Early sowings..A guilty secret?? Part 3

Hi there One and All .

A little over the month has passed since i did Part 2 . I think its about time i spilled the beans so to speak. The fact is that where i am has been a mild winter in comparison to some and that has made this a somewhat less”costly” experiment.

Now  like many of you ,I have started a few things off early in the house and hoped to steal a march on the growing season . I decided to do things on a slightly larger scale and make use of the greenhouse as best as i could without going down the rout of specilist kit and as cheaply as i could . Making use of cold frames that are empty and a greenhouse that isn’t overwintering much seemed a good start. Putting the cold frame in the Greenhouse and then heating the cold frame worked a treat over all. Having a heated propagator inside the cold frame was also very cost and heat efficient as to some degree it substituted the heat needed to keep the frame above 10 deg witch was my goal. This in the end was achieved by putting a thermostatically controlled fan heater at one end of the frame (inside) and regardless of conditions it took care of things.At night i popped old blankets over the frame to insulate it and keep things cosy. As march came in and the days were occasionally warmer i vented the frame as the temperature was easily reached and would have been too warn otherwise. By the middle of march or there about  i dismantled the frame and returned the greenhouse to normal use ,growing things on inside it.

So what have i got now??  Cabbages outside and in there beds ,runner beans outside under cloches and starting to climb , squashes in the Greenhouse potted on into 5 inch pots and ready to go out the moment i think they can take it,onions from seed outside in there beds growing nicely, shallots outside, peas outside and climbing, broad beans outside and going well , carrots in and out , Tomatoes planted in there border of the greenhouse starting to take off up there supports.

What have i learnt ….. Toms are not easy early !!! some sorts were ok (St Pierre , sungold) some were not happy at all !! Lossetto would you credit it. I think i would have needed more heat to keep them happier(use the house instead maybe ) but i do have early Tom plants in there places and with luck they will crop earlier and stager the season as iv more on the go sown recently.

In fact iv sown multiple sowings of most things to spread the bounty so il be interested to see wether things catch up or not with the early plants. Squashes are also reluctant,they are sometimes a hit and miss thing with me anyhow as i don’t seem to have the touch with them. Again though i have early plants that with luck they will make use of all the available growing year.

As a rough amount  the total elec was no more than 7 pounds extra on the quarter this experiment took place  over and everything else i ether modified from bits i had or made use of existing kit. This was never only about cost ,time, or madness !!! It was a challenging and enjoyable experiment at a time of year when we tend to be itching to get going after thumbing the seed catalogue for the 100 th time.

Give it a go if you fancy and see how it works for you.

Simondo :-)


25 Responses

  1. Yewbarrow says:

    fascinating Simon – squashes I find too can be a bit tricky, last year it took a 2nd sowing before I got good plants, waiting this year for them to germinate – I find here in the North West that the season is shorter so it pays to get going quicker than you would further south – steal a march on things so to speak and you seem to have got it sorted really well – be interested to see if there is any cropping difference

    • SIMONDO says:

      Hi YB :-)
      At just short of 850 ft above sea level here its been and continues to be mild compared so i can understand your need to get a wriggle on up north if you can.
      I know some who can’t fail with squashes !! Odd isn’t it, and slightly reassuring to hear I’m by no means the only one who needs some Voodoo to get the little beggars going :whistle:

      • Yewbarrow says:

        think we all need a bit of Voodoo from time to time – we used to live around 65oft above sea level in Yorkshire – had a quick fall of snow at the beginning of June one year – ruined loads in the garden it did – here on the west coast with the gulf stream things are kinder – having said that during the recent cold winters we went to minus 9 – but hey whats life without a challenge

  2. VegVamp says:

    Found this really interesting Simon, as YB said any trick to extend the season for the more Northern and Western growers is well worth trying. I had awful trouble with all the cue/squash/pumpkin family in their early stages until I started keeping them slightly on the dry side, that seems to have helped me.

    Might have a squash sowing session tomorrow. :yes: :good:

  3. bizzylizzy says:

    I’ve found if you water from the bottom not on top cuc’s — squash do much better , have grown squash for the first time this year and did them early (copying simondo ) and now have 6 in the ground in the tunnel doing fine :-)

  4. Beanstew says:

    Like everyone else, I’ve found this really interesting, because I have the same need to extend our shorter growing season, and for some reason light early in the year is invariabley better than later on. I like the idea of the thermostatically controlled fan heater, because apart from producing heat, the current of air will also provide for thigmomorphogenesis, so Simondo’s plants will be tough little beggars. Unfortunately I don’t have electricity up in my GH – but maybe I have to bite that particular financial bullet.
    One thing I can feel smug about, is that I can grow squash up here (not butternut) – but I always water seedlings of everything from the bottom, and there is an apparent connection as far as they are concerned. (I had a sneaky feeling I was watering that way just because I like faffing about with plants, in fact, the more faffing the better). Thank you Simon for a very interesting and instructive experiment.

  5. SIMONDO says:

    I went with the fan heater to help with stale air and cold spots in the frame plus the cost in keeping such a small aria warm was pence !! ..That was a nice result as i theorised on that one first and it came good.
    I used a extension lead Sheila as i don’t have permanent power in there ether.
    I do the same as to bottom watering but the cocorbit family and me ar still not on the same growing page :unsure: … My prob mainly is I don’t get good germination… Im going to try a dryer situation as per Karen..Liz and hope to then get better results as you and they do.
    Glad you enjoyed the blog Sheila :-)

  6. Bill says:

    A very interesting article Simon, Over the years I have made a lot of experimental runs to get earlier crops, the results so far are not what I would call good. I have a 8×10 greenhouse which is heated by way of propagators, electric floor mounted pipes and best of all a 8×2 ft. heated bench heated by soil warming cable. This all sounds very elaborate and expensive, it is not. None of the items mentioned are more that 20 watts so running costs are kept to a minimum, this year is costing around £6 per week, this is a variable cost dependent on how much you use the equipment gets.

    My biggest criticism is that sites like GC has members that are spread far and wide, some people live in the far North, I live in the South West so, by definition, it is much easier for me to grow as I have better conditions to start with !

    Turning now to studies of my results, yes I can produce crops they are earlier to mature but the down side is that most of these crops finish that much earlier. I can produce salad crops much earlier using my greenhouse but there’re not much use when there is 2 inches of snow on the ground ! The biggest complaint I have is that most of my early crops are nowhere as good flavour wise, tomatoes especially.

    I am not suggesting that you should not use unorthodox methods for producing your crops, indeed experimentation may produce the results you want. My view for what it’s worth is if you have good growing conditions anyway why mess around with nature !

    • SIMONDO says:

      Hi Bill
      I personally think having such a diverse range of locations on GC a bonus…It is both interesting and educational to here the conditions others are facing whilst taking that into account the advice given on growing. This could be a concern from your comments.
      Have you now stopped using the infrastructure you have in the greenhouse for veg and gone back to later sowings of seeds or is it used for none edible plants only .
      I think i made the point that i am doing successional sowings of most things to produce a longer season so these plants are not a “one off crop”.. there will be others to compare with the early ones and take there place . Have to say though Bill that there are plenty of folks who want salads in the snowy times and grow them all year round under glass.
      Not so sure I’m being that “unorthodox” if you take into account what most of the show veg or commercial growers do … i haven’t used grow lights..hydroponics..or any other methods other than a bit of heat and protection against the elements that i already had and not being used much over Jan-Mar.
      If you have a greenhouse..cloche’s.. heating..a windowsill.. verities that don’t naturally grow in this country.. ect , then you could class that as falseness to nature , so maybe messing about with nature is something we all do anyhow.
      I agree with you that down here in the south we are more temperate ..All the more reason to have things primed and ready to go in as soon as the conditions are good outside rather than losing some of that time by waiting to sow later than its posable perhaps. After all ..That is why Greenhouses are such a valued item’s I think, and a grand place to be when the weather is not so nice :-)

  7. Beanstew says:

    I take your point Bill – but for those of us with less than optimum conditions, action is called for – sometimes desperately so. From picking ripe tomatoes up here at the end of June, weather conditions (mainly lack of light) have seen this date deteriorating to the end of August if left to their own devices. This is doubtless experienced more bitterly by logging on to GardenClickers and reading of others’ ripe crops – and it drives me crazy. But if I lived in Somerset, I probably wouldn’t give it a thought.

  8. gertie says:

    Some interesting comparisons Simon :yes:
    I have sown indoors early and left stout tomatoes, doing well in the cold frame or in the glassroom [must get a green house] but my beautiful squash seedlings were being got at I think as I left, and I have little hope of their survival….will re-sow when I return.

  9. dandlyon says:

    I agree about the locations covered by clickers giving diverse growing conditions,in the Midlands we’re about two weeks behind the South and two weeks in front of the North. Another consideration is what we want to grow,I like tomatoes iceberg lettuce,and cucumber,but only as a snack between meals therefore I am never in a hurry to get them going I wait until I know conditions are right,but new potatoes I love those and take chances on getting a few early when Jerseys cost the earth.All vegetables that can be frozen I freeze,so again no great hurry.I admire the ideas on here of people who grow something they like out of season and do not spend an arm and a leg to do it.The knowledge on here is endless and meeting up with some of you was priceless,long may it continue :good:

    • SIMONDO says:

      Its always a bit of a gamble Tony and i think there is some joy to be had in the ingenuity needed to try and grow things in our changeable climate.
      Collective knowledge is a powerful thing as you say and personally it was a pleasure to meet you in flesh at Cardiff :good:

  10. VegVamp says:

    Meant to say to you Simon, I tried a lettuce mix under cloches this year over winter, sown September, still going strong. :good: Has kept me supplied most of the winter and soooo much tastier than the bought rubbish. :yes: Now it was a mild winter, but I’ll be doing it again.

  11. Beanstew says:

    More to the point, I believe this kind of ingenuity is “built in” to mankind’s psyche. It is what enabled us to adapt and survive in different locations, and with changing climactic conditions – and it is a factor that has enabled the Scottish diet to move on from turnips, kale, oats and herring (thank goodness.) If this is the case, can we do other than push the boundaries?

  12. Good to see it’s all working for you, Simon :good: I didn’t have any heat but now have 21 tomato plants potted on once – they germinated in the g/h with a layer of bubble wrap under and over on my old plastic g/h frames (Red Pear, San Marzano, Gardener’s D and ‘Irish’ Gardener’s D).
    I managed to get 3 aubergines using the same method – these will probably stay in the other g/h.
    Beetroot germinated and put in raised bed today.
    Started some lettuce and this is now outside in its pot until it gets bigger.
    I managed one pepper seedling which seems not to want to grow anymore but we’ll see.
    I started lots of leeks and spring onions too. Oh, yes, and peas.
    Can’t wait to get the tomatoes in their little raised beds – some might be big enough next week (most will stay in the g/h).
    Today I sowed courgettes, squash and beans of various sorts.

  13. SIMONDO says:

    Sounds Fab Jane and without heat !!! :good: Some cloches for a bit of a fall back protection if you pop anything tender- ish out and with luck all will be ok.
    Runner beans are doing well under cloches with me , did sowing No3 today so i guess i will have a good supply till late in the year.

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