What to grow in February and early March
It’s that time of the year again, the days are getting longer and warmer as spring approaches. Last year we saw a boom in hobbyist gardeners when we all had lots of spare time at home during the lockdown and we expect there will be lots of home growers starting to wonder what plants to sow in February and March.
One of the gripes of new gardeners is not knowing the right time to plant their seeds, so we’re going to be publishing lots of blogs (and videos on our social channels) to help you on your home growing journey. Think of them as your very own beginners guide to growing at home!
This blog is aimed at those who want to get ahead of the game and have a long fruitful season of harvests. All of the principles mentioned below apply whether you have a garden you can plant directly into, or a balcony where you can practice container gardening. If you’re not sure where to start with growing your own, check out our previous blog explaining different growing environments and methods.
If you're wondering 'is it too cold to sow my tomatoes?' you're on the right track, but only when we're thinking outdoors! The threat of frost hasn’t passed yet but it’s the perfect time to sow certain seeds indoors. In particular we are going to focus on Tomatoes, Peppers and Aubergines, which are all Nightshade plants. These plants benefit greatly from being planted indoors early in the year as it extends their growing season.
If you follow the steps in this article you’ll have an abundance of Tomatoes, Peppers, Chillies and Aubergines all throughout the summer months. Yum!
What are Nightshade plants?
The Nightshade Family (Solanaceae) are a family of flowering plants with over 2700 different species and have great importance across the globe, they’re found on every continent apart from Antarctica!
The most recognised Nightshades are Solanum (Potatoes, Tomatoes and Aubergines) and Capsicum (Bell Peppers and Chilli Peppers). All of these types of Nightshades are annuals, which require a long growing season. That’s why they should be planted in late winter/ early spring so they can fruit during the summer and die out later in the year.
How to sow your seeds in 8 simple steps
1. Source your seeds and compost
If you’re wondering where to get your seeds, there are lots of online vendors to choose from, one of my favourites is “realseeds.co.uk”. Some larger supermarkets and stores like B&Q or Wilkos also sell a good variety of seeds.
The next thing to consider is your growing medium. Generally you want a fine, well draining compost, which doesn’t contain a high amount of nutrients/fertiliser (this could damage the seeds/seedlings). I recommend looking for a ‘seed and cutting compost’ or ‘seed sowing compost’, these are widely available online and in gardening stores.
If you live high up in a flat or apartment you may not want to carry heavy compost up to your residence. A great solution to this problem is buying coconut coir bricks. They arrive dehydrated and then you hydrate them in a bucket/large pot with some water, they will then expand around 6 times the original size! You can mix this with perlite or horticultural sand to provide increased drainage.
2. Choose your planting trays
There are two types of containers you can sow your seeds into, flat trays and cell trays. The former being the easiest to source and upcycle from what you have around the house.
Old strawberry or raspberry trays are perfect for planting seeds into, the same applies with old egg cartons and tupperware (make sure you add some drainage holes to these containers).
3. Fill your trays and moisten well
When you have chosen your planting trays, fill your trays with compost and firm down gently, creating a flat planting surface. Moisten your compost well before sowing your seeds.
4. Sow your seeds
All of the seeds we are planting (Tomatoes, Aubergines, Peppers) are very small and do not need to be planted deep into the compost. If you have cell trays you can plant one seed into each cell of the tray.
If using a flat tray container, you can scatter the trays evenly over the whole surface of the tray.
5. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of compost
Prepare a small amount of finely sifted compost, if your compost is clumpy you can just crumble it in your hands until it has a fine consistency.
Scatter a very thin layer of this compost so it covers the seeds. Gently firm the compost down and lightly moisten the trays again.
6. Label your trays
This step can’t be stressed enough, it is so easy to plant seeds early in the season and then forget what varieties you planted! This is particularly important when growing chillies!
You can find plant labels in many gardening stores or you can just use a permanent marker to label the tray itself. Include the name, variety and date. For example: Tomato, Money Maker 26/02.
7. Store in the right place
Your trays need to be placed in a well-lit (south or west facing) windowsill or a greenhouse/conservatory if you have one. Your seeds should now germinate in around two weeks!
8. Pricking out
If you have planted your seeds densely in a flat tray, once they have grown their second set of leaves (true leaves) they’ll need to be transplanted into bigger containers before they get too difficult to separate.
To do this, first gently loosen the compost (a chopstick works well for this). You can then remove each seedling by pulling on a true leaf, it should come loose and then you can plant it into a larger individual container. Make sure you cover the roots completely.
Tips for growing your plants on
After the last frost has passed in May/June you can plant your young plants out into your garden beds or into large containers on your balcony.
If you’re sowing tomato seeds and want to know how to look after them throughout the growing season, check out our 8 Top Tips for Growing Tomatoes to get ahead of the game.
So there you have it, a simple guide on how you can get ahead of your 2021 growing season by planting some of your most popular fruiting plants now. You’ll be thanking yourself big time in the summer when you have a bounty of tomatoes, chillies and aubergines to eat!
Keep an eye out for our next blog, which will outline the plants you can start to sow outdoors in March, this will include a whole bunch of greens as well as root vegetables!
Join the Conversation
Once you've planted your tomatoes, chillies and/or aubergines, why not take a picture and post it in our Urban Growing Community on Facebook. We'd love to see what you've got growing! If you have any questions you can post them there too to get advice from our Head Grower and our network of urban growers.
Dish is Square Mile Farms’ Head Grower. He’s on a mission to reconnect people with their food by helping them grow it themselves! Square Mile Farms bring vertical, urban farming to city dwellers in their homes and in the workplace. We aim to bring people closer to food production and help to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living.
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