Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to advance the vegetable growing season: germination of vegetable seeds.

Advancing the vegetable growing season at La Pasera without the use of a poly tunnel or greenhouse is something we have always worked towards. This year we are starting slightly earlier than previous years. Living close to the sea helps as we generally have much milder weather than further inland. We have already started to germinate beetroot, peppers, chilli peppers, tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

Germinating seeds outdoors from mid January without the aid of additional heat or protection is something we are trying this year. Normally a greenhouse or heated propagator would be required. In the past, we have started raising vegetables from seed in mid February. In essence we are advancing the season by 3-4 weeks.

This year we hope to start eating beetroot, peas, sugar snaps and mangetout from early April; we are hoping the milder than usual weather helps a bit. To crop so early, we start by kick starting the germination process indoors. The seeds are then sown in soil, in seed trays. The method we use loosely draws upon hydroponics. It is more time consuming than direct sowing or traditional seed sowing but it guarantees a greater rate of germination whilst advancing the season.

This is what we do:

The seed is soaked in a bowl of water at room temperature over night or until the seeds are rehydrated. Once the seeds have swollen, you need to sandwich them between the moist folds of a cloth that is then placed in a plastic covered container. This needs to be kept in a warm place, the kitchen is a good area for us. The cloth will keep the seeds moist and in a dark environment until the root starts to sprout. Once the seeds have germinated, sow the germinated seeds in a freshly prepared seed tray or half pipe taking good care not to break the tender root. Cover with soil, water and place against against a south facing wall. Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, you need to prick them out and plant in individual pots or plant directly into the soil in the vegetable garden.

Sprouted beetroot seeds

Sugar-Snap Peas

One disadvantage of this method, is the extra time it takes to raise vegetables, not a problem if you enjoy gardening like me and take the opportunity while working around the garden, to enjoy the birds singing in the background, witness the beauty of the first wild flowers in bloom and the scent of both wild and cultivated flowers at La Pasera and the surrounding meadows. The days are now getting longer and time spent in the garden will no doubt increase accordingly... and maybe we'll find the time to visit the local beaches for a bit of beach-combing.


  1. Pre-germination is something I was taught to do years ago, it has a three way benefit,proves you have viable seed, saves wasting potting compost on seed that might not germinate and as you say, gives an earlier crop, peas pre-germinated on the 12th Jan and planted out on the 15th are already up one inch.

  2. Thanks for the reply - yes we've been doing it for a few years as well and are always pleased with the results. Are there any seeds that don't work using this method in your experience?

  3. Carrots, parsnips, celery, also salad crops, but then they are so quick and reliable it wouldn't be worth the time.


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