pool of seeds available, so you don’t have to arrange a mutually beneficial one-to-one transaction.