Springtime may sound like a long time off, but if you are reading this in January, chances are many a gardener will begin their annual seed planting from next month. To get the most of the relatively short British summers, the season needs to be extended as far as possible, by planting earlier and protecting plants for as long as one can into autumn.
Aside from the cold, the greatest issue facing any springtime seed sowing plan is the lack of light. Some gardeners actually argue that they can afford to plant seeds a few weeks later than those who plant in February, and that their seedlings will soon catch up. Of course, it also depends on where in the country you live – those in the South generally have a longer planting season by as much as possibly 2-3 weeks. Others like to use artificial light to spur their seedlings along.
If planting in a cold greenhouse in February isn’t for you, there are other options. As well as purchasing seeds at this time of year, you can start ordering plugs or small plants. These can more often or not be selected from catalogues and online and then sent to you in the post later on in spring. These can be particularly useful if you are limited on space in your greenhouse. Plus, when planting from seed, one always has to assume a percentage of wastage – seeds that don’t germinate, or those that are killed off by the cold or by pests. Plugs and small plants are already starting to establish themselves.
If you do go down the plug-plant route, it’s important that you choose delivery at the right time. Too early in the season (most suppliers send at set times anyway) and it could be counter-productive as the plants could mature too quickly before the weather outside the greenhouse warms up to safe enough levels. Ordering on a Friday could mean plants are sitting in jiffy bags in a Post Office over the weekend. But again, a reputable supplier will probably factor this in. But if timed delivery is an option, it’s worth spending the extra couple of pounds to select a day when you can expect these.
As soon as they arrive, it’s important than the plants are removed from the packaging and left to recover somewhere with a degree of light and warmth (not strong heat like a radiator) for a few hours. Once they have started to pick up slightly, and you’ve given them gentle water, these can be stood more upright before you pot them up into their own respective flower pots. The plugs will then continue to grow with your careful nurturing until the point when they can be planted out in late spring (generally, it depends on the plant type).