GROWING plants from seed can be tricky when at the end of the season, e.g late summer or early autumn, you are the proud owner of a seed tray filled with good sized seedlings but the seedlings in question haven’t grown large enough to ‘prick out’ into plug trays or small individual pots, writes TOM ATTWOOD. How are you best to look after them?

We face this scenario every year on the nursery and rather than one tray it will often be 100 trays or more. The first thing is to ensure the seed tray doesn’t become overly wet as a sea of damp (or at times very wet compost) with a cluster of seedlings jostling for space will (in most cases) end in disappointment. From October to late March we place all our seed trays under cover in an unheated polytunnel with added ventilation. A good airy environment is so important and this is true for any plants you’re overwintering. If you’re going to use additional warmth then it needs to be married with supplementary lighting and that in itself is a different skillset all together.

There is always a balance to be struck with plants under cover and that includes seedlings. They will need water even when in a semi-dormant state. The easiest method is to push your finger into the compost, you want to be able to feel moisture and if it seems very dry then a light water with a fine rose on a watering can may be needed. When conditions begin to warm up as the air temperature increases (and light levels extend) water will be needed and you will have to assess this on a case by case basis. Once we are into spring then your seedlings can be ‘pricked out’ when large enough and grown on. All being well you will have brilliant young plants to pot on or plant out this summer.