Seed plants can be propagated by seedlings. Whether purchased in bags in gardening stores or directly harvested on plants, seeds should be handled with great care. If you still have some seeds after sowing, keep them away from heat and moisture for the next season. Sowing will depend on the plant variety to be multiplied. Depending on circumstances, it may be carried out in the open, in a sheltered location or in a nursery.

Some vegetables such as carrots, turnips, corn salad and sorrel are propagated by sowing seeds. For this, the ground needs to be at normal temperature. Indeed, moderate sun and a mild breeze favour the growth of plantlets. Begin by loosening the ground and raking it. To facilitate subsequent weeding, it is better to sow in rows. Dig shallow furrows, and then, after dispersing the seeds, bring back a thin layer of soil over the furrows using the back of a rake.

Once the seedlings have reached a little more than an inch in height, proceed to a quick weeding. Plan a 10-inch space between each seed furrow of carrot, turnip, onion or corn salad to obtain mature vegetables every 2 inches along the same furrow. Pea and spinach seeds will be sown in rows spaced 10 to 15 inches apart in order to harvest individual spinach plants every 8 to 12 inches in a given row. To sow beans, rows need to be spaced 18 inches apart because at harvest there will barely be a 4-inch space between each bean plant.

Advantages of sowing in a nursery

Some vegetables prefer to grow sheltered from the sun and are, as such, sown in nurseries. The ambient atmosphere actually stimulates the growth of plantlets and is also useful to keep sheltered them from the cold. Sowing performed in the nursery also allows for intensive propagation, since it will generate more new plants on a smaller area. Once the plantlets resume growth, they will be replanted elsewhere. Lettuce and white onion can be sown in nurseries in spring and in September respectively. Finally, sowing in a sheltered location consists of planting the seeds either in a small greenhouse or under a cold frame. This sowing technique allows transplantation of, for example, lettuce, radish and watercress.

Sowing annual seeds

Annual plants have a better chance to grow if planted in rich soil, especially for those blooming two months after sowing. Whether the plants are grown in nurseries or in clumps, bring a supply of potting soil and peat in equal quantities. Regarding in-ground planting, you must first dig and rake the ground, and only after this step will you cover the furrows with an inch-thick layer of peat and potting soil. Then, sow the seeds on top. Remember to water thoroughly with soluble fertilizer.

The seeds of annual plants vary in size. There are large seeds such as those of the nasturtium or sweet pea that will need to be immersed in lukewarm water the day before planting. On D-Day let them dry and sow the large seeds in batches of four seeds before covering them with a one-inch layer of soil. Some plants grown in heath soil, such as pot marigold and wallflower, are of medium size. Mix the batches of seeds with a little sand to keep them separate from each other. After sowing them, spread a 1/5-inch layer of soil on the rows of seedlings. Finally annual varieties such as poppies have fairly thin seeds. Very fine sand will be enough to loosen them. However, small seeds do not need to be covered with soil. Simply tap the ground for the seeds to cling to it.

Small tips to ensure successful sowing

You can do the sowing by involving your children in the process. Mix the seeds with dry sand which they will scatter to the four winds in the vegetable garden. If you want to speed up the emergence of sprouts, you can make miniature greenhouses with plastic bottles, previously cut in the vertical direction. Drill several holes on the bottle to favour seed ventilation.

Then, protect plantlets from slugs which love young shoots, especially at nightfall. You can also use anti-slug treatments. Set up a net to prevent birds from picking at seedlings. When transplanting, be sure to extract the plantlets with a sufficient clod of earth and a lot of roots. Grow each plant in an individual pot without forgetting to water it well.

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Published in Basics by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011