To any horticulturist, this is one of the best tasks of the year. Seed sowing has to be the most theraputic and exciting time as we set off on a seasons journey that will, once again, be a reflection on our skill as a grower. OK, you can throw in the vagaries of the weather and the part time nature of amateur gardening but at the outset our aim is to achieve a quality crop or floral display.
Correct seed sowing is a skill and not one that I was allowed to carry out until the foreman thought I could do it properly. Hygiene is also an important factor and all containers and growing media involved should be spotless. Unfortunately amateur compost can be of poor quality so never go for cheapness. Peat based medium is still the finest for sowing purposes but even here cheap compost may be a blend containing too much sedge peat which can result in poor germination.
When filling containers make sure that the compost is evenly consistent and never over firm or it will become waterlogged when watered. Even compost and even sowing will result in even seedling growth. Also, never try to cram too many seeds into a container, rather use two and sow more thinly. When sowing fine seed, such as begonia or antirrhinum, seed can be mixed with brickdust or very fine dry sand which shows up on the compost surface. Watering first, before sowing, is also beneficial with fine seed.
Once seed has been covered, if required, the final task is to label the container and even this task has a correct procedure. The date of sowing should go across the top then the species and variety are written down the label starting below the date. In this way each label can be read without removal once the seedlings are through.
Once sown, a small pane of glass can be placed over the container to keep things humid along with a piece of newspaper which will prevent the sun from overheating the air between the compost and the glass. Once through both are removed.
One final point to consider is the fact that the heat in which young plants are grown must correspond with the light levels and day length. Early in the year when light is poor, seedlings will required extra day-length in order to stop them becoming drawn. All our early seedlings went under florescent light for 16 hours in order to prevent this happening and to produce a quality plant. Something to consider carefully.