Posted by: Naomi Slade | March 8, 2011

Feeling the Heat


Getting and early start with seed sowing

The coriander seedlings are ready to pot up

My love affair with heated propagators is a fairly new phenomenon, but one that sees no sign of cooling any time soon.

Thanks to a combination of getting organised and the absence of a foot of snow throughout February, I have started sowing much earlier than the last few years. My aubergines and chillies were started off in late Feb or early March rather than April and they are already sticking their little shoots out. When I lived in London with its balmy microclimate and long growing season, April sowing was just fine and they were happy to live outside. But it hasn’t worked all that well lately, even in the greenhouse, and I fancy they just need that bit longer out here in the sticks.

With longer days, I am now organising a stand-off between my trusty Sankey workhorse and a spanking new Stewart windowsill propagator. So far I have sowed some lovely coriander, sweet peas, the bunny tail grass Pennisetum ‘Cream Falls’, tomatoes, aubergine ‘Violetta di Firenze’, antirrhinums… it’s all going on and I have only just started. I suspect that I will just give in to the temptation to fill both to the brim and pot until I can pot no more, but for the record, the Compare and Contrast goes like this.

The big, capacious Sankey propagator is excellent for more robust seedlings, but it does take up a fair amount of space and finding somewhere light enough for it to live can be a challenge. The slim windowsill propagator is neater, particularly if you just want to sow a few seeds and I am finding it useful for small seedlings because it is located somewhere I check regularly so I can keep a close eye on ventilation and watering. That said, my only suitable windowsill is south facing so it will only really be an early season option or it will need shading.

I found the removable heat mat on the Stewart windowsill propagator slightly faffy as it shifts a bit on the flex and I keep worrying that I’ll knock the whole lot onto the floor – less of a problem if you have really good, deep windowsills, I imagine, but actually it is over a radiator anyway so I just took it out and carried on. On balance though, I prefer the solid heated bottom of the bigger propagator.

So there we have it. But the important thing is that with two propagators, I can organise different levels of light, heat and humidity and it is that which is proving to be the most appealing and versatile aspect. And they are both quicker off the mark than the unheated greenhouse at the end of the garden where my peas and mangetout are sulking in the chill.

I am looking forward to packing in even more exciting crops, plants and flowers. Miscanthus sinensis, sweet corn and cucumbers are waiting in the wings, but with enough compost and enough time, right now it feels like the sky is the limit….

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