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How to Grow Plants from Seed

This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

There are 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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One of the main reasons people grow plants from seed is because they can choose from a wide variety of plants in seed catalogs. Growing plants from seeds is also often cheaper than buying them. More importantly, you get to guide the plant through a whole life cycle, potentially establishing an addition to your garden that will last for years. Vegetable or flower seeds are good choices for first time growers.

How to germinate weed seeds wikihow

Winter’s cold and more-or-less fine is turning in the UK to mild, wet and stormy, for the first half of February. Either way, I recommend you wait before sowing, except for broad beans. Check my diary and timeline for timings that save you time. Continue with any mulching and weed covering, then sow spinach, lettuce etc undercover from Valentine’s Day.

The cold has been great for softening surface mulches of compost, they look gorgeous now. Leave them on top, no need to fork in, see below.

Pests, birds

Pigeons are now super-hungry. Usually I can fortunately grow brassicas without protection, but in January I erect supports or hoops for netting to keep the birds off, as they are more hungry now.

The link to LBS is for black (so less visible and intrusive to us), UV resistant netting that lasts for many years. It’s a 100m roll, probably too much for many of you, more to give an idea of what to look for. Do avoid any bright green, untreated netting which soon goes brittle and pollutes the soil.

Pests, rabbits

Homeacres rabbits are hungry too, but there are perhaps just one or two most nights, eating almost any leaf, root (including parsnip) and digging small holes.

The same bird netting, over cloche hoops, works to keep them off my crops.

Broad (fava) beans

Unless you have rodents nearby, now until early April is time to sow broad beans outside, 10-15cm (4-6in) apart in rows across beds, 45-50cm (18-20in) apart.

Undercover sowings work well, the modules pictured are 5cm (2in) deep. The tap root soon reaches the bottom, then coils around. This does not matter! they transplant fine.

Salads undercover

Growth has been slow in the recent frosty weather, but plants are revving up a bit now. The real excitement happens after mid month when light levels improve rapidly.

I have had worthwhile picks from the three salad boxes, so precious in midwinter. Since Christmas I picked 80g leaves, three times. The greenhouse is unheated (so freezes on cold nights), plants are in organic, multipurpose compost, no feeds given, and the lettuce is good old Grenoble Red.

Savoys, spinach outdoors

Outdoor plants are surviving rather than growing. Survival is good! all their roots intact and poised to grow soon. Especially spinach Medania, sown early August: best dates here are 8th-12th August, or 1st August in northern UK; make a diary note, it’s easily forgotten in high summer.

Kew Gardens, London

The no dig kitchen garden is kept immaculate by Joe Archer. He has access to Kew’s famous compost, which looks more woody than for example my homemade, but its ingredients are well shredded and the results are brilliant.

I gave a talk in the Jodrell lecture theatre. Harry who organised it said there were more public than usual, and many more questions too. I love to excite and intrigue people, give them new ideas and methods.

Before the talk we had a chance to see Kew’s new metal beehive, huge and intricate with LED lights. They are connected to a nearby beehive, replicate it’s spatial pattern and flash on when bees are communicating. Awesome!


Jan WIlmot, who with Steph and Jodie Kitty Walker run the undug group on Facebook, suggested I post a page on wikihow about starting no dig in temperate climates. Here is the link, it’s for where slugs are likely present,

A lot of gardeners are using it, the first two weeks saw over 500 views.

Q from Mike, UK: I note you don’t mention chitting potatoes. Do you not have time, not believe it’s necessary, or is there another reason?

A Chitting is fine though not vital. It’s more about avoiding the seed making long shoots, which might damage in planting. Place seed potatoes in full light, frost free, until ready to plant. Or if you buy seed potato later, just before planting, it’s fine to set in the ground without chitting.

Q from Todd in Minneapolis: how does one scale this concept for commercial or large scale farming? It’s great for the home or back yard garden, but can it be done on 25, 50 or 100 acres?

A I have used this method on 7 acres in the 1980s and that was enough! I think that the current low price of vegetables makes it unwise to go above about one acre, unless one is near a market for high value veg such as salad leaves, spinach, herbs and kale. Possibly tomatoes. With my methods, you can grow great potatoes, cabbage and onions, but it is currently not economic to do so!

Comment From Patricia, UK, her Q answered by the table in my last newsletter: “I am about to cover my beds with compost so will resist any digging or forking over!”

I had shared in my last newsletter the harvests from two strips of 2x9m. The six beds of strip 1 are forked before planting, to 27cm (11in) while the six beds of strip 2 are simply left alone. Same compost on each.

Harvests kg 2015 2016
Strip 1 forked 90.23 120.33
Strip 2 no dig 101.71 142.14

Two strips of six beds. Strip on left is no dig, on right the beds are forked/loosened before planting.

Beechgrove no dig

BBC Scotland are comparing growth in dug and undug beds. So far they are pleasantly surprised by the no dig results.

I mailed them and it’s good to hear from the reply that they are continuing with this:

“Jim and George want to remind you that our observations (not a trial really as it is not replicated) is only in its first year. Whilst we have looked at the no dig philosophy many many years ago on Beechgrove, this will be the start of this new observation.

We intend to keep this going this year 2017, and probably in 2018, to see what difference there might be. The differences will become more apparent Jim and George feel, in successive years.”

3 thoughts on “ February 2017 salads, slow sow, Kew Gardens, Q&A, Wikihow ”

Dan this is impressive.
My experience with carrots freezing has been that they turn to mush, though only if frozen solid and not just singed.
Perhaps Autumn King resist frost more, thanks for sharing.

Great new blog. I have a little question, I have been pulling and eating autumn king carrots as I want through December/January as if they were parsnips. They have no signs of frost damage or bad taste, is this normally possible with autumn king? I’m Herts, the carrots were in containers and have been completely frozen throughout January.

Paulownia Seed Propagation: Tips On Growing Royal Empress From Seed

In springtime, Paulownia tormentosa is a dramatically beautiful tree. It bears velvety buds that develop into magnificent violet blossoms. The tree has many common names, including royal empress, and it is easy to propagate. If you are interested in growing royal empress from seed, as Mother Nature does, you’ll find that planting royal empress seeds is almost foolproof. Read on for more information about royal empress seed germination.

Paulownia Seed Propagation

Paulwnia tormentosa is a very attractive, fast-growing tree and easy to grow in a home garden in the right environment. It bears trumpet-like flowers which are large, lovely, and fragrant in shades of blue or lavender. After the flower show in spring, the royal empress’s huge leaves appear. They are beautiful, exceptionally soft, and downy. These are followed by a green fruit that matures into a brown capsule.

The tree was introduced into the U.S. during the 1800’s. Within a few decades, it naturalized across the eastern side of the country via Paulownia seed propagation. The tree’s fruit is a four-compartment capsule containing thousands of tiny winged seeds. A mature tree produces some 20 million seeds every year.

Since the royal empress tree readily escapes cultivation, it is considered an invasive weed in some places. This raises the question: should you plant royal empress seeds at all? Only you can make that decision.

Growing Royal Empress from Seed

In the wild, seeds of royal empress trees are nature’s propagation method of choice. Royal empress seed germination is quite easy to achieve in most regions of the country. So, if you are growing royal empress from seed, you’ll have an easy time.

Those sowing seeds of royal empress will need to remember that the seeds are tiny. That means that you’ll have to make an extra effort to sow them thinly to prevent crowded seedlings.

One way to proceed with royal empress seed germination is to place them on a tray on top of compost. The seeds of royal empress require sunlight to germinate so don’t cover them with soil. Keep the soil moist for a month or two until you see that they are germinated. Covering the tray in plastic holds moisture in.

Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic. The young seedlings shoot up fast, growing to 6 feet (2 m.) in the first growing season. With any luck, you may go from royal empress seed germination to enjoying the showy flowers in as little as two years.

Planting Paulownia Trees

If you are wondering where to plant Paulownia, pick a sheltered location. It’s a good idea to shield royal empress from strong wings. The wood of this quick-growing tree isn’t very strong and limbs can split off in gales.

On the other hand, royal empress trees don’t require any particular type of soil. Another good point is that they are drought tolerant.