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 Growing your Garden Plants from seed.

Raising new plants.

        If you are looking to grow lots of plants it can be an expensive proposition. For the price of a few plants you can get dozens from a few packets of seed. May and June are ideal months to start.
       A packet of seeds will produce twenty to thirty healthy plants and cost somewhere in the region of £1,50.  A very pleasurable way to save a bit  of hard earned money.
              Seasoned professionals and amateur gardeners alike get immense satisfaction from raising new plants. Your collection may start with a few bought plants in planters but sooner or later you will probably  want to grow your own from seed or by rooting  live parts of a plant.  Some plants can be started in more than one way while others  need a  particular technique ; whichever method is used , remember always to start with healthy material or seeds from a reputable source to avoid disappointment.
Growing from seed
             Most  herb species can be raised from seed, although this method takes the longest  to produce a mature plant and is not recommended  for named  cultivars , especially variegated  kinds,  as seedlings do not always  resemble the parent plant. Seed sowing is the quickest way to grow a particular  plant in large quantities,  and the usual method of raising annual  and biennial  herbs, wild flowers,  salad and 
vegetable herbs,  species from other countries and easily  germinated  perennials  such as chives,  fennel, feverfew,  lovage, rue, salad  burnet, European and American sweet cicely and winter  savory.
seedlings in blocks
Although a seed is a potential plant just  waiting to grow, it will only germinate  when conditions are right. For most, a combination  of adequate warmth, moisture  and air is enough  to trigger  them into life , but others have special  requirements  which depend on the kind of surroundings  they normally meet in  the wild.
          The seeds of juniper, woodruff. European  sweet cicely and violets, for example, are protected  by  a hard, resistant  coat against early  germination when temperatures are too cold, and they depend on frost to break this down - a process  called  stratification.
                     Sown in autumn, they may be left out-doors exposed to winter weather,  or you can artificially break down  their dormancy by mixing the seeds  with damp sand in plastic bags, and leaving  this in a refrigerator for about two months before sowing in warm conditions.
     Hard-coated  leguminous  need penetration  by moisture before they will grow. This can be speeded up by scarification,  a method  that involves carefully nicking the coat with a sharp knife  gently thinning part of it with  a sandpaper; soaking  overnight in warm water is an alternative way. Some ordinary seeds need  light, others darkness, so trigger  germination,  so always follow the sowing instructions  on  seed packets  carefully to make sure you have provided  the right conditions.
seedlings ready for potting on
The normal sowing time for the majority of plants is early to mid spring  just as  soon as the soil is warm enough to support  active growth.  Wait until new weed seedlings appear or the first hedge row buds break as an indication of the best time.
             Vegetables  and  herbs needed in quantity are sown in  drills in  the kitchen  garden, others in shorter  rows  in a nursery bed; flowering  herbs  may  be sown where they grow, either in short rows or in circular furrows made by pressing the rim of a planter or pot into the soil surface. Whenever  you are sowing ,  always fork, need and rake the soil into a crumbly  level  seedbed  first, and in cold weather  warm the ground for a week or two beforehand by covering with cloches.
          Use a rake handle or garden stake to mark out a shallow depression in the soil for short drills, or draw the corner of the rake along a tight garden line for longer rows. Sow the seeds in the bottom of the drill, and then cover with a thin layer of soil and gently tamp with the back of the rake head to ensure good contact between soil and seeds. In very  dry weather flood the open drill with water, allow to drain before sowing, and then cover with dry soil.  
          Keep the sown area moist until seedlings appear. Large enough to handle these should be thinned to leave plants 5-10 cm apart. Most annual plants  can be left to grown at this spacing , but biennials and perennials may need thinning again or transplanting to another patch of ground until large enough to be moved to their permanent positions.

Sowing Garden Seeds

    Fill a sterilized tray with a moist seed growing  medium. Level and firm lightly if  this is loam based; simply tap the tray to settle the compost  if it is loam free.
Scattering seeds into a seed tray
   Scatter small seeds evenly and thinly over the whole surface of the compost; larger seeds can be spaced at regular intervals.
Some seeds need light for germination
    Some seeds need light  to germinate but others prefer darkness and must be covered with compost that has been sifted to remove any lumps or debris.
sprinkling fine compost over seeds
   Sprinkle this fine compost evenly over the seeds to the recommended depth, label the tray and cover with plastic or glass to conserve moisture.
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