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Growing from seed

YessicaHaircutYessicaHaircut Sussex coastPosts: 101
I'm finding that one of the things I'm enjoying most about gardening is nurturing plants from seed and watching their progress from the tiniest shoots. :) I plan to grow lots more but have a couple of questions I'd be grateful for some input on.

I seem to fall foul to the dreaded fungus gnats. I understand this is due to keeping the compost too damp but still seem to struggle to hit the sweet spot with watering. Hopefully that will come in time. Is it true that adding a layer of grit to the top of the soil can solve/prevent the problem? If so, can I do this before the seeds germinate or it best to wait till the seedlings are pricked out? I'm guessing it might be ok for seeds that like darkness to germinate, but I'm also not sure whether they'd be strong enough to push through. I've also read about Mosquito Bites or Mosquito Bits being useful and am thinking about buying some in from the US as they are ridiculously expensive to buy here. Any experience with using those? I am currently keeping things relatively under control using sticky fly paper traps but I'm planning on growing lots in the new year and I will need to find a better solution or my conservatory will be full of flies. 

The other issue I have is that I am growing foxgloves and honesty for next year. I will plant some in the ground in the Autumn, but I am hoping to keep more going in pots over winter and will decide where to plant them next year as the garden gradually takes shape. As they move into bigger pots is it ok to still just use multi-purpose compost, as I understand the nutrients will be depleted in a few months? Can I just give them liquid feed to overcome this issue, or should I be mixing in a controlled release fertiliser when I repot, or using a completely different medium?

Thank you! :)
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  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 19,925
    Both of those plants can be treated rough, they don’t need feed or fertiliser,  especially through the winter when they will be resting.
    Just pot them on and plant out next March or if they’re big plants, get them out now.
    Honesty are best sown in situ, they don’t like being transplanted but if you’ve sown enough, you will get some.
    Depending on how big the plant are now will depend if they’ll flower next year.
    once they are in the ground they are both best left to drop seed and take care of themselves.  I’m never without foxgloves and honesty in the Spring.

    About the damp compost,    I sow seeds in damp compost and from then on I only use a gentle spray bottle.   Seeds will flop if the compost is wet. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,349
    You'll always tend to get compost flies etc if you're growing indoors. Keeping really good ventilation is vital. A conservatory gets searingly hot, even on 'not very hot' days, and can get very cold at night, so you need to adjust your care accordingly. Keeping seeds and small seedlings slightly drier helps, as does sowing at the right time of year, and using a good gritty medium that doesn't hold too much water. Trays are better than pots for that reason too. 
     Things like foxgloves don't need to be undercover at all though - they're totally hardy plants. Seed should just be sown in trays or similar, and kept outside to germinate and grow on. Certainly, don't be feeding seedlings and small plants - they're better grown a bit 'hard' so that you get tougher plants.
    Compost is fine for potting on, but if you're sowing in autumn, use a seed compost, or mix old stuff in with newer stuff [and grit or perlite] so that there's a lower level of nutrients. You don't want loads of soft fleshy growth over winter  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 19,925
    You put it so much better than me @Fairygirl 😀
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • YessicaHaircutYessicaHaircut Sussex coastPosts: 101
    Thanks. Lots to take in! The conservatory actually seems pretty good in terms of temperature - it's brick built and North East Facing and it's never been too hot over the summer, and wasn't too cold when we moved in at the end of February either. My dehumidifier is on in there at night and that kicks out quite a bit of heat, plus my heated airer is often on too. I *seem* (don't want to speak too soon!) to have a lucked out with a conservatory that is actually livable in. :wink:

    I've actually had really good success so far so I don't seem to be drowning the seeds/seedlings but I will aim for drier and use a water spray and see how that goes.

    Great info re not feeding them - which makes total sense considering they're wild flowers - d'oh!  I will definitely hang onto old compost to reuse in future and I shall get the foxgloves outside. I do hope I'll get some flowering next year, but I'm finding my 'failures' fascinating too and am really enjoying the gradual learning process.
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 19,925
    It’s all about learning, if something hasn’t worked this year, try something else next.
    i think there’s far too much feeding going on with plants, I don’t feed anything except occasionally annuals in tubs and baskets, and tomatoes in the greenhouse. 
    Nothing in the garden get bought feed.
    If your unsure of anything, you can put a phot of the plants in here and someone will say if they’re big enough to put out, or should be potted in once more.

    As you realised with the no feed foxgloves,  if you think of how plants grow in the wild, how seeds set themselves, no one goes out with a grow light or propagator, they just get on with it themselves.

    If you can get a compost heap going that will be the best thing you can put on your garden, if you get your soil in good condition it will make all the nutrients plants need.


    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,349
    We posted at the same time @Lyn :)
    You sow so much from seed, so I'd certainly say you're far better at seed sowing than I am. My conditions aren't great for a lot of seed, and I only have a small growhouse which doesn't stay very warm in winter, and is more like having a cold frame. That limits what I can grow successfully. I also don't grow bedding plants [don't like most of them!] so I stick with what works for me, and try a few new things now and again. 
     
    I forgot to mention about using a spray for watering too. That's definitely a better idea @YessicaHaircut. As Lyn says - what you're sowing is a major factor - there are huge variations with plants re what they need/like to germinate and grow successfully :)  
    I think it might be too humid for a lot of your seeds if you have a humidifier and a heated airer too, so you may need to look at that if you have seeds in there while htose things are running.  
    As @Lyn says - it's a learning curve with lots of plants, and certainly with seed. When I started gardening,  I spent years wondering why I couldn't get stuff to germinate. I realised later it's because seed packets and tv programmes don't always allow for the many different conditions in the UK. 
    I sow most seed around a month later than everyone suggests, and I rarely sow direct - especially in autumn, as most seed rots.   :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • @Lyn this is the first year I haven't fertilised/ fed any plants, in fact I've hardly watered anything apart from seed trays and the odd bucket of water on the clematis and rose bed, and the garden has flourished exactly as always! I think of how much I've spent on Tomorite, chicken manure, MiracleGro etc over time and weep a little.🤦🏻‍♀️
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,349
    Feed the soil - not the plants, is a good motto.  :)
    I feed clematis and annuals in pots. Other than that, I only use a bit of B,F&B when planting something. 
    The garden I have here was just gravel and paving [over sticky clay] when I moved in, plus compacted grass. It's surprising how quickly you can make changes though.
    Having a compost bin is certainly useful, as it's particularly good for soil improvement- especially with heavy wet soil. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • YessicaHaircutYessicaHaircut Sussex coastPosts: 101
    Yes, we do need to get something happening with composting. I'd asked my husband if he wanted to take on the task of researching and buying a composter as I have a strong tendency towards decision paralysis, and he said he would, but could probably do with a gentle nudge.

    It's dehumidifier rather than a humidifier, @Fairygirl, so hopefully not so bad. It's definitely all trial and error, but I have managed so far to grow quite a bit, so hopefully I'll continue to have a fair amount of successes in with the failures!

    So no one thinks grit or mosquito dunks are worthwhile in the battle against fungus gnats then?
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 19,925
    I wouldn’t bother about the flies, I don’t think they do any harm, do they?
    I get them here but never noticed any damage.
    by the time the seeds are big enough to prick out they go out to the GH,  as Fairygirl says, I also plant a month later that the seed packet says.

    If the packet says sow January to March, I sow at the end of March.  I don’t prick out too early, wait for a good sized seedling, less damage to roots then, by that time they can live outside in the GH. 

    Ive never had a propagator or grow lights. 

    If you're going to have compost bins you need at least two,  Wood is best it’s warmer.
    is your husband able to make them?  We only use plastic Dalek type bins for storing it after it’s made.  Then it goes into builders bags. 


    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

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