by Janis on 14th April 2023 / 0 comments

You can never have too many sunflowers

It’s that time of year when I hide away in my potting shed for a few hours and peacefully start sowing my seeds for the year ahead. Eagerly awaiting that vibrant splash of colour which will bring cheerfulness to our cottage border bed.

Last year I had very positive results from my seeds, the majority were quite successful, especially my marigolds, hollyhocks, sunflowers, dahlias, nasturtium, and of course, chillies and tomatoes.

In past years I have sown far too many seeds and I can imagine 2023 will be no different. The thing is, you just never know if they will all be successful, so you have to err on the side of caution. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

I know you are meant to be a little ruthless and perhaps discard the weaker seedlings, but I can’t do it. I want to give them all a chance; that’s when I end up with a freight load of tomatoes.


The pin image for our post - 'Let’s start to sow some seeds for 2023'
Why not Pin it for later?
The three seed packets of our choice of homegrown tomatoes for this season, Gardener’s Delight, Sweet Million F1 and San Marzano 2.
Although I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t understand why some packets of seeds have so many in them. I’d be happy with 10 or 20 rather than hundreds and thousands, but hey, I shouldn’t whinge.
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Using vermiculite and perlite

The winning combination for sowing
This year the compost I am using for growing my seeds is a peat-free multi-purpose compost mixed with vermiculite and perlite. I have previously used seedling compost which is very good; however, I have found that adding vermiculite and perlite really helps if you are just using a peat-free compost.
What are the differences between vermiculite and perlite? I hear you say, well, vermiculite acts like a little sponge, and when you water your seeds, the vermiculite soaks up the water and will keep your compost moist for longer.

Now, perlite is like tiny little pieces of rock and will act as an aerator to help drain some moisture away.

It may seem mad using them together as they are, in essence, the opposite of each other; however, using them together is a winning combination.

A seed cell insert is ready to be filled in the tray tidy in our well organised potting shed
Starting to pot up

I’m lucky enough to have the space in my potting shed to mix up the peat-free compost, perlite, and vermiculite within a potting tray.

I find that using this tray, makes it easier to fill up my trays and pots otherwise; it can get a bit messy.

Are you a seed tray person, or do you use pots?

Or a combination of them all

Once my seedlings begin to grow stronger, I will transfer them to single pots to give them more room to stretch and grow individually. However, when I first sow my seeds, I tend to use a combination of propagating techniques. I suggest you try a few and see which you prefer, or like me, you can mix and match.

This year I have started with cell seeding trays as I like the seeds to have a compartment each, and if you lack the space for individual pots, then this works very well. In the past, I have also used deep root trainers for sweet peas, which have been quite successful.

A covered seed tray, complete with a transparent lid misted with condensation.
Cell seeding tray

I also use small individual pots. Once again, I have a combination of little plastic pots and peat-free biodegradable pots, I used the biodegradable pots for the first-time last year. These can work out a little more expensive but are good for the environment.

Or, if you enjoy a yoghurt or two, save your washed-out yoghurt pots and pierce a few small holes in the bottom, et voila, you have a free propagator.

Finding that sunny spot

Fingers crossed, they start to germinate

I have just counted the different species of seeds I have sown, and incredibly I have 30 different varieties. Where are they all going to go? I was going to plant some more too.

I do have a cold frame on the patio. But, at the moment, it is a little too chilly of an evening for them to go outside, so, lucky enough, I have a conservatory. It obviously isn’t ideal to use the conservatory. Still, it does get a huge amount of light for most of the day and is a perfect temperature through the night.

But of course, any indoor sunny window ledge is perfect for your seeds, and you can nurture them and chat to them indoors.

The little green plastic digital thermometer displays the high and low, as well as current, temperature in our cold frame
Our thermometer in a cold frame

Last year I splashed out on a digital thermometer for use in conservatories, cold frames, and greenhouses. The digital thermometer displays the current temperature and the maximum and minimum reached.

I’ve placed it in my cold frame so I can get an indication of the rise and fall in temperatures through the day, and it’ll help me decide when I can move the seedlings to the cold frame.

Sprouting sunflowers in a seed tray just a few days after planting
Sunflower seeds germinated

I planted my seeds about 10-12 days ago, and even though I’ve been watering them, I didn’t actually lift the lids until seven days had passed. And to my utter amazement, some of the seeds have started growing.

I planted 10 sunflower seeds; all 10 have burst through the soil and are around one to two inches tall already.

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