• Alchemic activity!

    I love growing plants from seeds. Everything about the process delights me. Way back last autumn, as the days became shorter and colder, I collected hope in the form of seeds, to be safely stored until the spring. I sowed some in the autumn. They germinated as the winter blew in; their slow growth echoing the short days of winter.

    Throughout the year I jot down the names of plants I encounter that I want to grow and in late winter I turn detective and track down suppliers of seed. Sometimes, despite all my efforts, I fail and the name must be added to my plant list and later in the year I will try to source a plant from which I can collect my own seed or propagate in another way.

    As the packets of seed arrive by post I feel the excitement of Christmas as a child. Within the small packets lies dormant hope, just waiting for alchemic transformation. I do understand the science of germination but nonetheless it remains thrilling, exciting and mysterious. Many of the seeds I order are from specialist suppliers who don’t provide extensive, or in some cases, any guidance about the best way of germinating the seed. I turn to the internet and record any advice I can glean about planting medium, temperature, depth of planting and so on. After years of experimenting with different methods and materials I have decided mostly upon very small seed trays filled with proprietary seed compost, occasional mixed with grit or vermiculite.

    Each seed tray is labelled and cossetted in a plastic bag. Depending on their needs they go to the poly tunnel, the window sill, the spare bedroom, the propagator or fridge. This is the moment when I realise that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, or sown more that I have room for. I do the same very year. (I’m relieved that my shopaholic tendency only surfaces when purchasing seed).

    Now every morning starts with checking all the seed trays. Sometimes the only sign of growth is raised lumps of vermiculite or soil being lifted up by the emerging seedling. Other times the speed of growth is breath-taking and overnight the tray is transformed into a miniature garden of tiny plants.

    So now I look forward to sowing more seed and pricking out and potting on. Then there’s the garden to tidy up, potting up last year’s cuttings, replacing a fence, distributing leaflets, planting a garden I recently designed and sorting out my compost heaps. Think I’d better get started!

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The Coastal Gardener

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