GET one over on the weather and start your veggies off indoors, writes Sydenham-based horticulturalist George Long of Well Grounded Gardens.

It’s pretty miserable this time of the year especially with the non-stop rain we seem to be having so propagating things outside in the cold and wet is problematic let alone uninspiring especially when you’re talking vegetables but you can start them off indoors.

You don’t need a fancy propagation unit or greenhouse to start off this year’s crop. You just need seed modules which can be purchased from most good garden centres.

It’s also a fun thing to do with the children as it becomes a mini science project as they can help plant the seeds and watch and measure their development.

Take the seed modules and fill them with seeding compost. Make a 5mm deep hole in each section of the module, pop a couple of seeds in, cover with compost and water well.

Leave the modules on a sunny window sill or in a conservatory to germinate.

Over a period of time you will notice seedlings appear which will then develop into small leafy plants about 5-10cm tall, producing ‘plugs’ or root balls that fill the whole module section.

After the frosts have passed, you will need to ‘harden off’ the plants by leaving them outside for a few hours every day for 10-14 days so they acclimatise to the outside environment.

Then transplant the plugs into open soil when the weather starts to warm up, water well and leave the crop to mature.

You don’t need a large garden with vegetable plot either, you can grow them in window boxes or containers on your balcony or window sill but you do need to choose vegetables with shallow root systems.

Perfect crops to grow in pots are: lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, strawberries and spring onions, there are also dwarf varieties of beans and peas available.

Growing vegetables in modules can be done over winter for earlier varieties whereas later crops can be sown directly in the soil.

If you don’t want to use modules there are many vegetables out there that have been bred to be sown earlier or later than their standard growing seasons for example Carrot ‘Amsterdam Forcing’ can be sown outside much earlier than average varieties whereas the late sower ‘Autumn King’ can mean you can still be picking carrots from your garden in winter.

As with all sowing outside, try to avoid the frosts.

Seasonal tips for February/March

The snow and frost don’t seem to have made an appearance as of yet but bear in mind that could all change but once it starts to warm up you can apply organic fertilisers, start planting trees and shrubs, prune winter and summer flowering shrubs, cut back overgrown shrubs before birds start nesting in them.

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