Snow! Pricking Out Seedlings.

What a surprise Thursday morning to wake up to heavy snow. It’s like a pretty Christmas card scene outside. I’m pretty sure I read on the Met Office web site that the UK gets more snow at Easter than Christmas and it’s certainly true here.

Shed in Garden under Snow

The potting shed at 6am with growlights shining as snow falls.

Although it’s chilly, running around 3ºC at dawn, it’s not cold enough for the snow to stay long. On the patio and path up to the hens it’s thick slush and really slippy. Managed not fall down but came close a couple of times. By 10:30am there was no sign it had ever been – but the ground is wet again.

A Busy Easter Weekend in the Potting Shed

Hispi Cabbages

The Hispi cabbage seeds are no longer viable. Just three have emerged from the 800+ seeds sown. I knew it was a forlorn hope when I sowed them but still a disappointment. If I’d realised I had them stored in a tin a couple of years ago, I could have sowed them as microgreens or just as greens for the hens. I hate waste.

Hispi are a lovely fast sweetheart cabbage, similar to but smaller than Greyhound, which has been mainly superseded by Caraflex now. Caraflex is slightly bigger, which isn’t an advantage to us as there’s only the two of us.

Crimson Plum Tomato

These were a surprise, and not a good one as I sowed about 15 seeds but only 3 came up. They were packed in 2022 in sealed sachets and should have been 80% germination at least. Sowed my remaining two packets, 23 seeds in total. Fingers crossed these germinate.

They’re the best plum tomatoes I’ve ever grown – very productive, meaty with good flavour and ideal for bottling or freezing. Looking for about a dozen plants which will cover our needs for a year.

By contrast, the Crimson Crush Tomatoes had 90% germination and quickly grew large seedlings. I only want 3 or 4 plants but I’ve found a home for the spares.

Black Cherry, Sungold, Crimson Blush did OK. Got more than enough of those to do me!

All the tomatoes got pricked out and moved into 9cm pots. They’re under gentle heat, minimum 13ºC, and grow lights for part of the day.

Greyhound Cabbage

The first sowing looked to have failed to produce any seedlings – so I was about to sow the rest of the packet when I realised some seedlings had just pushed up the vermiculite. Better late than never.

Cabbages Earliest of All and Red Acre

Pricked out and set in Rootrainers. I’ve got 16 plants of each, which is probably far too many but I don’t have to plant them all out. The seedlings left are growing on to give the hens a treat.

Cauliflower Skywalker

28 seedlings pricked out into rootrainers, which, like the cabbages, is a bit over the top. Still, I think it will probably freeze nicely as it’s said to retain its texture well when cooked.

The calabrese, Green Magic, and the sprouts, Brodie got pricked out into 9cm pots. As the brassicas were potted up they got moved to the greenhouse benching to make room in the potting shed propagators. Brassicas don’t mind it being cool to grow on although they do like being mollycoddled when they’ve just emerged.

Brassica Seedlings on Benching in Greenhouse

Brassica Seedlings on Benching in the Greenhouse

I’ve still got cauliflower All Year Round and Cabbage Greyhound to prick out. Wondering whether to scrap the All Year Round as I’m going to have a lot of Skywalker but it might be nice to have a direct comparison.


My first sowing of peas, variety Sugarsnap, was exactly as I covered here: Sowing Peas Indoors A New Method. I intended to plant up 10 half-sized seed trays which would require 120 seed peas. Apparently I ran out of fingers when counting as I only had seed for 9 trays.
As a good friend used to say ‘It’s me age, me dear!’


Sowed around 4 seeds per small biodegradable pot which will be under heat (21ºC) with the peas for a week to ten days before being planted out. Nothing will be showing but that should be enough to kickstart them. It’s a method that works like a treat for me although it is important to keep them watered in dry weather and thin to one per station once up.

I’m looking for 36 parsnips – I love them but Val’s not so keen. Variety White Gem

Seed trays stacked in propagator

The Vitopod is full with peas, parsnips and Bustaseed trays stacked to maximise the benefit of the electricity used to warm them. Lights not in use on this propagator.

Cucumber Marketmore

Sowed four 9cm pots with two seeds per pot. I always think of Marketmore cucumber as a heritage variety but in fact it was bred by Dr. Henry Munger at Cornell University, USA in 1968. With its disease resistance and hardiness (for a cucumber) it can be grown outside in many areas of the UK or, as I do, undercover.
It’s a very productive variety and one plant is usually enough but I’d rather grow two or three in case something happens to one.


Sowed leeks Northern Lights in Bustaseed modules. The seeds are so tiny that it’s hard to tell them apart from specks of compost. I used a wooden kebab skewer dipped in water to pick and sow the tiny seeds one per module. Quite how they manage to count 40 seeds per packet, and that’s exactly how many I had, is beyond me. Probably incredibly sensitive scales or laser beams or something.

Heading Broccoli (Calabrese)

Because the Green Magic didn’t germinate as well as I hoped, I’ve got 7 seedlings, sowed 10 seeds of Gemini in Bustaseed modules. Be interesting to see how many germinate.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
3 comments on “Snow! Pricking Out Seedlings.
  1. Sue Paskins says:

    Should we not be taking the declining viability of seeds further. I used to get superb germination rates, but over nearly all varieties this is declining. We are only told the date of packing, what are they hiding by not telling us when these seeds were harvested? Who knows what conditions these seeds were kept in, or how old they are when they are packed.

    • John Harrison says:

      Hello Sue – I don’t believe anybody is trying to hide anything. There are strict regulations about the germination rates of seeds which apply to the date they are packed. So, packed in year 1 should have (say) 75% germination. This rate will decline due to age, storage conditions as time passes. Some seeds will be viable in 5 years, others – like parsnips – have a very short life. The storage conditions are out of the merchants hands if they supply a shop or the end user doesn’t store correctly.
      How old they are when packed is neither here nor there – so long as the germination rate meets standards when packed.
      In my experience, seed quality is generally pretty good. I do know a lot of people email me saying their success rate is poor with peat free composts.
      The Hispi cabbages I’ve sown were supposed to be used before 2018 – so any germination is a bit of a bonus,
      If you’re experiencing declining rates of germination, look at what you are doing. Are you getting germination but damping off? Often as we get experienced, we don’t worry so much about the basics – like washing trays and pots after use – until things turn around and bite us.

      • Derrick Brown says:

        I’ve tried putting two seeds in a tray of 12 pots, they were seeds from last year’s crop, I saved them from several tomatoes
        I used the soil from my hotbin, I dragged it out, a bit wet so let it dry out for 24 hours
        Very disappointed, only got 3 that sprouted
        Never had so few, I did the same as last year,
        Got a fine crop last year
        I left them to do whatever they do in the summer for two weeks
        Came back there was so much fruit on them they had spilled out of the crop and covered the pathway (grand kids had a fine time)

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