Budget Propagation and Protection.

Dispite the weather, at this time of the year our thoughts turn to starting seeds. There are lots of fancy kit available for early propagation and plant growing, but this kit doesnt come cheap. If you want to start some seeds early and grow on your seedlings without breaking the bank, I have a few Idea’s for you.

Plastic Bags. If your like me I always have a range of clear plastic bags stuffed in a drawer in the kitchen. Plastic bags come in all sizes, and can be new or second hand. They are so useful for the budget gardener. A clear bag can be used to protect a single plant like a seedling or a chilli plant that is been overwintered. Just place the pot in a bag and zip up or tie the top. For chillies, I either leave the top open, or place another bag loosely over the top. Plastic bags can also be used as the cheapest of propagators, just place a pot or tray of sown seeds in the bag and fold over the end or use a bag tie. Placing a bag over a pot of new cuttings, gives a warm moist enviroment that aids in rooting. Just check often for condensation, and if there is too much condensation on the plastic, just open the bag for a while.

Plastic Egg Cartons. The clear plastic egg cartons can be turned into instant seed propagators. Just fill the base egg compartments with a seed compost, sow seeds, then close the lid. Place somewhere warm to germinate. Keep a check on the seedlings growth, when they are a nearly at the top of the lid, the seedlings will require potting on.

Propagator Lids and kits. You can buy clear plastic propagator lids to fit small and large seed trays. I bought a couple of small ones recently for 99p each, and the larger ones for £1.49. They can be used for years and are good value. Pay a little more and you can get taller more rigid ones with vents. Good value kits of seedtrays, lids and peat seed discs are widely available, and are designed to fit on an average windowsill, they usually cost between £3 – £7 for a single unit, depending on size. Clear fruit and veg trays can also be used. I buy frozen raspberries that come in clear trays that are perfect propagator lids. Plastic pop bottles can be cut down to any height to produce custom plant propagator tops for pots. I have even seen the bottom of the bottle used as a pot, with the top used as the propagator. I place my propagator units on my windowsills and to help with warmth overnight, I place them on a sheet of bubble wrap, and lay another piece on top. I remove the top piece of bubble wrap during the day. I have found many supermarkets have small sheets of bubble wrap [ often layered in between apples ]  that I have aquired for free. Just ask.

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Reflecting Light. Light is important for sturdy seedling growth, but the light even on windowsills, is quite weak at this time of the year. To help my seedlings get a little more light I make a cheap reflector. I just cover a length of cardboard with tin foil and place behind the seedlings, folding the ends like a pair of wings, gives the reflector support and it allows it to stand up. The foil reflects the light coming into the window, back on to the seedlings.

A budget light or grow box. A lightbox or seedling growing box is a wonderful thing to have at this time of year but, a purpose built or bought lightbox can set you back hundreds of pounds. Even if you are good at diy, it can still cost a fair bit. But it can be had for next to nothing. If you can get hold of a cheap or free, secondhand tropical fish or reptile tank. I used to keep tropical fish many years ago, and my tank had a reflective lid with a growlux light fitted. If you can find a set up no one wants anymore, it doesn’t matter if the tank leaks, you can have a great grow box, or if your posh, a terrarium. You can line the bottom with capilary matting, and line the sides either with foil or polystyrene. I wish I still had my old tanks. I will be putting a wanted add on ‘freecycle’.

So with a bit of imagination and a rumage through the kitchen propagation can be cheap.

Helen Fowler
Born in Middlesbrough. Moved to live in rural North Yorkshire in late teens. Moved back to the town in my 30's to live near Stockton on Tees. Then after a divorce and a serious accident I moved back to rural North Yorkshire near Thirsk, where I live now. I am a passionate gardener, a keen amateur photograper, I love travel, music, anything artistic and I have a great love of nature and the natural world. I have gardened since my teens and I lived and worked on a farm for years. I have owned or have experience with most pets and domestic animals. I hope by sharing my own experiences and the personal knowledge I have gained over the years, to help and encourage others to gain the most from their gardening efforts.

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