And sow it begins – our top tips for early seed sowing

Those of you who have been following along for a while will know we are lucky enough to have the expertise and creativity of Jan from Artemisia Gardens helping us develop our space here at the Homestead.

The grand plan for the space

We are going to be doing our best to blog along the way of our journey, so Jan has kindly written the first blog post….


February is the month when our thoughts begin to turn back to gardening again, as the days begin to lengthen and the occasional sunny day tempts us outside.

Ignoring the ‘influencers’ on Instagram who have been sowing seeds since early January for their tomatoes, peppers and other such tender plants, I prefer to wait. Up here on the North York Moors, our growing season is shorter than many and unless you have a heated greenhouse, keeping these early sown plants alive and healthy until they can go out under glass can be a challenge. Valentines day is when my thoughts turn to sowing my tomatoes. After all they did call tomatoes ‘Love Apples’ when they were first introduced from South America in the 16th century, and anytime in mid-February is about right.

I start my tomatoes in a heated propagator. It is equally possible to start them on a sunny windowsill, as long as the temperature in the room is warm enough for germination to occur, usually anything above 20 degrees centigrade. I use seed compost from Dalefoot for mine. Their compost, although not the cheapest, is made sustainably in the Lake District from bracken and sheeps wool, with added comfrey.

I had spoken with Peter and Cecily about what types of tomatoes they wanted to grow this year. Peter likes beefsteak varieties and Cecily and the boys prefer cherry types. I have therefore chosen to grow some of both types and I chose varieties which have done well for me in previous years. The cherry tomatoes we are growing are ‘Cerise’ and ‘Ferad’, both are on the larger side for cherry tomatoes, but are sweet and tasty and have proved to be productive in previous summers. The beefsteak varieties we have gone for are a Russian heirloom type called ‘Paul Robeson’, an Italian one called ‘Cuor di Bue’ and an American variety called ‘Amish Paste’. I have also sown a plum tomato called ‘Roma’.

Some of these seeds came from one of my favourite seed suppliers The Real Seed Catalogue, some from Vital Seeds and others are from seed I have saved myself from last years tomato crop. Both of these seed companies grow ‘open pollinated’ or non-hybrid seed, which are suitable for saving your own seed. We will probably do a blog later in the year on how to save your own seed.

All tucked up in the propagator, the tomato seeds should be poking their heads up in around 7-10 days. Realising that I still had some capacity in there, I have also sown a tray of celeriac, a winter crop which needs to be sown early due to it’s slow growing habits. Taking advantage of the warmth of the propagator, I have also sown some module trays of early peas ‘Douce Provence’, some Turnips ‘Purple Top Milan’ and some Chervil, all of which will be planted in the greenhouse for an early crop before the tomatoes need to go in there.

I do love these early sowings, as they help me to get through these last weeks of winter. I am weary now of the incessant rain and mud and it helps to think that in a few short weeks we will be sowing seed directly in the raised beds, with the spring sunshine on our backs. It can’t come soon enough.

You can read more about what Jan does here on her website About – Artemisia Gardens


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