Sowing the seeds of love, we’re off to a seedy start, I’ve sowed the seeds to a new season… I could go on, the clichés are endless! Entering into August puts us one month closer to spring and the weather is beginning to play with us. One week it is warm and sunny and we haven’t had any heating on in the house for a week, and we become lulled into a false sense of the future. “If spring is starting this early, then we are in for an awesome summer!” The frosts of the previous week seem like a distance memory and considered no longer technically or physically possible. And then today reminds us it is winter still. A gloomy old day with so much rain that you don’t think it will ever stop. I have the memory of a goldfish… “ohh look a castle!”
But I have a wee thing I do for the first few days of August and I look forward to it with such anticipation. Now is the time to sow my chillies and peppers as they really need a good long head start so they are big and strong enough once the risk of frost is past in late October. I feel like I am gardening again, although it seems a little like I’m trailing behind my northern hemisphere gardening friends who are beginning to harvest their peppers and chillies and I shout from down under like some kind of kid sister “wait for me…” But it’s ok because we are now technically gardening together, albeit for a short period.
These small seeds represent so much for me. They are full of the hope of a season. By the time I cut into one to be chucked in to a meal the season will be closer to ending than beginning and so much will have happened. It seems like they are the first to be sown and the last to come ripe. But it is beginning that rings my bell right now.
It is these seeds that end up being cosseted and to be honest the only ones that I actually follow all the rules with precision. I take their seed tray and I soak it in a mild bleach solution and scrub it within an inch of its life with an old toothbrush. There will be no nasties lurking there. In a month the tomato seed trays get a bit of a swish is a bleachy solution, and for the zukes – I just dump out old dirt and add some new stuff.
I even wash my labels and write all details down on an excel spreadsheet. Towards the end of the sowing season a barely legible name is scrawled across a previous used one, leaving you to wonder is it a broccoli or a squash about to emerge from the soil. As for the details – they often turn up weeks later on a piece of screwed up paper in the pocket of a grubby pair of jeans about to head into the washing machine.
Then they are the only ones allowed to stay inside. All other seeds must remain in the greenhouse with their dirty ways. Chillies and peppers are a little special. Seeing them grow helps to get through that last month of winter that tends to drag a little.
The thing is, a little bottom heat helps them out and on top of a fridge is ideal – unless your fridge has cupboards above. I don’t imagine I would have been allowed to design the new kitchen around my gardening needs. So this is where Pinterest comes in. I tucked away an idea ages ago to use Christmas rope lights as a heat mat for my seedlings. I even bought some rope light in the January sales in anticipation. I felt so proud of myself for my forethought – possibly bordering on smug. I could hardly wait to pop it together.
This weekend I did a bit of further research on the internet and found a common agreement that kitty litter would be a good platform to hold the lights. So I gathered my gear, a box, black plastic sacks – one to stop the cardboard box getting wet and one for over the kitty litter to stop it being used for its intended purpose. It looked really good. This is often a bad sign.
Using my scientific mind I took the temperature of normal soil in a pot and then placed it onto of my ‘heat pad’ and waited for it to warm up. It didn’t happen straight away and so I thought maybe it would take some time to radiate through the kitty litter so I left it overnight. Come morning I leapt out of bed to see my lovely warm ‘heat pad’ only to discover, much to my dismay, that it had actually gone down 5°C. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. Possibly the fact it is was a battery operated, energy efficient, multi-coloured flashing Christmas rope light may be what let me down. But you can’t say I didn’t try!
So my seeds are resting on my wine making heat mat which is a little too hot so it is balanced between dehydrator trays creating air flow and cooling things a little before it reaches my precious seeds. I can’t afford for anything untoward to happen to them. The hope of a season rests on their seedy shoulders.
Come again soon – pre-spring is a busy time!
Sarah the Gardener : o )