N A P S  Northern Section

          STARTING THE YEAR & SOWING SEED

Starting the Year.

Towards the end of January or in early February is the time to take a little more interest in our plants.  You may notice that the leaves begin to look greener or the meal looks brighter.  Keep an eye on the weather forecast and if no Arctic spells are on the horizon, you may risk giving the plants a watering and starting them into growth. I like to stand the pots in a tray of a weak liquid feed for a few hours and then leave them to drain. If they have been watered and a hard frost is forecast I throw some covering over them at night, newspaper or bubble wrap are used here. Whether or not this is necessary I do not know, but it makes me feel happier- I am sure the roots around the edge of the pots do not like to be frozen.  The plants will slowly start to grow and by the end of the month it will be quite apparent. If by this time any plants donít show signs of growth, it would be worth inspecting them; usually there a problem at root level. Knock the plant from the pot and check for the presence of vine weevil grubs or maybe just plain root rot. There is not much you can do with these plants, just remove the damage and re-pot them.

 If the weather is cold the plants will not need much watering but should it turn warm for any length of time you will need to keep an eye on them to ensure the compost does not dry out.

As the days lengthen and growth begins in earnest the tiny buds deep down in the crown are gradually revealed. If you have some buds then, as I was once told, ďAt least you are in with a chance!Ē

soaking the compost in pots ready for sowing

seed sown thinly on the surface of the compost

   

           seed pots covered with glass helps stop drying out                  Green Edged Auricula seedlings 1 year old

Sowing Seed

This is also the time of year to sow any seed you may have, either from your own crosses or perhaps from the Societyís seed scheme. Early February is a good time, because we may expect some frosty weather which seems to break the dormancy. My method is to stand a pot or pan of seed compost in some water until it is well soaked, spread the seed around the surface and then sprinkle some more seed compost on top to give a thin covering. A small piece of glass sits on top of the labelled pot or pan and they are then placed outside the greenhouse in a shady spot and in the hope that the seeds will receive plenty of frost.  Towards the middle of March I fetch the pots back into the greenhouse, and leave them under the bench with a sheet of newspaper over them to protect them from a scorching if the sun shines. They still have their little sheet of glass on, since this helps prevent the compost from drying out. An alternative to the glass sheet would be to put the pots in a plastic bag and of course some may prefer a window sill in the house to a greenhouse.

 Once they are inside inspect them daily as you wait for germination to occur and when a few of them have poked their noses through the soil I prop up the glass sheet to give them some air- but the tiny seedlings must remain protected from strong sunshine. Growth is very slow and when you think all the seed has germinated or you just canít wait any longer, a very weak feed will help the seedlings. When they are big enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into some compost and grow them on. Seedlings from edged plants grow slower than those from selfs or alpines.

Article by Bob Taylor

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