Root crops should be sown where they are to grow, while others often require a nursery bed or container for later transplanting. Beware, though, of the seeds going to seed in a hot summer. Wait until the soil is warm – and you can heat it by covering the bed with cloches or plastic for a few weeks – and not too wet. Dry soil might need a sprinkling of water.
To sow outdoors:
- Loosen the surface with a hoe to kill weeds and aerate the soil
- Rake the bed, making it clear of weeds and larger stones
- Using a line or cane, mark out shallow furrows in parallel to each other
- Sow seeds sparingly, spacing larger ones to avoid later thinning. Cover them with soil and sprinkle lightly with water again.
To sow indoors:
- Sow early and succession crops in small pots or seed trays while waiting for space or warmer weather.
- Using fresh, moist seed potting mix, fill the containers and tap them to settle the earth.
- Sprinkle seeds sparingly on the surface, and cover with a layer of compost.
- Set in a warm place indoors or a shady spot outside in the summer
- Keep moist during germination!
Most veggies seeds respond well to the same basic sowing routine: sowing, thinning or pricking out, and transplanting. It’s important to get the timing right, and to become familiar with the seasonal rhythm of raising vegetables over time.
Pricking out – or thinning – is important so vegetables are not unnecessarily competing with each other for nutrients as they grow. When seedlings have two true leaves and are big enough to handle, you’ll know it’s time to water them, allow to drain, and then loosen the roots with a table fork. Holding each seedling by a leaf (never the stem), transfer to potting soil. For larger seedlings, 4-inch pots is appropriate. For smaller ones, trays are fine, spacing them 2 inches apart. Water the seedlings and keep them in a well-lit place while they grow.
Before seedlings get too large, it’s important to transplant them. Before you do this, water them about an hour or two beforehand. Lift outdoor plants with a trowel without disturbing the root. Plants in pots can be tapped out upside down, and those in trays can be separated with a sharp knife. Plant the seedlings in holes made with a trowel, firm into place with your fingers, and water thoroughly.
Adapted from The Chef’s Garden