Growing from seed

07. March 2021 by Isabelle Van Groeningen
Categories: About gardening, english, News, Spring, the garden academie | Leave a comment

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Saatgut - Pickieren der ersten Sämlinge © Isabelle Van Groeningen

Breaking news – we have opened again since today! Preliminary opening times are:

  • Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (also today, March 7th!)
  • Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Flagge Deutschland für deutsche Übersetzung – auf Deutsch lesen – At long last the Garden Academy is allowed to open its gates again to the public this coming Monday, having been closed for almost 3 long months. Especially the past few weeks have been tough as everybody wanted to get on with their garden in the nice spring weather. Although the café is still not allowed to open up, and we are not yet running gardening courses, we can at least get on with the nursery.

A hive of activity

This week it was like a beehive on the first sunny day of the season. As soon as the first mention was made that we may be reopening the business, there was a real buzz about. Our gardeners are finally returning from their winter break and are busy getting the plants out that were lovingly packed away in sheltered corners, tucked in with leaves and straw to protect them from the cold. The first big deliveries of perennials, roses and shrubs have come this week and are filling up the nursey again. A wonderful sight!

Rosenlieferung eingerichtet © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Delivery of roses

In the propagating house things look promising. The first annuals have been sown and have already been pricked out. They are soon ready to move into the larger, cooler greenhouse, which at the moments still contains the potted spring bulbs that are coming into flower one after the other.

Seed pavilion

We have used these past months to make some changes and improvements. Cleaning in all nooks and crannies, putting up shading in the Glasshouse and Café, renovating one of the old greenhouses.

Saatgut - Renovierungsarbeiten © Isabelle Van Groeningen

One of the big highlights has been the new seed pavilion. We have transformed the small octagonal pavilion that stands by the entrance into a seed pavilion. Gabriella and Thea have been building and painting shelves, and I have spent the past days having great fun sorting and installing over 600 different varieties of seeds. There are conventionally raised seeds but also organic and biodynamic Demeter varieties. For those of you who only have a terrace or balcony, we have a selection of more compact cultivars, particularly suited to growing in containers like a variety of cut-and-come-again salads. 

Saatgut Pavillion - © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Seed Pavilion

Crop rotation

In order to give a better overview, I have sorted the seeds into five categories: flowers, leaf-, fruit- or root-bearing vegetables and herbs. This makes it easier for you to plan your rotational cropping plan. Different vegetables have different nutrient requirements, but the main reason to move crops around is to avoid a build-up of soil-borne pests and diseases. If you have the space, you should move crops into another bed each year, on a three- or four year rotation. Particularly cabbages can have problems with clubroot disease, and should never be grown two years in arrow in the same place. (you should also avoid throwing the roots of cabbages on the compost heap for this reason) I grow mine in my “leaf” bed, with the salads, spinach and mangold. The fruit bed contains zucchinis, pumpkin and all peas and beans.

The latter two belong to the legume family, and manage with the help of beneficial bacteria, to fix nitrogen nodules in their root system. At the end of the season I only remove the spent stalks, leaving the nitrogen-rich roots to decompose in the ground. It makes this bed perfect for the leafy vegetables the following year. Carrots, radishes, beetroot, leeks, celeriac and other roots are grown in the third bed. We have two more areas, one is for potatoes, the other I grow dahlias for cutting.  

Saatgut - Garpa Haus © Isabelle Van Groeningen
Our Garpa House – the place to be, not only for seeds…!

Why seeds rather than plant?

As you know, I am a big fan of seeds. There are several reasons for this. Sowing seeds is the most satisfying and rewarding of all gardening activities. To watch the first leaves appear, to prick out tiny seedlings when they have just two leaves, then to pot them on as young plants, are all activities that bring great joy. Your own seedlings will provide many months or even years of pleasure and are guaranteed to make you feel very proud of your achievements!

Although you can buy most plants, you cannot buy everything. Some annuals do not like to be transplanted, and are best sown in situ. Especially the more unusual varieties, you can only buy them as seeds. It is also the most cost-effective way of raising large amount of plants.

If it is difficult to raise young plants under glass or on a windowsill, then buy a few lettuce plants at the start of the season for a quick crop, but for later harvests it is better to sow them straight into the ground as soon as it warms up. Spinach and chard will also come well from  direct-sown seed. All rootcrops like carrots and beets, benefit from direct sowing.

I make an exception with tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers and aubergines. These are all fruiting crops of which I enjoy having a variety rather than quantity. Therefore I prefer to buy a larger number of different plants, rather than raise lots of the same.

Inspect your seed reserves now. Throw out old seeds, and make a list of what is missing, then sort them by sowing date, so you know what is to be sown next.

I wish you great fun and a successful sowing season!

And visit us soon, we have everything ready:

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