Sowing Seeds


It’s that time of the year, when spring is arriving and the ground is warming up and it’s time to sow some seeds directly on the allotment. I thought it might be useful to share the method that I use. It works for me, on my allotment, but there are other hints and tips, and some seeds need to be sown in other ways, but generally speaking for pretty much everything that I sow from seed directly into the ground this is the method that I use. Last weekend I sowed parsnip, turnip and radish. Let me walk you through the sowing of the parsnips.

IMG_20160409_092754119Firstly, read the seed packet.

I know I said that I use the same method, and I do, but you need to check there is nothing special about the seed that you’re sowing. Some seeds come “coated”, which can irritate your skin, and it’s advisable to wear gloves.

More simply you want to make sure that you’re sowing your seeds at the right time, and that you space them correctly and know whether you’re going to need to thin them or any other ongoing care that you’ll need to provide once they’ve germinated.

IMG_20160409_092453082Next I mark out where I’m going to sow.

Normally this is a straight row. I use a line, pegged at either end to keep it taught, and to stop it moving around.

This helps me to keep the row straight during the next step, and also gives me a guide as to where the seed is going. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s only a guide!

IMG_20160409_092530579I then run the narrow end of my adze alongside the line to create a drill.

I’ve had this tool for a while, and it was given to me by someone who couldn’t find a use for it. It’s perfect for this job, and depending on how deep or wide I need the drill to be, I’ll use one end or the other. For the parsnips I only need a narrow, shallow drill so I used the smaller, narrower end.

IMG_20160409_092922116Once I’ve made my drill, I water it.

I do this before the seeds go in. This means that the seeds are going onto slightly damp soil, which stops them from blowing out of the drill if it’s windy, and also aids germination.

I’ll still water them again when the seeds are sown, this is a pre-sowing water.

IMG_20160409_093250081Next I’ll sow the seeds, following the seeds, following the packet instructions, but also using my own experience and knowledge.

As these are parsnips I tend to sow more densely than recommended, because germination is notoriously poor with most varieties of parsnips. If they go the other way, and they all come up, then I’ll have more thinning out to do later, but that is preferable to having more germination or patchy rows taking up a lot of space for very few plants.

IMG_20160409_093422269Finally I’ll mark the row at each end, with the seed type and the date. I also keep a record of what I’ve sown when in my notebook, just so I can keep an eye on when things should start to appear.

Then I’ll remove the line, backfill the drill by scraping the soil back over with a rake, and water covered-over drill well. I’ll do this even if rain is forecast, as often forecasts are wrong.

That’s it. Simple. On to the next row, and next seed type.

Do you have any tried and tested methods that work for you? If so leave me a comment below, I’d like to hear what they are and maybe try them myself.


Lifting Dahlias 

I’ve had one job on the allotment that’s been outstanding for a few weeks, and that’s to lift the dahlia tubers before the frost gets to them.

I sowed the dahlias from seed at the start of the season and they’ve been flowering well into October, but the forecast for the weekend is for frost and snow. Whilst the latter didn’t materialise, it was cold last night so I went off to th plot this morning specifically to get this task done.

The weather was pretty unpleasant, raining, windy and cold, but it only took a matter of minutes to lift the tubers, remove the remaining top growth and excess soil and they’re ready to store until next season. They’re too small to split at present but I have got 7 tubers from my packet of seed. A job well done.


Planning For Next Year

IMG_0727.JPG We had our first frost last night, the signs that autumn is truly upon us.

The allotment is winding down now. There’s still lots to do in preparation for next year, but in terms of crops most things are coming to the end. I’ve still got beans up, but only to let them dry and go to seed, and there are still courgettes, squashes and pumpkins. I’ve also got my garlic in, this needs several consecutive cold nights to properly set bulbs for next year, so hopefully this should have plenty of time.

I’ve sown some overwintering broad beans. I used to do this each year but stopped a couple of years ago, as I lost them to winters that were either very cold or wet. I’m gambling that we will have a mild, and hopefully relatively dry winter, and I’ll have an early broad bean crop. If they don’t survive I’m not too bothered as they’re in an area where I want some winter cover, so they’ll provide that if nothing else. I’ll sow more in spring regardless.

The allotment shop took delivery of its seed order this week, and so I made sure I was at the front of the queue to stock up. The above is just a sampling of what I’ll be growing next year, I still need to get runner beans and a few other things before spring.

IMG_0728.JPG Speaking of pumpkins, I made pumpkin soup last night. It was fantastic, if I do say so myself, and the good news is there was enough for this evening as well. This is what an allotment is all about – fork to fork.

I also had a practice ahead of Halloween.