It's the middle of winter and for the keen amateur gardener there isn't much work to be done in his or her garden kingdom. But if you want to do some gardening at this time of year there is a nice little job which can be done now - planting seed.
Some vegetable varieties, such as Savoy cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce, can be planted under glass in January. If you still have some old vegetable seeds at home, you should only use them if they are for smooth-skinned vegetables, and a germination test must be carried out in advance. To do this, simply moisten a piece of blotting paper or kitchen towel, spread a few seeds onto it, and watch to see whether the seeds start to sprout after a while.
Some summer flowers can already be presown now. If you want to cultivate geraniums or busy lizzies yourself, then you should start now. Note, however, that if you are cultivating spring plants yourself, you will need cultivation areas such as a conservatory, greenhouse or a sufficient number of warm window sills. If you don't have enough space, it's best to leave the cultivation of vegetable and balcony plants to the professionals.
Probably the biggest problem if you are growing plants from seed yourself is the lack of daylight and sunlight at this time of year. This can lead to poor plant quality and excessive linear growth. Fine seeds and seeds which require light to germinate should not be covered and need even more attention than coarse seeds. To ensure that seeds are not sown too close together, we recommend combining fine seeds with some sand. The optimum germination temperature here is between 14 and 18°C. Please make sure that enough light and air is available. Once the seed leaves have developed and you can see the first foliage, germinating seedlings which are positioned too closely together should be replanted so that they are further apart.
Cultivating cold germinators
The seeds of cold germinators such as hellebores, phlox, aconites and gentians like it to be really cold. These plants need to go through a cold phase so that all germination-inhibiting substances can be broken down. Such plants include a few native shrubs such as roses. It is best to use cold days in January to plant seeds in propagation soil. However, you should allow the seedlings to stand on a warm window sill for 2 to 4 weeks before planting them under bushes. They are then exposed to a temperature of between 0 and 5 °C for a period of 6 to 8 weeks. One of the problems involved in cultivating plants from seed is often insufficient light. There is also a risk that birds may be quick to pick seeds out of the earth in winter. Make sure that the soil does not dry out once you have planted the seedlings (water them!).
Propagation using offshoots
Another way of propagating plants is vegetative propagation, i.e. by taking and replanting cuttings. Easy species with a good success rate include willows, flowering currants and climbing roses. Cut a shoot approx. 30 cm long from the woody plant and plant it in a narrow channel in the ground so that 2/3 of the cutting is beneath the soil. The soil should be in a condition to allow this. It is best to fill the hole with a mixture of earth and sand and you must press everything down firmly.
Woody plants such as Japanese anemones and mulleins are propagated by means of root cuttings. The best month for this propagation method is January, provided you can get to the roots. If so, cut off a piece of root approx. 5 cm long and put it in a pot containing a mixture of sand and peat. It is important here to place the roots in the same position as they were previously in the ground. To avoid mixing up the top and bottom of the root, you can cut one end at an angle and one end straight. The pots should be kept in a frost-free but cold place. Don't forget to water regularly! Once the seedlings have taken and begun to sprout in spring, they can be transferred to their own pot so that they have enough space and can continue to grow undisturbed.
The nice thing about propagating plants is not sowing the seeds but what happens afterwards. Every garden lover looks forward to seeing plants start to flower in spring, but if you have grown a plant from seed then you get twice the excitement.