HEAT MATS AND GROW LIGHTS
One of the best investments you can make that will help you get going earlier in the year is a heat mat and some grow lights. Kits that include both start at around £25 (available from Amazon or garden retailers) and are a great long term investment. There are a number of benefits for using them:
- You can start growing earlier while the daylight hours are shorter during winter
- Lights help to grow healthier seedlings that aren’t ‘leggy’ and reaching for any scrap of sunlight
- Heat mats help along seeds that need higher germination temperatures with a reliable, steady heat and so will improve germination rates for some varieties
- LED grow lights are more energy efficient
- An early start on slow growing varieties such as celery, or long season varieties like peppers, can speed up the harvest cycle and increase final yield
Be reassured that an early start with heat and light is totally optional and you will get a decent harvest off all these varieties when started later from March onward when the days get longer. This is simply an approach that can help you get the maximum out of your heat loving plants, plus can help ease the propagation squeeze in March when the bulk of sowing takes place.
Learn more about growing with heat mats and lights and why it works with our no nonsense short video below:
WHICH CROPS TO START IN JANUARY WITH HEAT MATS AND GROW LIGHTS
We like to get started early on a number of crops to give us a head start during winter. Crops that particularly benefit from an early start grown with heat and lights are chillies, aubergines and peppers. They are slow growing and originate from areas of the world with much longer hotter summers than we have here in the UK, and so starting early means you’re more likely to achieve a great harvest later in the season.
If you’d like to learn how to sow and grow chillies and peppers in more detail, check out our quick video that cuts out the jargon below:
The other crops that really benefit from an early start under lights, are celery and celeriac. These plants like to take their time, taking 2-3 weeks to get around to germinating and lingering at the tiny seedling stage for a frustratingly long time. We always start these crops in Jan under lights to ensure we have well established baby plants ready to plant out straight after last frost.
Onions from seed can also be started early but they need a little boost of heat to get them to germinate. Once they have all popped they can be placed out in an unheated greenhouse to gradually grow on until planting out time.
CROPS TO START IN JANUARY IN AN UNHEATED GREENHOUSE
Not everyone wants to invest in heat mats and grow lights and that is fine and also doesn’t need to hold you back from sowing in January. We’d recommend not starting on the chillies, peppers and aubergines as they won’t germinate or thrive in the low temperatures if you aren’t supplementing heat and light. But you can start your early lettuce, spinach and broad beans. We prefer to start early broad beans in the greenhouse to avoid them being nibbled by mice as they germinate and are immature seedlings, whilst giving that extra bit of protection from harder frosts. Sow them in trays about 5cm deep in peat free compost. Once they reach around 15cm in height they can be planted outside to grow on as they will be hardy enough to stand up to frost and pesky garden visitors. Learn more in our how to sow and grow broad beans video here:
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