Growing with Cel
Hello again! I’m Cel, a flower farmer in North Norfolk, and this year I will be growing and documenting my progress with the free flower seeds from Gardeners’ World magazine. As February comes around, I start to get excited thinking about all of the flowers I will be growing in the coming year. By mid-February the daylight hours are beginning to lengthen, which means that it’s time to start sowing seeds! This month it’s echiums, whose spires of bright blue flowers are adored by bees and other insects.
- Click here for details of which seeds you can look forward to receiving when.
- Get growing advice now, for all 12 packs of free seeds.
- Tips for growing your free veg seeds
One of the things I love about sowing seeds is that there is always a new plant to learn how to grow. This month’s free seed is Echium ‘Blue Bedder’ – and it’s a flower that I haven’t grown before. I plan to plant up a bed for pollinators with the free seeds that I’ll be growing, and the echium will be perfect for attracting pollinators. I think it will grow particularly well in my dry, sandy soil. The pretty blue flowers are excellent for producing pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies and moths, and it might be that echium makes a good cut flower for the vase too!
- Find out more about how to grow echiums
I’ll be using different types of pots and seed trays to sow my free seeds this spring; I’m gathering them all together and making sure that everything is washed and ready to use! I always use peat-free compost for sowing, and as this can often have larger woody bits within the mix I like to sieve the compost in advance so that I only use the finer material for sowing my seeds into.
- Get handy and make your own compost sieve
- See tips on how to tidy and clean your greenhouse
- Prepare your greenhouse for spring sowing and growing
Sowing for success
I always wait until this point in the year to start the sowing process, as seedlings really need a good 10 hours of daylight in order to grow into robust, healthy plants. If you sow seeds using a heated propagator and grow lights, you will be able to start sowing whenever you like, but if you only have an unheated greenhouse, or you are sowing on a windowsill, you should really wait until conditions are favourable – not just for sowing, but also thinking ahead to when you might have to move your seedlings outside.
It’s too cold to sow direct into the soil outside this month, so once I’ve sown the echium seeds I’ll keep them indoors; you can put them into a propagator at 13–15°C, or just pop them on a windowsill. I’m going to sow the seeds fairly thinly in a half-size seed tray, and cover lightly with sieved compost and a sprinkling of vermiculite (this will help to maintain the humidity level at the soil surface).
- Read our guide to heated propagators
My top tips
- Don’t sow the whole packet at once. Instead sow about half now and save the rest for a later sowing this season so you will have flowers for next year too!
- To water, stand the seed tray in a tray of water so the compost is moistened from underneath rather than being watered from above.
Growing on your echium seedlings
Once the echium seeds have germinated and they have developed a couple of sets of leaves I’ll prick them out into 9cm pots. I’ll probably keep them in my polytunnel and slowly harden them off for planting out as the spring weather starts to warm. They should be ready to plant outside sometime in April.