If seedlings emerge in patches – or not at all – the temptation is to blame the seed, but in reality poor conditions or pests are equally likely to be culprits.
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Slugs can graze off young seedlings even before you’ve noticed they’ve emerged, and woodlice can also cause damage. The latter normally feeds on decaying organic matter, but in the dry conditions in greenhouses and polytunnels, they are also partial to a succulent seedling or two.
Give seedlings plenty of space: prick out those sown in pots and trays before they become drawn and leggy, and space out pots so the foliage doesn”t touch. Thin out seedlings in borders as soon as they are large enough â€“ the more space they have, the earlier you will get a harvestable crop.
Sowing tender crops
Early-mid March is the last chance to sow aubergines, peppers and tall varieties of tomatoes for a worthwhile crop, although in most places they will still need a bit of extra heat. If this is difficult, buying plants next month when the weather warms up might be a better option. You can also make an early start with French beans, courgettes and ‘outdoor’ varieties of cucumber for planting in greenhouse and tunnel borders – they can give a rewarding, trouble-free harvest in June when outdoor plants are still struggling.
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