The sun is shining this morning, but the forecast says there will be more rain later. And more rain and wind tomorrow. The weather so far this year has not been conducive to gardening, and that “must sow seeds” feeling hasn’t kicked in yet. I did manage to nip outside for five minutes last month to sow broad beans in modules, but that’s as far as I got.

But however meh it might be outside at the moment, some seeds do need to be sown if there is going to be a garden this year. There’s no particular urgency yet, but I thought I should at least make a list of what I want to sow this spring.

2020 spring sowing list

Meanwhile, indoors, the hydroponic seedling tray needed a clear out. Not all sowings are 100% successful. (Some species, I guess, don’t like to grow this way. For others, my seeds are probably too old.) And because the tray wasn’t entirely full, bright light falling directly on the water made a breeding ground for algae. It’s not particularly nice stuff to handle, it’s slimy and stains everything a very deep shade of green. It’s not ideal to have it in the seedling tray, although it’s not fatal to the plants.

Perilla and new brassica seeds
Algae colonise the rock wool plugs and turn them green!

The big trays in the Hydroponicum came with blanks to cover empty spaces, but the seedling tray didn’t. So Ryan has designed and 3D-printed me some.

Blanks for the hydroponic seedling tray

The seedling tray grows plants faster than I can transfer them to the Hydroponicum. I had long decided that when spring came, I would try using it to raise seedlings that would ultimately end up in the garden. So now that the tray is clean, and we have a solution to the algae problem, I have started sowing seeds for the garden.

Hydroponic seedling tray with blanks

In this aerial view of the seedling tray, you can see the blanks covering empty holes at either side. The first row contains a couple of plants – one New Zealand spinach and one sculpit – from the previous batch. And row two is perilla/shiso.

The newly sown seeds are –
Row 3: Sprouting broccoli “Lancet” (mixed purple and white variety)
Row 4: Spigariello
Row 5: Chinese sprouting cauliflower
Row 6: Huauzontle (Aztec Broccoli )
Row 7: Sweet pepper “Popti”
Row 8: Sweet pepper “Redskin F1”
Row 9: Parsley “Giant of Italy”

In the garden, the sprouting broccoli is just coming into flower, which means it is time to sow next year’s crop. I’ve sown ‘Lancet’ and will sow a row (5 plugs) of Red Arrow later on so that I have (a) plenty of plants and (b) some diversity in the harvest period.

Leaf broccoli Spigariello

We saw spigariello broccoli growing at the Eden Project last month (inside the Mediterranean biome). I have had seeds for some time, but it suddenly rocketed to the top of the To Sow list. As it responds well to being cut back, I am wondering whether it will make a good hydroponic crop. The plants may be too large, I will have to try it and see.

I intended to sow Chinese sprouting cauliflower last year, and then realised there were too many things in the garden plan, and it got culled. So it gets a place this year.

And while I was having a broccoli-fest, I thought I would also sow the Huauzontle seeds I have been hoarding. It’s not a brassica, it’s Chenopodium berlandieri. It’s related to tree spinach, quinoa, and the wilding Fat Hen. (It’s also related to spinach and beetroot.)

The peppers will ultimately grow in containers, and the parsley will probably be dotted around the garden where they can find a spot. It wouldn’t be a garden without some parsley!

From my March sowing list, that leaves me with leeks and beetroot. I haven’t had much success growing alliums hydroponically. I think they struggle to root into the rock wool. And although I have successfully grown one hydroponic radish, I haven’t tried it with other root crops yet. So I will have to pop outside and do some sowing in compost at some point. I am not in a hurry though!

Hydroponic radish
Hydroponic radish!