GARDENING: Sow far so good for seedlings

NEW HOMES: Dahlia Bishop's Children being pricked out from seed tray to modules.
NEW HOMES: Dahlia Bishop's Children being pricked out from seed tray to modules.

PRICKING out seedlings is a job you either love or hate.

To make it less of a chore, get comfortable - a solid bench with space to work - and sit down.

Most of us sow seeds (especially small ones) in seed trays. It’s economical, as seed compost is expensive, and you don’t have to sow the whole packet.

However, once the seedlings have developed their true leaves, things start to get crowded. They become leggy and can fall victim to ‘damping off’ disease.

As soon as they are big enough to manage, move them into modules, filled with decent multipurpose compost.

Lift up a chunk of the seedlings with an old teaspoon and, holding a seed leaf (never the stem), tease out individual plantlets from the mass. Choose only the ones with the most vigorous root systems to be potted on.

Make a hole in the compost with a dibber and gently ease the roots into the hole, then gently backfill in. If the seedlings are more spaced out in the initial tray and have bigger root systems, it’s easier to half-fill the modules, place the seedling and fill around with compost.

Water in very gently with a small watering can. Don’t be alarmed if some seedlings topple over - they just need to settle in the soil. Gently firm them back in.

Keep them out of direct sunlight or rapidly fluctuating temperatures for a few days and keep well watered.

Depending on how long it is until the last frost (usually end of May, beginning of June), you may have to pot them on again before it’s time for them to go outside.

Don’t suddenly move them up to a big pot - it’s a waste of compost. The next size up is fine.