Gardeners are normally a very patient bunch. In winter we spend hours, reading books and gardening magazines on our favourite subject looking for ideas and inspiration. When we’re not doing that we’re thumbing through seed catalogues, planning what we’re going to grow in the new year, almost waiting in anticipation for someone to finally pull the trigger on the seed sowing starters pistol.
Sometimes this eagerness to grow can be our downfall. The winter months in the UK can lull you into a false sense of security, offering us beautiful crisp sunny days (perhaps making us regret wearing that extra thick jumper), turning our greenhouses or polytunnels into warm, inviting retreats. But, as quick as Mother Nature giveth, she can taketh away just as fast, providing us with gale force winds, driving rain and freezing temperatures, dashing any hopes we may have had of sowing anything any time soon.
That being said our eagerness to sow seeds can sometimes get the better of us and despite the conditions outside we go ahead and do it anyway.
Enthusiasm to get the growing season started is a major factor for this but I also think social media can be the cause too. Seeing lots of fantastic photos of healthy new seedlings emerging in propagators, on windowsills and in greenhouses posted by other growers makes you think, ‘should I be doing that?’, or, ‘well, if they’re sowing those seeds now, I better start too!’. I am definitely guilty of having those thoughts at times, but sometimes you have to stop and think about it logically. If you see people sowing chillies, tomatoes or aubergines in January, that’s absolutely fine. It could be something they have tried and tested in their part of the country which works for them but it may not necessarily work for you. For example, we always sow sweet pea seeds in an unheated greenhouse in December because we know that works for us, whereas other gardeners wait until January or February the following year to sow theirs.
Gardening can be trial error and I’m a firm believer that you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them. This means that if you do sow too early and your plants get too leggy or are killed by a cold snap, it’s obviously extremely deflating but, you will learn what not to do next time.
Obviously there are cold hardy seed varieties which can be sown early like broad beans, onions, leeks, cabbage and cauliflower, but just remember to use the instructions on the back of the seed packet as a guide, they’re there for a reason and are full of really useful information.
I would never discourage someone from getting involved with gardening or sowing. That being said, I also don’t want other gardeners, especially new growers, to feel pressure to start growing after seeing others doing it on social media, because gardening should be an enjoyable, rewarding and relaxing experience.
The best advice would be; if you’re unsure, ask other growers in your area who have similar growing conditions for a little advice and don’t forget to check out the information provided on the back of the seed packet. Do both of these and you can’t go too far wrong and most of all, enjoy it!
Joe is on Instagram as Grow With Joe