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Gardening Matters Seeds of Change

How many seeds have you eat- en today? Probably more than you realise. As a nation, we consume tons of them every day and whether they are ground to make our bread, mushed to accompany our chips or sprinkled on our burger bun, seeds play an important role in our diet … as well as in our garden!

Most of the seed heads that were left over from autumn have now fallen over, disintegrated, or been eaten by hungry birds, so as part of my ‘outdoor house- work’ I’m cutting them down to ground level before the new growth begins to emerge next month. The stately seed heads of Stipa gigantea looked fantastic for such a long period of time, as did the erect stems of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Forester’, but even these have been defeated by the wind.

It may be cold outside, but now is the perfect time for planning what to grow this year, from seed of course! Over recent years the popu- larity of growing your own vegetables has meant that veg seed sales have overtaken those of traditional flowers, but you really can’t beat the satisfaction of plants from seed.

The first plants I ever grew were Snap Drag- ons. I was fifteen, and I found the packet in the back of a drawer (presumably they had been stuck to a box of cereal at some stage). I diligently followed the instructions for sowing and placed them on top of my wardrobe (I’m not quite sure why I did that). What happened next really was a miracle. They germinated! It was hard to believe that the old seed, une- ven layer of compost, wardrobe location and over watered soil, produced a rash of new seedlings.

It wasn’t long before they had

grown to around 2 inches high and bent to- wards the light, narrowly avoiding the artex

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I potted them on and they produced the most beautiful range of colours all summer long, and that was the mo- ment I became hooked on gardening.

It wasn’t really a surprise that they germinated, as that’s what seeds are designed to do. They can survive in their dormant state for years, and because there are often more seeds per packet than you know what to do with, I al- ways sow just a few more than I need and return the

rest to a sealed container in the fridge. Stored like this they keep for years.

To give them the best start in life, most seeds require just a tray of compost and some warmth. Large seeds should be covered over with compost, but small seeds left uncovered as they often don’t have enough energy to push new leaves through the soil. Prick out singly once large enough to handle and grow on somewhere frost-free, before gradually hardening off ready for life outdoors.

Until next time, happy winter gardening. Lee

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