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Start Sowing In January - Expert Advice For Getting It Right

Start Sowing In January - Expert Advice For Getting It Right


8 minute read

The start of a new year brings with it the chance to sow seeds indoors ready for a busy, successful year ahead. In fact, for some plants such as aubergines, chillies, peppers, squashes, tomatoes etc. which will benefit from a long growing season so that they produce healthy, tasty crops, sowing them now indoors will give them the perfect start.

Using a heated propagator will increase your chances of successful germination, even when you are sowing early in the season. This is because a heated propagator with its bottom heat will keep your seeds at a consistent temperature.

If you’ve not used a propagator before, here are our recommendations for some good quality, entry level, heated propagators which will provide everything you need to get sowing now. 

Window Sill Propagator

This is a great entry-level heated propagator, ideal for the new gardener. It’s easy to use – simply plug it in and it’s ready to go – without compromising on quality – in fact, this propagator has been a best seller since it was first introduced in 1996.

Its heated base will give a lift of approx. 8 degrees C above the room temperature whilst only using 13 watts of power. Supplied complete with seven seed trays and clear vented covers this allows you to sow a large number of plant varieties in just one unit.

Click here for purchasing details.

Harvst Mini Greenhouse Automatic Opener

You can make this Window Sill Propagator even more useful by purchasing extra quarter seed trays and covers. This then allows you to swop in new sowings as your first set of sown seeds germinate and grow sufficiently to no longer require the base heat. 

Fixed Temperature Propagator

Fixed Temperature Propagator

The next step up from the simple propagator above, these propagators use an internal thermostat to maintain 19 degrees C, the perfect germination temperature for a wide range of seeds – simply check your seed packet to see the recommended germination temperature when sowing.

These propagators are available in two sizes – the Mini  holds two full size seed trays and the Maxi holds three. So you now have more space to sow larger numbers of the same seeds.

Click here for purchasing details. 

If you have your own seed trays or pots we also offer the Fixed Temperature Propagators as bases only, allowing you to sow your seeds in whatever you prefer and stand this on the heated base. 

For the more adventurous gardener who wants to raise plants which require more specific germination temperatures than it’s important to choose a propagator which includes a thermostat where you can set the temperature to be achieved. The first propagator of this style is this Heat and Grow Variable Temperature Propagator.

Heat & Grow Variable Temperature Propagator

It has an easy-to-use dial thermostat with a temperature range of 12 to 28 degrees C – simply turn the dial on the front of the thermostat to set the temperature you wish to achieve.

The sensor attached to the thermostat is on a flexible lead allowing you to place it into the compost where your seeds have been sown, giving an accurate temperature reading exactly where your seeds will be feeling it.

Click here for purchasing details.

Heat and Grow Variable Temperature Propagator

Top Tip When Using A Heated Propagator
When you’re using a propagator with a lid it’s important to keep an eye on the amount of condensation forming within the propagator. When you have very young seedlings ‘damping off’ can occur when there is high humidity and poor air circulation – damping off will cause the seedlings to collapse and die they cannot be recovered. This is one of the reasons good quality propagators include adjustable air vents in their lids – this allows you to open the vents, letting in fresh air, reducing humidity.

Ensuring Sufficient Light

When you're sowing seeds early in the year, when days are short and sunshine less plentiful, you may find that the amount of natural light available to your plants is insufficient for healthy growth. For young seedlings this can result in poor growth or they can become ‘leggy’. Leggy seedlings are caused by uneven light – so it’s important, especially when using a propagator indoors that you provide sufficient ‘all round light’ to prevent this from happening.

You can provide this light in two main ways – by either purchasing a propagator which includes built in lights. Or purchasing lights which can be placed above where your plants will be propagated.

Propagators which include lights tend to be larger than standard entry level units and will incur a higher initial outlay compared to propagators without lights. Here are a few units to consider.

Sowing in a Monotop Propagator With Lights

Monotop Propagator

This unit is designed with a single, 23cm high, clear dome allowing you to leave your young seedlings in their warm, temperature-controlled environment for longer.

To ensure the plants receive sufficient light for healthy growth the propagator is available with lights included. Specially shaped channels in the dome hold the lights the correct distance from your seedlings.  

Click here for purchasing details. 

The lights included with both the Monotop propagators above and the Vitopod propagators below are Sunblaster Grow Lights which produce a full spectrum balanced light for healthy green growth.

These lights are also very energy efficient – lasting up to 10,000 hours. Their nanotech-enhanced reflector reflects 99.9% of previously lost light, increases lumin availability by 300% and diffuses light deep into the plant leaves.

Click here to see full details on the Sunblaster lights.  

Vitopod Propagator

Used in many commercial nurseries as well as by amateur gardeners this propagator can be purchased with or without lights and is available in two sizes, with the largest being over 19 inches x 39 inches.

Due to its large size this propagator includes extra-large adjustable vents in both the lids and sides of the cover.

Click here for purchasing details.

sowing in a vitopod propagator with lights

Unique to the Vitopod is the ability to increase the height of the propagator by adding ‘extra cover layers’ which can be purchased to increase the standard height by an extra 6 inches for each layer added. The picture above shows the Large Vitopod with Lights and with two extra sets of cover layers.

By adding extra layers makes this propagator even more useful – it will allow you to keep a larger area heated and humid – so it can be used to house taller plants which will benefit from this type of environment and could be used to over winter tender plants.

Full details for these extra layers can be seen by clicking here.

If you’re just looking for grow lights without a propagator then consider where they will be situated, how they will be suspended above your propagation area and what size of area you would like to cover.

Maxibright Propagation Lights

Maxibright Propagation Lights

These compact, highly reflective units are fitted with cool blue, fluorescent tubes which makes them ideal for propagation and promoting vegetative growth.

These lights are available in two different sizes, with the largest covering an area of approx. 9ft in diameter when suspended 39” above your plants.   

Click here for purchasing details. 

Some grow lights are available in different colour spectrums, such as the Secret Jardin lights below, which are available in either blue or red. The blue version is ideal for propagation and vegetative growth. However, select the red to use over plants when they are in flower to enhance blooming.

Secret Jardin LED Grow Lights

These TLED lights are 220 volt LED lights with a very long life (up to 50,000 hours), much longer than other types of lighting.

They come in two sizes 54cm / 21½in and 95cm / 37½in, are very low on power consumption and generate next to no heat so can be used very close to seedlings and plants. For best results we recommend these lights are positioned 1-2 inches above the top of the plants.

Click here for purchasing details.

Secret Jardin Grow Lights

In the picture above you can see two of the smaller Secret Jardin lights suspended on a specially designed light stand which we make here at Two Wests & Elliott. As you can see these stands make it easy to hold the lights close to your seedlings as they grow rather than having to suspend them from the roof of your greenhouse or ceiling in a house room. To see full details of these light stands click here.

Top Tip When Using A Grow Lights
Seedlings and young plants benefit from 12-16 hours of good light per day. You should aim to use your lights to achieve these daylight hours. So, in the Spring switch your lights on for 1-2 hours before sunrise and off 1-2 hours after sunset. You could automate this by adding a timer. On very dull, cloudy or overcast days you can leave the lights on for the full 12-16 hours whilst on very sunny days turn the lights off completely.

Don’t be tempted to leave the lights on 24 hours a day – this won’t benefit your plants as they need some periods of dark!

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