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herb seedlingIs seed-raising on your mind? SNAP! Me too, and what could be better than some personal seed-raising tips from one who doesn't want to count the cost of buying seedlings from the garden centre come spring!

Up and snapping ...
This month, our local newspaper has been warning gardeners to stay calm during warm(er) winter periods because it's still too early to sow seed. But I did some calculations, and if I want to avoid buying seedlings come September/October, I have to get sowing inside right now, especially for the slower germinating and growing vegetables and annuals. That's why my parsley and celery is already up and snapping at the sunlight on my window ledge, while enjoying the warmth of the heating board from beneath. Top tip: if you're a lifestyle-blocker, use the lamb-board now to start off your seedlings so they're well established before that useful heating pad is actually required for the lambs!

Snap-lock it!
Raising seeds and seedlings inside can be a problem where germination is erratic. Germinating seed requires warmth and moisture. I always sit punnets of seed on a seed-raising heat pad, cover them with plastic, and top them with a warm insulating material such as a cusion to speed up germination. But that insulating layer doesn't let in light and, this week, half the seed in the punnet on my heat pad were already tiny seedlings while the other half were still to emerge through the soil. I solved the problem by placing the punnet inside a SNAP-lock bag. It sealed in the moisture (and actually became a self-watering system as drips of condensation gently fell back onto the soil), held in the heat in the same way a glasshouse would do, and let in plenty of light for the young seedlings that had already germinated.

Snap it up!
Counting you pennies? This is the time to snap up bargain seeds that are almost past their best-buy date. These warning dates don't mean that the seed is worthless, it's an indication that germination will be slower and that a higher percentage of the seed will fail to germinate. If you sow early and thickly, you've worked through the problem and saved the difference.

I reached for my annual bag of quality seed-raising mix a couple of weeks ago and something inside me just snapped. Does nothing stay the same price from year to year? I turned my back on the shelves, and went home to fill a few ice-cream containers with sieved compost. Into the microwave they went until the contents in each was steaming hot. In the sure knowledge that the heat had put paid to any weeds, I later sowed seed into my home made seed-raising mix, and felt rather pleased with myself.

Snap to it!
Garden centres are great – we all love to buy treats from them occasionally. But for everyday garden requirements such as veggie and annual seedlings, why not do the job yourself? The secret is to start sowing as early as the commercial growers who supply the shops. By 'growing your own' you'll have soon saved enough for that fruit tree or rhodo you've been longing for – or even afternoon tea at the garden centre café!