Is your new year's resolution to eat more vegetables? I think everybody knows the government advice to eat five a day, so this is the time you might think about buying some seeds for the new season.
You don’t have to grow your courgettes and melons and things from seeds, you can actually wait until April/May and you can buy the little plants, they’ll cost you maybe a couple of pounds per plant. The advantage of sowing seeds is obviously that for £2 in this particular packet you get a hundred and fifty seeds, so you can have as many peppers as you want for the same price. The drawback is that you've got to look after them for longer, so it’s up to you really how you want to do it. It is certainly fun to try and grow seeds and we have a great range of all sorts of things in Glendoick from herbs, vegetables, peas and beans to the flowers behind me and so on.
The timing of seed sowing is absolutely crucial, particularly in Scotland and if you read the back of the seed packet, it will tell you quite clearly when to sow indoors and out. I would take that with a little bit of a pinch of salt in Scotland and usually I would add one month; So, indoors in January to March I would move that from February to April and it says sow outdoors from April to June I would move that back by a month do so that you wouldn't start sewing until May. Because it's colder up here, these seed companies are all based in Lincolnshire and places like that and it's a bit warmer than it is in Scotland, so that’s my first piece of advice.
If you're keen to grow more fruit vegetables in Scotland this is a book I wrote four or five years ago with Caroline Beaton and it’s particularly detailed on sowing times and things like that, so that you make sure that you get the best possible chance of success with the more tricky crops. The second thing that you need to know is whether the plants are hardy enough, because you're going to be germinating these seeds in a seed tray or something else and at some point they get too big and you've got to plant them outside.
There are certain fruit and vegetables in particular which are just two tender to go outside until June, so the timing of this is really important. If you get monster plants taking over your kitchen or your greenhouse and you cannot plant them out, that's not going to work. It's particularly true of this little set I'm looking at here: melons, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes. These are all very, very tender plants, they really need warmth to germinate. If you just put them in a cold greenhouse, they will just sit there and do nothing. They say they need 20-25 degrees to germinate. There's no way you're going to be hitting your greenhouse to 20-25 degrees it would cost you an absolute fortune. One of the ways of doing this without spending a fortune is to use a heated propagator or on a windowsill in your kitchen or whatever and that's the way to germinate seeds. Propagators are a tray with a little heating element underneath it, with a lid and a ventilator to let the moisture and heat out a little bit. You can germinate in pots or trays. These are very cheap to run, this big one here is an 18 watt propagator and this little one below is only 8 watts, so that's less than running a light bulb and certainly much less than putting the heating on in your greenhouse at this time of year, and very easy to keep at the sort of temperature that these seedlings like to germinate.
If you need any other information about spring bulbs or any of the other things that we have been discussing on these videos, any aspect of gardening pop into Glendoick Garden Centre on the Perth, Dundee Road, visit our website www.glendoick.com and like us on Facebook where you'll get these videos every week when they come out."
Ken Cox is the resident Small City, Big Personality Garden columnist and expert. Born in 1964 into a family of renowned plantsmen, Kenneth Cox is grandson of planthunter, writer and nurseryman Euan Cox and son of Peter Cox VMH. The three generations were and are considered the world's leading experts on rhododendrons.