How to sow seeds and keep them alive in springter

March is fickle month. One minute it’s snowing, the next it’s all warm and daffodilly. It’s not winter, it’s not spring, it’s springter. I think I just invented a new season there.

March is the perfect time to start many seeds off indoors. Tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and peppers all need sowing this month to give them a long enough growing period.

Yet it’s often too cold for seeds to germinate. Fortunately, they are easily fooled into thinking it’s T-shirt weather with a few simple tricks.

So here are my top tips for raising plants during springter – and ensuring they don’t commit cold weather suicide.

1. Capitalise on the central heating 

I’m not suggesting there is any kind of science behind this, but it seems sensible to stick your bag of compost near a radiator or other heat-producing device – electric blanket, under the dog, near (but not too near) the oven – before inserting unsuspecting seeds into said compost. What do you mean you’ve turned the central heating off already?

2. Use the hot tap for watering

Some people claim taking a cold shower is good for the immune system. Whatever. I prefer warm water and I’m (unscientifically) sure seeds do too. And as far as I know they don’t have immune systems.

3. Do your food shopping based on your gardening needs 

This week I bought a ready-cooked roast chicken purely because it came in a transparent plastic container with a lid. (It was also heavily reduced and meant I didn’t need to cook that night.) While I wouldn’t normally advocate buying food furnished with unnecessary plastic, if you’re going to buy it anyway, then you might as well put the packaging to good use. This one is an ideal propagator.

4. Raid the recycling bin 

It’s amazing how many more perfect propagators and plant pots can be found in the recycling bin. Can’t find anything suitable in your own bin? Try the neighbours. (I did once have to explain to the kids that this wasn’t actually stealing.)

5. The heated propagator

It’s not often I get excited about gardening gadgets – but I do have a small heated propagator. It’s basically an electric incubator, big enough to fit a few small plant pots inside. I managed to crack mine by trying to cram in more pots than was strictly possible but it still works held together with tape. It’s amazing how much more quickly seeds germinate in here compared to those on a windowsill – at which point I swap them over so they all get a turn.

6. Plastic bags 

If you don’t have a heated propagator – or have too many pots for your propagator – then placing them inside a plastic bag is also really effective, and conserves moisture, too. Or you could cover individual pots with plastic lids (hello, recycling bin again) or clingfilm, except I hate clingfilm. Yuk.

7. The polytunnel 

Not so much a gadget as a whole new way of gardening. A big investment, but this thing has changed my (gardening) life. Stepping inside a polytunnel in March is like stepping into summer. Ok, a British summer, but you get the idea. You can read more about how brilliant polytunnels are here.

8. The mini polytunnel

Don’t have space for the full Monty? How about a baby one? This polythene igloo is a great way to cover young plants when you first move them outside, and also protects them from pests. You can also place it over an area of soil to warm it up before sowing seeds, or over a patch of strawberries for example, to speed things up (though take it off when flowers appear, for pollination.)

So there you go, happy springter.

About Becky Dickinson

Mum of three. Writer, blogger, grower. Trying to keep my head above the compost heap.

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