Planting Mad

It is not easy to find the time to write when there is so much to do in the garden. There are seedlings to pot on, plants to plant out, weeds to keep under control, more seeds to sow and of course everything needs watering. Getting the balance right can be tricky at this most busy and exciting of times in any gardener’s calendar. As soon as we pass the Spring equinox the rising levels of light seem to compel even the most reluctant of gardeners off their sofa. In the rush to get ahead I started planting mad. Against my better judgment I did sow some radish seeds direct into the stony soil on a warm early April day. They didn’t fare well. Low germination rate, and the slugs had a field day. The wind bashed them about. Seeds I sowed into trays on the same day are now planted in the ground, looking healthy and ready for harvest. I regularly tell my daughters to learn from their mistakes, and I think I need to start taking some of my own advice.

For the most part I tend to sow seeds into trays, particularly cell trays that are reusable and readily available in most garden centres. The resulting seedlings are stronger and better able to cope with our changeable climate and attacks from pests. 


  • Follow guidelines on the back of seed packs for optimum sowing conditions. 
  • Sow seed into general potting compost, ensuring there are no lumps before filling the trays. 
  • Water gently and put them into a tunnel or warm place such as a windowsill to germinate.
  • If you have a propagator your seedlings will germinate early.
  • Be aware that too much heat and not enough light can cause seedlings to get leggy and grow long searching for light, making them weak and vulnerable. 


Once seeds germinate they will need to be potted on into larger pots or planted into their final growing position as they can get root bound. An indication of this is if roots are visible from the drainage holes on the bottom of the trays. Always harden off seedlings before finally planting them outdoors. For about a week to 10 days, depending on the weather, place trays out on mild days taking them back indoors before nightfall. Eventually leave them overnight in a sheltered spot for several days before planting the hardened seedlings in their finally growing spot, remembering to space them well. By now the plant tables are full to the brim with trays of seedlings all vying for attention. Some need potting on, some need planting out, all need watering.

During such a busy time it’s easy to get carried away with the business of gardening, and forget to enjoy the beauty around you. I think it’s something many a gardener is guilty of, myself included. I am lucky enough to work in the beautiful surroundings of Liss Ard country estate. A stroll through the grounds is always rewarding, and when I manage to make the time I always return to the garden inspired and rejuvenated. The bluebells have been resplendent this last month and a chorus of birdsong filled the woodland under uncharacteristically blue skies. And Sally’s Garden has a new resident. Yes we finally have our own robin, and he seems to be getting cheekier by the day.



Sally Ann Lenehan

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