Real Men Sow

5 Neat Tricks to Bring the Veg Growing Season Forward


So. I’m getting impatient. I want to sow seeds.

It’s January, I hear you cry. Yes, it is. But I’m sure those nights are drawing out…

I think this frustration was behind my previous post, which listed 5 of the earliest veg seeds you can sow. I was thinking this over as I willed the weather to warm up, telling myself I’ll be sowing within weeks.

And well, I might be. I’m lucky enough to have a greenhouse, but there are also a few neat tricks that me and mum used on our first allotment, when we had no such luxuries.

Here are five of my favourites that brought the sowing season forward.

Cold Frames
Cold frames are like mini-greenhouses, and can boost temperatures by several degrees, meaning seeds can be sown earlier than you’d be able to outside.

Cold frames are available to buy, and can cost anything from £30 to hundreds of pounds. However, they’re a doddle to make. The easiest and most cost effective way to knock up a cold frame is to arrange bricks in a rectangle, about four high, and place a sheet of glass on top.

Cloches work in the same way as cold frames, and traditionally were made of glass. Expensive versions can look beautiful in a garden, but are often expensive.

My favourite cheap and cheerful way of making a cloche is to cut a large plastic bottle in half and place this over where you’ve sown seed or planted a seedling. When I first took on my allotment, we used this method to protect early squash and tomato plants.

Cloche Tunnels
I have some AcryliCloche®, which I have used with success for a few years now. I have grown early carrots and late salads, and this year I’m using the cloches for overwintering broad beans. I sowed broad beans under the cloche in November, and now they’re 5 inches high.

A good homemade alternative can be built using bendy tubing cut to length and pushed into the ground at each end. A few of these, placed one after the other, can then be covered with clear plastic sheeting, like a baby polytunnel.

Black Tarpaulin on the Ground.
If you have plans to sow veg seeds directly outside, now is a good time to do some soil warming prep. A good way of creating warmth is to cover an area in black tarpaulin. This will heat the soil as the days get longer and warmer, and bring germination forward a few weeks.

In the past I have used this trick for early carrot and parsnip sowings.

You can always spot an allotment holder by the pots of seedlings sitting on their windowsills during January and February. A sunny windowsill in a cosy house is an excellent place to germinate seeds, and enthusiastic chilli growers will start their plants off in this way.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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