Most purchased plants and seed packets usually contain some form of advice as to when to plant a plant or seed.
In our experience, this is based on extensive research to find the best growing conditions for that plant. Based on the findings, the advice is created for a generalised public to fit a general average environment. These guides are essentially just guides – only you will know your area and it changes every year.
If the plant is not very hardy and prone to cold, because a packet says to plant the seed in March but you know that it has been especially cold this year, you will not see the benefit from planting in March as a single frost can kill off your investment.
Plant smart and keep an eye on the weather. Alternatively, plant indoors or under cover, this will allow you to plant out in time and transplant stronger seedlings.
Sprouting those Seeds:
There are a number of ways to sprout seeds from simply following instructions and lightly planting in potting compost, sprouting on a wet paper towel in the dark to using a flood and drain system to sprout the seedlings. Different seeds like different environments to sprout. All seeds however do like some form of darkness.
If you plan to water your seed trays/pots, remember not to use too much water. The soil should not be saturated, but just lightly damp. I tend to only water my seedlings every other day or when they appear to be dry on the surface.
Do not worry about having to use a really fine spray or drip to water, just use a medium to light watering can head or alternatively I used a sports drinks bottle to easily water the pots. We do have a spray bottle that we use [up-cycled from an old hair product bottle] but there are some great amber glass and BPA free re-usable spray bottles available on the internet – here is a link to one we found on Amazon in case you are interested;
After planting, I usually keep the seeds in the dark from anywhere between 3 – 7 days until I see the first cm or so of growth. After which I move the seedlings to a sunny window to grow naturally.
When sown indoors, you should harden off your plants for a few days prior to planting out. I have a cold frame I use for this, or alternatively, I move the plants outside in the morning prior to work and once I return, I bring them back in overnight.
If you do not harden your plants, they may go into a shock mode causing them to immediately try to bolt or flower or simply wither away.
Usually I find that once a plant has at least two true leaves (these are the next ones that appear after their baby leaves) it is usually time to plant them out. Keeping them any longer and the roots will not have sufficient space to grow and it will stunt the plants growth. You can extend this period if you move the seedling to a suitable sized pot to grow on further indoors if you wish.
To transplant a seedling, it will depend on the type of plant. For plants you with to grow together in a clump, you can plant the whole tray and simply harvest the smaller plants as it grows. This works well for clumps of beetroots which I like to grow in clumps of 4 -5. As they get larger, I simply pull out the larger beets to let the smaller ones come up to size.
There are certain vegetables I would not transplant – these are mainly carrots as you may damage the taproot (i.e. the important part) when transplanting. If I did want to transplant, again I would simple plant the whole bunch at the same time – obviously removing the pot gently.
I am not sure, but it seems companion planting is a new-ish idea however it looks like it was naturally happening historically – so I have no idea if it is a new concept or not. Either way, it seems like a good idea to try for me.
There are a number of combinations you can find online that people say work well, however I have taken on the motto – if it tastes good together, it will grow good together.
For example, a popular companion plant combination is Corn and Peas. Corn provides a great support structure for the peas to grow up and peas naturally add nitrogen into the soil, assisting the corn to grow. This combo is big in the United States apparently.
There are a number of other combinations, which seem to work and I shall be trying to include these within my planting plant this year. Planting borage next to strawberries apparently makes the fruit sweeter. Planting basil next to tomatoes apparently helps and planting carrots with onions scares away carrot fly.
I am sure from my research there are combinations in which I shall never understand. However, I will keep testing these out.
If you can use a flower for something sweet, try placing it near a fruit bush. If there is a decent culinary combination like the famous Mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery) I frankly, will try to grow these three as close to each other as I can and see what happens.
Other types of companion planting is just for you to sacrifice a plant (usually a flower) for a vegetable. For instance, planting marigolds around will naturally attract pests to the bright marigolds, hopefully saving your vegetables. The same works for Nasturtiums and brassicas.
Other times, it is to release a strong fragrance to confuse pests, like planting onions near carrots or garlic near leeks.
When it comes to companions, the idea is to ensure plants will be friends and be companions. There is no point in planting a carrot next to a courgette. The carrot will be overshadowed completely or a parsnip next to a potato…they both grow down in the ground.
You have to think about each plants needs and whether there is another plant that can assist or hinder it. This is more theoretical and practical than science – but trial and error is really the way forward with this.
I will keep you informed if I come across any really strange combinations in the future!
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