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Seedlings coming along nicely! Here’s the tray of mixed salad seedlings I put in at the beginning of February. Alongside them are beetroot, turnips, kohl rabi and early peas (Meteor).

Generally speaking it’s a bit early to be sowing just yet – even in a greenhouse (there’s been the occasional frost on the ground in the mornings this week: I’d almost forgotten what it looked like).

But this year I’ve been trying a new regime and it’s worked a treat.

I set the propagator – my beloved Vitopod – to 12 degrees, optimum for germinating hardy seeds. Then the moment they emerged, I shifted them out of the propagator onto the shelving in the open greenhouse. This is kept a tad above freezing, so regularly (especially lately) falls to about 2-3 degrees.

That means the seedlings grow ‘hard’ – developing protection against the harsher, colder conditions so they become sturdier, shorter and stronger. They’re perhaps a tiny tad more spindly than seedlings started later in spring, but nothing like they have been in previous years when I’ve probably cossetted them a bit too much.

Back in the propagator and the heat has been turned up to 18 degrees: it’s now the turn of tomatoes, half-hardy annuals and a whole slew of exotica including mashua, yacon and oca. Plus Chinese gooseberries and gherkins. I do love this time of year!