by Janis on 6th May 2022 / 0 comments

Am I too early or too late?

Yay, the time has arrived to start potting on some of my seedlings.

Was I successful? Well, it’s a mixed bag.

Prior to this year, I have only really propagated vegetable seeds. Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet; however, the majority of them turned out okay. For me, ‘okay’ is a big win, it means at least there was some success, and they were edible.

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to the sections and segments of our English country garden. If you’ve had a peek, you’re probably aware that we have a large area of the ‘cottage garden’ that needs partially clearing and re-planting.

We’re going to fill the cottage garden with beautiful plants and flowers, full of colour, vibrancy, and fragrance. Which will bring a smile to our faces and attract the varied wildlife that passes through our garden.

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Trying to fill our cottage garden

So many to choose from

So, what seeds did I sow? It actually feels like what seeds didn’t I sow; our conservatory was turned into a living greenhouse.

Luckily, the weather hasn’t been too cold, so we were able to move some of the seedlings out into the cold frame after a few weeks. With my new digital greenhouse thermometer, we could monitor the high and low temperatures that the cold frame reached throughout the day.

A selection of seedlings potted on and placed on the top shelf of our cold frame.
Inside the cold frame

Anyway, I digress, back to those seeds.

Yes, we have lupins, foxgloves, sunflowers, poppies, dahlias, love-in-the-mist, hollyhock, marigolds, zinnia, and cornflowers for the cottage garden beds. Then we also have bedding plants underway, some herbs, chillies and tomatoes.

The cottage garden bed cleared of excess planting and weeded
The Cottage garden bed ready
I’d like to say that is all, but I know I’ll be sowing more, especially when I keep receiving the free seeds with the Gardeners World magazine.

Back to my potting shed

Does one size fit all?

I’m now back in my happy place, my ‘potting shed’, and since we gave the potting shed a spring clean, it’s such a pleasure to work there. I know where everything is; I’m not saying it’s perfect; however, it’s undoubtedly a massive improvement.

I have a selection of pot sizes, so it depends on whether the young plants are little seedlings and slightly lagging behind their bigger sisters or they’ve grown some nicely established young roots.

I’m also going to try my new biodegradable pots, which can be planted directly into the ground.

Slowly, slowly does it

I know I can’t save them all

So, here I go, armed with my widger and dibber, I’m ready to start potting on and pricking out our juvenile little friends.

Or in other words, I’m going to try and separate the seedlings that have shared an intimate space with their neighbours and transfer them to their own pots. They can then stretch their legs and happily move onto the in-between stage until they reach their final cosy bed in the cottage garden.

A close-up sunflower seed just sprouting in a cell in our seed tray
A sunflower seed sprouting

This is not the easiest of tasks at times. I think I make it difficult for myself as I like to give every tiny seedling a chance and nurturing them to the next stage will allow them to develop healthier roots and grow faster.

I have my potting compost ready; I use peat-free multi-purpose compost mixed with some vermiculite and perlite; I find this works well.

Delicately I lift the young seedlings out with my widger and carefully tease apart the roots and separate each one. It may take some time, but you’ll be rewarded in the end. And no, I don’t mean with an ice-cold beer, I mean with bountiful flowers or vegetables, although a beer would be nice.
A sunflower plant, a few weeks after sprouting, potted onto a large pot and progressing well next to a developing nasturtium.
Potted on

I can just see my grandad now shaking his head at me and wondering why I’m trying to save them all.

I daren’t begin to count how many plants I have potted on, there so many and I treasure them all, but on the other hand I’m thinking, I’ve got to plant all these young flowers into a bed, my back is not going to be so forgiving.

So, everything that can be potted on has been done. After shuffling my pots around in my cold frame and outside staging, they've all got a home.

When do I start potting on?

Wait for the ‘true’ leaves

I’m certainly no expert at this potting on malarky, which I alluded to when I introduced myself in my bumbling gardener post. However, I just want to pass on a few tips on the tell-tale signs that it’s time to pot on.

  1. Try not to leave the seedlings too long; I’d say about three weeks after they sprouted is good.
  2. Do wait for a couple of ‘true’ leaves to appear; the first one or two leaves are ‘seed’ leaves and often not the same shape foliage as a mature plant. Lupins are an excellent example of this. The seed leaves are round, and the true leaves are pointy.
  3. Try not to allow your seedling’s leaves to turn yellow; you may have left them too long and are lacking nutrients.
  4. They are getting too overcrowded in their initial pot, and larger seedlings are getting their elbows out and pinching all the goodness.
The cold frame in place on our patio is filled with a mix of plants being potted on and our money trees preparing for summer outside.
The cold frame in use

I hope you enjoy this experience as much as me it’s very therapeutic.

Although, I’m a glutton for punishment because yesterday I sowed more seeds, and I think I may do some more tomorrow. There’s no helping me.

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