Raising plants from seed

Growing flowers and vegetables from seed is so rewarding; that is if you can be sure of success. I’m going to tell you how to give your young plants the best possible start in life: How to sow them in individual, biodegradable pots that can be planted out directly into the ground, without disturbing the roots. Using the right compost is also imperative; but which one should you choose? Read on for the secrets of guaranteed results and earlier crops and blooms.

Sowing in the open ground can be a risky business: seedlings are at the mercy of the weather, slugs, snails and hungry birds. If you sow in seed trays it means pricking out and transplanting young seedlings.  The roots are disturbed and growth stops while those young plants make new roots and re-establish.

Sowing broad beans

Avoid transplanting check by sowing seeds directly into biodegradable Vitapots

Originally this type of biodegradable pot was made from peat. Peat pots enabled the gardener to sow seeds singly or in small numbers in individual containers.  You could get seeds growing into strong young plants, then plant them out complete with the pot.

Vitax Vitapots work in just the same way as traditional peat pots, however they are made from organic wood pulp, completely peat free.

Growing in Vitapots develops strong, root systems and promotes vigorous growth by keeping roots moist and warm. Vitapots insulate more effectively than plastic pots. Place them close together to start with to reduce water and heat loss.

It is easy to see when the roots are filling the pot because they start to peep through the sides and base. Planted into the ground, in the pots, the roots quickly establish. The biodegradable peat pot helps to keep the soil moist around the base of the plant.  

 Use Vitapots instead of cell trays

Vitapots

Small seeds can be sown individually in 5cm cell Vitapots. These come in sections of twelve units, three units in a pack. They are ideal for seeds like tomatoes, which are expensive to buy and best grown on indoors for several weeks before planting out. Rather than struggling to extract them from individual cells to pot them on, Vitapot cells are easily separated and transplanted directly into larger pots.

Make watering easier

Seeds often fail because they dry out during germination. Pack your Vitapots together in large saucers or gravel trays where they can be watered from above or below. Although biodegradable, even the larger Vitapots remain easy to handle and do not fall apart in the early stages of use. Using them also avoids risk of disease from dirty plastic pots which can cause failure of young seedlings.

 Deep Vitapots are perfect for peas and beans

Plants with strong tap roots, such as beans and peas really benefit from deep pots which allow that long root to develop and keep on growing in the ground. The 7cm round Vitapots are ideal. If sowing peas you can sow two or three seeds in a pot which will grow together as one plant. You can also use these for sweet peas, but sow singly as they hate competition.

  

Grow tubesSuccess with sweet peas

Serious sweet pea growers start their seeds in tubes. Some use tubes made of newspaper, or the cardboard centres of toilet rolls. However best results come when you use Vitax Grow Tubes, which are manufactured from recycled paper, textile fibres and pure bitumen.

These black, biodegradable tubes give wonderful depth, channelling the roots deep from the start.  As they are bottomless they need to stand packed together in gravel trays or deep saucers.  When planted out, without removing the tube, the rim is left protruding about 1cm above the ground. This protects the base of the plant from slugs and snails and allows you to channel water straight into the roots.

Regular watering: essential for sweet peas, peas and beans

Regular watering is essential for the successful germination of seeds, the development of seedlings and flower production.  If they dry out growth stops and may not restart. Buds drop, or do not form at all if the soil is dry. These are very moisture sensitive plants.  A well-developed root system and regular supply of water are the secrets of success.

 

Use the right growing mediumVitax Seed & Potting compost

Whichever container you choose for your seeds, you need a specific seed compost. Of course a nice fine texture is important, however the most important quality is the right nutrient level. If you use a compost with a high nutrient level, suitable for mature plants, your seed will not germinate, or at least the roots will fail to develop properly. Many multi-purpose composts today are unsuitable for seed sowing, so beware. Vitax Seed and Potting compost is the perfect growing medium for seed sowing, rooting cuttings and those young plants in the earliest stages of their lives.

Andy McIndoe for Vitax

Spring 2017 

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