No greenhouse? Then grow seeds indoors

Compost is the gardener's friend

Compost is the gardener's friend

Winter's finally beginning to wane now the snowdrops are out

BRIAN KIDD: Strange but true, now’s the time to plant your snowdrops

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Thanks again for all your lovely letters and yes, I do listen to your requests and also appreciate how difficult it has been out there in the garden lately.

As you know, I have been suggesting making the best of time in the greenhouse. This inspired Kelly, who lives at North End, to write.

Kelly has no greenhouse but would like to sow seeds on the windowsill in her spare bedroom.

Great to hear from you Kelly. You can grow most seeds on a windowsill if the room is warm enough. You can buy seed trays with clear plastic domes which fit over the top from all garden centres. A tray and dome will cost about £2 or less.

If the room is cold there are small heated propagators which fit on to a windowsill complete with seven rectangular tiny seed trays with individual domes, ideal for starting seeds.

I would suggest a wattage of 15 watts which will be very cheap to run. Have a look at twowests.co.uk, where you can buy one for £34.99 plus postage.

As you know I recommend all types of begonias and the seeds need to be sown at any time in March. Have a look at Begonia Non Stop, this is well named because it flowers from June right up until the autumn frosts.

Fill a clean seed tray with any type of seed compost. Don’t press the compost but level off the surface with a piece of wood (a ruler is ideal). Sow the seeds evenly and cover the surface with a light scattering of Vermiculite. This former volcanic rock has been heated to over 1,000 degrees Celsius which causes it to flake.

Because of the heating process, the shiny-surfaced Vermiculite will absorb the water and produce the best possible environment for germination.

Why? Begonia seeds germinate best in light and moist conditions. The Vermiculite reflects light on to the seeds and as the Vermiculite is covered with water, the surface provides a perfect environment. Don’t worry about the seeds being too cold as your propagator is providing bottom heat.

Leave the seeds to soak up the water in the seed tray for one hour before putting the tray into the propagator. The seeds are very hard and covered with natural resin – this needs to be broken down by the water.

You will have noted that I mentioned not to push down the seed campost. Well, after the compost has soaked up the water, the surface of the compost is about a quarter-of-an-inch below the rim of the seed tray. This is an ideal height and it means moss will not smother the surface.

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