If you’d like to be enjoying fresh tomatoes from your garden before Christmas, start in winter, sowing and growing indoors so that you have advanced seedlings ready to plant out once the cold weather, and chance of frosts, has passed.
Tomatoes, eggplant, chilli, peppers and cucumber will all thrive in pots inside in bright light.
While not a beginner’s level skill, gardeners with some experience will have no trouble germinating and growing indoors. Here’s how:
Photo - Linda Ross
Soak jiffy pots or fill pots with seed raising mix. Firm down to eliminate air pockets. Soil should reach 1cm below the top of the pot. Water the soil.
Sow thinly, if possible just two seeds per individual jiffy pot or seedling cell. If both germinate uproot the weakest one.
Label and date the seed trays, jiffy plugs or individual seed-raising punnets. An ice-cream stick is perfect for this.
Cover the seed with a fine layer of seed raising mix. There is no need to water again. Cover the top with newspaper to exclude light; this step speedsgermination.
Place seed trays, punnets or jiffy pots onto a heat pad and place the plastic cover over the top. This increases the humidity, which encourages germination.
Check morning and night for signs of growth, and as soon as the seed has sprouted remove the newspaper to allow natural light in. Shield the seeds from
direct sunlight, as this can burn them.
Pot the little plants into individual pots as soon as you see white roots appearing in holes at the bottom of the seed punnet cell.
As soon as the risk of frosts, or cold weather, has passed, plant the seedlings out into the garden at the distance recommended on the seed packet.
The hot seat
Linda is a fan of Heat ‘n’ Grow heat pads and keeps one on her kitchen bench. This heated propagation system creates a mini-greenhouse effect for ideal
growing conditions. There are a number of slightly different systems available, one with a heat pad of 10 degrees above ambient air temperature and
one that has a controlled temperature thermostat. You will need to spend between $70 - $150 to set the system up, depending on your preferred size.
For more information go to www.heatngrow.com.au
Text: Linda Ross