Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Warm beds can get seeds off to a great start

There are many pleasures to be had when growing plants in a greenhouse – not least of which is the fact that the controlled gardening environment offers a considerable degree of flexibility.

This will be particularly noticeable at this time of year, when extensive snow cover is being experienced in some parts of the country.

Seeds can be planted at any time of year – and this means that the greenhouse grower is spoilt for choice. Cucumber seeds are a very popular option – indeed, growing these vegetables is common practice in the US.

Burpless cucumbers are a sweeter version of the plant that can be grown from seed. In cucumbers, seeds are enclosed in the plant and develop from a flower, which means that they are classified as accessory plants in botanical terms.

Thai basil is a great option for gardeners who would prefer to produce herbs rather than full-blown edible vegetables. Indeed, it is great as a flavouring in Thai green and red curries.

However, there are additional responsibilities that come hand-in-hand with the extended choice associated with greenhouse growing. For instance, it is essential that seeds are given a great start in a warm bed of very well-maintained soil.

Former presenter of television magazine show Gardeners' World and garden writer Alys Fowler said that people love the thought of coming home to a warm bed in the cold winter months – and the same applies to seeds.

In an article for UK national newspaper the Guardian, she explained that a good method of keeping soil warm is to bring it indoors overnight and bring it up to room temperature.

She added that room-temperature water can also make all the difference – and all it takes is a few degrees for seeds to really feel the benefit.

"The next step is to trap that water and heat, which is why clear plastic bags or clear propagator lids are a must – our centrally-heated homes tend to dry out that top centimeter of soil pretty quickly," the expert commented.

Ms Fowler continued: "The starting point of the germination process is temperature and moisture – cut off either of those and the process slows down or doesn't happen at all.

"If you want to up your game, buy a heated propagator, to provide the steady bottom heat that is key to even germination," she continued, adding that temperatures can drop dramatically overnight on a windowsill.