Type ‘trial and error’ into Google and you will find hundreds of quotes on failure and success. In my experience, gardening, growing veg, sowing seed, is not all gardeners’ world and perfect planning, but instead is success through multiple efforts of trial and error. My first attempts at sowing parsnip seed and trying to get a parsnip to germinate did not go well. Yet, filled with hope and optimism and not much else, there I was on a cold February morning, scattering my seed across a freshly dug soil bed, an image of my own home grown parsnip being served up on my Christmas dinner plate that year.
Two weeks later, with not a seedling in sight, I hopefully persisted and scattered more seeds, trying to pay a little more attention to the seed packet sowing instructions this time and again leaving the rest to hope and nature.
Another two weeks with not a green shoot in sight left me feeling a little despondent, and wondering what magic green fingered touch was required to bring a parsnip seed to life. A little more reading, and I found others having similar issues, parsnips it seems, can be difficult to germinate, especially if you are trying to do this in cold February soil. Parsnips need to feel the hopeful, nurturing hint of a warm spell approaching to be awoken to life and show a green shoot to the world, but once they have they are then easy to care for and will provide you with those gloriously sweet roots to roast with a hint of honey and adorn that Christmas dinner!
February so far this year in West Yorkshire, has been cold and wet and now with the benefit of experience, we have delayed our sowing outdoors until we have a hint of a warmer change. It may sound strange for a seed company to say this, but actually waiting to sow seeds outdoors has always benefited us, rather than sowing early. You can start sowing some things as late as June and still get bumper crops!
If you are looking to sow in Feb, then it will help to sow indoors, in a greenhouse or conservatory, or by using a warm, light windowsill in your home. Some of our chilli seeds, sown on the 30th Jan and kept in a heated propagator in our conservatory, are just showing signs of germination less than two weeks later.
Our greenhouse is now shouting out to us, with our cleaned pots and new compost all waiting from our January preparation, ready for us to sow lots of seeds. We are keen to get going and during February, we will be sowing; Asparagus Pea, Beetroot, Broccoli, Brussels, Cabbage and Cauli, Kale, Leek, Lettuce, Peas and Tomatoes. (And lots of herbs and flowers!).
Remember: there is nothing that you do in your own garden space that ends badly that cannot be tried again. Trial and error and succession sowing, will eventually bring success. Don’t be put off by strange garden terminology that you may not yet understand, you will learn most of what you need to know through your own simple trial and error, so get trialling!