February is the month for spending more time than is socially acceptable with my ever-expanding collection of seed packets. How I dream of releasing these little powerhouses of hope from their envelopes so that they can snuggle up in my propagator under a soft duvet of warm compost, but as I gaze upon their loveliness, I remind myself that too much, too soon will result in skinny, leggy plants and a seedling housing crisis.
When Frustrating February gives way to Sowathon Spring, we discover if we have been over-exuberant in our seed purchasing (of course I have). I divide my seed packets into the months during which I plan to sow. If I’m honest, it is just another ploy to spend more time with the darlings, but it also gives me the opportunity to assess how cramped my office will be in April, and how little light I can expect to receive at my desk in early May when I crowbar yet another tray of plants into an already overcrowded space because the soil and the weather aren’t ready for them.
If I were Queen of the Seasons, I would declare that late summer is the time for pricking out seedlings. In spring, we are so busy waging war on weeds that pricking out can easily be overlooked. If only seedlings could adjust to our requirements, we could prick them out at our leisure in August when the sun is shining and the garden is under control. Sadly I am not Queen of the Seasons, so seedlings continue to scream to be pricked out just when our hands are at their coldest, our dexterity is through the floor, and we are being pulled in a gazillion other gardening directions.
Hardening off plants is a joyful task. Carrying them hither and thither, morning and night, is a wonderful way of upping my step count, which in turn makes me feel marvellously virtuous and deserving of another bowl of strawberries and cream. Around this time I invariably find myself with an aphid infestation in the office. It helps that the plants have barred any access to the windows, thereby ensuring that no cleaning is possible so that the spiders are at liberty to enjoy aphidfest in their cobwebs. Visitors are frequently alarmed at the quantity of wildlife in there (best not to mention the year of the office slugs and the convalescing chicken).
If you have stuck with this post thus far, you may have quite rightly gathered that I am struggling with the concept of not sowing. It’s an annual battle. This year, to offset my frustration, I have sown more sweet peas than I know what to do with. They are now clogging up my cold frames and causing me a headache as I meander around the farm looking for frameworks for them to scramble up. I am considering commandeering the kids’ swings for a sweet pea tunnel, or perhaps popping some string around the wheelie bins and masking any unpleasant smells with scented flowers.
There is much to look forward to this summer. It will be fragrant, and filled with aubergines and hyssop. An unlikely combination, but I may have accidentally sown quite a lot of them when they leapt unbidden from the seed tin and made themselves at home in some lovely warm compost. Clever things.... seeds.