It’s February here at the moment and for the UK that generally means it’s cold, there is no exception to that this year and it is bitter outside. This means that something needs to be established for propagating purposes that will allow all of my plants to grow indoors in light conditions that are less than favourable. The other key to getting small seedlings going, and keeping them alive is to keep the cosy and warm, not too warm but just enough so that they keep growing and don’t give up on life. Both of these unfortunately aren’t possible unless you invest in some equipment to simulate the conditions you’re after but you don’t have to spent a fortune. Gardening contraptions I’ve noticed are sometimes quite over priced and often sold to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, so when shopping it’s good to only get things that you know you need. Don’t buy a dandelion puller because it looks like a shotgun.
This goes for germinating from seeds as well as taking most cuttings, the warmth is what gets the enzymes working which in turn speed up the chemical reactions in the cells so that they can preform their function better. In the case of propagating from cuttings it’s to make new root cells and with germination it’s to create both roots and stems. The plant at this point relies on food stored in the seed until it can start photosynthesising to get the energy it needs to grow properly.
I made a heated propagator last year as none of the ones I could find to buy were large enough for my budget, or at least what I was prepared to pay. Here it is with instructions as to how it was made so that you can have your own, the cover I added this year by making a smaller version of the bicycle wheel cloches that I make too.
If you get a soil warming cable then you can dramatically reduce the cost of something that would be several hundred pounds for the same size, I’ve put some instructions here on how I made mine and I have to say it has transformed the way that I propagate plants.
To help with propagating at home I invested in a little grow light setup from IKEA. It’s perfectly adequate for keeping seedling going until I need to move them although I’d be surprised if you could keep plant growing through under one of these. There are a number of other options available as there is quite big market for people growing plants entirely under lights. From the adverts that come up when you start to look you’ll soon see what I mean. It does however give good insight into the best setup if you are wanting seedlings to stay indoors for a little longer. I was wanting to light the propagator so I did a little research and I concluded that the cheap strips of LEDs aren’t much good and you should look for something with more output.
What to grow now
I can never wait and come mid January I’m chomping at the bit to get my seeds planted, but I know that if they’re not hardy then I’m going to have problems as I’ll soon run out of space. Also with many vegetables you need to hold back so that you get a longer season and don’t find yourself harvesting 20 cauliflowers in the same week, I’ve been there. Some things however require a long growing season such as Aubergine, Chilies and some tomatoes. I’ve also got some early cabbages going that are already potted up and living in a cold frame, these were seeds in a packet two weeks ago. If you’re growing vegetables then you’ll just be able to get better successional growing, things such as celeriac that should be put out after the first last frost, but that like a long season will really benefit from a little TLC early on.