This year I'm being very relaxed about it all. Seed sowing, that is. Having successfully gambled on sowing sweet pea seeds into pots on my balcony in late November and a first flush of broad beans into trays in February, I've decided to mostly forego trays of seedlings on every windowsill in favour of sowing direct outdoors this year. Am I alone in becoming increasingly uncertain of when best to sow? One whiff of sunshine is enough to convince me that it would be okay to start a few seeds off, only to have my hopes dashed when that smidgeon of sun is replaced by days of bitingly cold winds - or worse, clear nights with frosty dawns. For those who do succumb to a few trays of seeds on the windowsill, the jolly game of turn and turn again begins - unless you're fortunate in having light drenched living quarters or a greenhouse. (I don't.* see tip at end of post!)
It's hard to resist though, isn't it? All those seed catalogues seducing us with beautifully photographed packets of potential. I restrain myself by knowing that there's never going to be enough space in the garden here for everything I want to grow so I'm making lists while biding my time before sowing. In previous years I've had windowsills stuffed with plants growing wildly etiolated weeks before the weather softened towards summer. I've gone to the other extreme too and started my seed sowing as other bloggers wrote about how well their carefully nurtured plants were doing outside. Undeniably, I have to acknowledge that spring is February to April; despite the appearance of daffodils and primroses, it's too cold at one end and possibly too wet and windy at the other - even with climate change. A middle path is needed.
For me, that compromise has taken the form of sowing (yes, I succumbed) a few seeds indoors in early March to get slightly ahead of the game (tomatoes, chillies and a few grasses - all needing heat to get started) but for other spring sowings, I'm taking my cue from the tulips. I know, bonkers. There is no scientific evidence to support this theory. But while I've been raking, rebuilding and pruning, I've been keeping a close eye on what my bulbs and perennials are doing - and all the tulips have slowly produced buds with one or two ready to open. This is an early start for the tulips so I'm going to let nature lead the way. I've been in limbo since mid-March but once those bulbs are in bloom, that's my cue to start sowing, both outdoors and in. The temperature could still drop but, I have to admit, this way holds more anticipation and excitement than checking the local weather forecast!
So, on this beautiful blue skies day (allegedly just the one for now), I'll be carrying on with a myriad of other garden jobs that need to be done - including transplanting self-sown seedlings and pondering how to prune the top of the pear trees which must be three times my height by now. There'll be time enough tomorrow (while it's raining) to go through my seed box and plan what to grow.
How's everyone else doing? Have you started off your annuals or will you, like me, wait a couple more weeks?
PS. Frustrated gardeners might like to pay heed to the Higgledy Gardener in Cornwall who advises not to direct sow before mid-April, leaving a few mid-May sowings to extend the season even longer. But even he will walk on the wild side occasionally - his commitment to provide borders in bloom at the Cornish Port Eliot festival at the end of July has necessitated an early sowing under cover (cloche, not greenhouse).
* In an attempt to even out the light source for my seedlings, I place a large sheet of white card between my windowsill seed trays and the darker room behind to reflect some of the window light back. The lengths we go to, eh!