Friday, March 10, 2006

seed sowing begins

The first seeds of the year have now been sown. I leave most seeds until the end of March - when we have even days and nights and the temperature fluctuations are less - but I begin snapdragons early to give them a chance to bulk up into decent sized plants.
I sow into large sized coir pellets - these are made from coir which is a byproduct of the cocunut industry, made from the husks. It is being used as an alternative to peat pellets and as well as the environmental issues, it has several advantages.
Firstly it is easier to wet - the pellets come compressed into discs about the size of backgammon conters and swell to 5 times their height when soaked in water. I find that this soaking is much quicker if you use tepid or even hot water - it gives the seeds a bit of a heat boost as well.
Secondly it comes in larger sized pellets - I don't know why - but this means that you can grow on plant to a larger size before planting out.
Thirdly the pellets seem less likely to dry out and rewet more easily.
The pellets are very low in nutrients which is great for seed germination ( seeds like low nutrient conditions) but does mean that if plants are being kept in the pellets for any length of time they will need to be fed.
I soak the pellets and then put them into old mushroom boxes which have the advangage of being stackable. I put each tray into a polythene bag and then stack them in the airing cupboard.
It is then important to check twice a day as seeds can germinate and become lanky very quickly. Snapdragons sown on Monday afternoon have already germinated and been moved to the tunnel!
I have not seen the large size coir pellets in the garden centres but I would be happy to sell them in small numbers if you want to try them out.
The coir pellets are part of the kits being given out for the Park Life Sunflower Competition.
Sunflower Tip One - Soak the coir pellet in warm water. This will speed up the swelling and also give the seed a bit of warmth to start off its germination.

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