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Growing plants from seed

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I thought we’d take a break from roses and talk about the joy of growing your own plants from seed.

Some people, myself included, are really happy and fulfilled by buying a plant that has been reared and cared for by somebody else but there is something to be said for growing your own plants from seed.  The benefits are multifold.  You have the joy of perusing a multitude of gardening catalogues, choosing plant varieties that look stunning, producing a wish list which is way too long and then reducing it down to a level that you can realistically cope with and then finally ordering the seeds. It’s the perfect pastime for those early months of the year when gardening outside is impractical because the ground is too hard, too wet or covered in snow.

I sow seeds throughout January and February in one of our spare rooms, using a couple of tables with overhead strip lights ( I don’t have a greenhouse).  I hear some of you saying “Isn’t that way too early?”, well my argument is that it gives the young plants time to germinate, produce good root systems and then when the spring comes and all chances of frost have passed they are ready to take off.

Sowing seeds is a risky business as there is no guarantee that the seeds will germinate.  In fairness though, if you buy the seed from a reputable company and don’t keep the seed too long then the chances of success are pretty good.  Just follow the guidelines on the packet, keep the soil moist but not wet, keep the temperature within the recommended range and then wait for the seeds to germinate.  It’s an exciting business waiting for the first signs of germination, you are helping to create a new life (albeit a plant).  When the first seeds germinate and you see the first pair of seed leaves you really feel like a proper gardener.

Apart from the sense of achievement of growing your own plants from seeds it also enables you to create a wonderful garden for a fraction of the cost of buying mature plants from a garden centre.  There are numerous health benefits, it is a well documented fact that gardening is good for your health. It’s not rocket science, gardening entails being out in the fresh air working and therefore getting exercise, all good for you.  However, the benefits to mental health are now being recognised worldwide.  Gardening involves buckets of nurturing, gardeners become the foster parents of all their plants, making sure that they are fed, watered and occasionally get a hair cut (otherwise known as dead heading).  Sounds a lot like being a parent to me.  Having someone or something else to care for helps with life balance, promotes self-esteem and counters depression.

So, you’ve bought your packets of seeds, you’ve germinated them, grown them on but what do you do with those 40 Cosmos plants that you have when you really only need 4?  Most gardeners, myself included, always sow too many seeds and end up with more plants than they want.  However, this doesn’t have to be  a problem or a waste, you could sell them(locally or online) and recoup the cost of the seeds and the compost, you could give them to friends or you could do something really exciting like organise a plant swap day.  From my experience gardeners are the most generous, well-balanced and giving people that you can meet.  Maybe it is something to do with being in sync with nature and the seasons, being outdoors with the birds, bees and butterflies – who knows?  Meeting like-minded gardeners gives you access to  a wealth of knowledge and experience, most gardeners will willingly give you advice of what works best and best of all you will make new friends.

Growing plants from seeds is also a very good activity to do with your children, they are learning, they’re not sat in front of the television or a computer game and most importantly it’s quality time shared.  The excitement and wonder on the faces of children when their first seeds germinate or when they pick the first tomato that they have grown is wonderful and teaches children where their food comes from.  Let’s face it the world needs more gardeners, it’s not an occupation that pays well unless you are a garden designer but it does help children to grow up knowing about nature and where food comes from and hopefully create a future generation with a better life balance.

Here at the Moosbach Garden we have Sweet Peas (pictured above), Cosmos Sensation, Delphiniums, Alyssum, Aubretia, Lavender and Salvia seedlings developing.

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These are Delphinium seedlings (Darling Sue), you’ll notice that they have their first pair of leaves, these are referred to as seed leaves.  Seed leaves are the first to appear when the seed germinates and these allow the plant to photosynthesise, producing energy for root and plant development.  Shortly after this true leaves will appear that are characteristic of the plant.  I’ve started using these individual soil pods as there is less root disturbance when you pot them on, it’s more expensive than using a bag of compost but it works for me.

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These Cosmos Sensation seedlings look a little scrawny but in a few weeks they will be healthy, vigorous plants.  These grow to about 5 feet tall and if planted in a group look absolutely stunning. Just remember to keep deadheading the spent flowers and you’ll have flowers until the first frost.

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Above, Cosmos Sensation in the top garden, planted in a group.  The picture at the top of this page shows sweet pea seedlings, you’ll notice that they look quite leggy. Once 2 sets of true leaves have been produced you should nip out the tip of the seedlings and this will encourage the plant to produce more side shoots near the base of the plant.  This results in a bushier looking plant which is more visually pleasing and ultimately will produce more flowers.

You can easily grow stunningly beautiful delphiniums like this in colours and varieties that you won’t generally find at a garden centre and these will reward you year after year with their beautiful flowers.

If you want to buy fantastic Delphinium seeds you can order them here or we will have some plants available to buy at the Moosbach Garden in early summer.

For an excellent selection of flower and vegetable seeds click here.

Don’t forget you can also collect seeds from the plants in your garden, store them over winter and sow them next year.

Happy gardening!

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Andrew Huber

I am an English gardener who has been living in the Black Forest in Germany for 4 years. Slowly I am transforming 16 acres of mountain into a garden. Feel free to email me if you have any gardening questions and I'll see if I can help.

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