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Jamie’s Little Allotment: Gayton-based columnist explains direct sowing and pricking out

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh explains the importance of distancing out your seeds when sowing…

I hope you all had a good Easter, most of mine was spent either in the garden or in the greenhouse sowing Seeds.

There are still so many seeds I need to sow but am rapidly running out of space to put them.

A V-shaped drill in a planting bed
A V-shaped drill in a planting bed

This week I’m going to be talking about sewing seeds again, but this time it’s direct sowing.

Direct sowing means to sew your seed where it’s going to stay for its whole life.

So that means either in a pot or in the garden or allotment.

Now is the time to start direct sowing
Now is the time to start direct sowing

Let’s start with the allotment, not all seeds can be sown directly in the ground, especially at this time of year.

As the sun gets stronger and the soil warms up we can sow more and more but at the moment this time of year, things like carrots and parsnips, beetroot and radish, Swiss chard and leeks among others are fine to direct sow.

The method for most direct sown seeds is very similar, if you’ve kept your veg beds nice and weed-free it’s just a matter of giving it a good rake.

Once your soil is lovely and flat with no large lumps it’s time to make your seed drill.

A seed drill is just a small continuous indented straight line in the soil, I use a string line to make sure my drill is straight, which is just two sticks with some string tied between them. Push the sticks into the soil at each end of your bed and wind the string nice and tight, a perfect straight line for your seed drill.

I usually use a hoe, and with the corner just in the soil pull it against the string all the way down the bed leaving a nice V-shaped drill.

Depending on what seed you’re sowing depends on how deep your drill needs to be, it will tell you on the seed packet the ideal depth the seed needs to be sown at.

Also on the seed packet, the measurements for the distance between each seed will be stated, it is very important to follow these measurements.

It is so tempting to sow your seeds too close together because they are tiny, but you have to think ahead about how big the actual vegetable will be and how much room it will need to grow.

Now your seeds are in the drill all we need to do is cover the drill back over with soil, then write a label and pop it in at the end of the row, it’s so easy to forget what you’ve sown and give the newly sown seeds a good watering in.

As with the other seed sewing methods I’ve spoken about it is crucial that you don’t let them dry out.

One more thing I want to talk about today is pricking out and potting on.

Pricking out is a term used to describe removing the seedlings from the seed tray where it was first sown.

Start pricking out as soon as the seedlings are big enough to handle.

Fill plug trays or pots with good quality all-purpose potting mix.

Carefully ease the seedlings out of the tray they were growing in then gently tease them apart. Try to retain as much of the original potting mix around the roots as you can work with.

Small batches of seedlings so they don’t dry out while their roots are bare.

Make holes in the potting mix with your finger, a pencil or something similar.

Lift each seedling carefully, only ever handling them by their leaves, never the delicate stems, we use the leaves to hold the seedlings because if a leaf gets damaged the seedling can usually cope with this and carry on growing but if you damage the stem, that’s probably time for the compost heap for that seed baby.

Carefully feed the roots right down into the hole then gently firm the seedling in. You can bury some of the stem if the seedlings are looking a little leggy and drawn. This will help to support them.

Once you’re done, water the seedlings with a watering can or hose fitted with a fine rose. Don’t worry too much if the seedlings get a little flattened, they’ll soon recover.

As always if you have any questions about what I’m doing in the allotment please feel free to email me at: Jamieslitteallotment@gmail.com

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