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Direct Sowing Seeds

Here are several items for sowing in March on the actual site where the crops will grow:–


may be sown from mid-February to mid-March. The Ministry’s cropping plan (300 square yards) provides for three rows. Soil for parsnips should always be deeply dug and worked to a fine surface tilth before sowing. Sow in drills 15 in. apart and 1 in. deep, dropping the seed in small clusters of three or four, 6 in. apart. Thin seedlings of each cluster so as to leave only one.

Parsnips are notorious for poor germination and often the gardener is forced to re-sow in the hopes the conditions will be right for the seeds to germinate. Being a root crop, they’re basically impossible to transplant successfully so sowing in situ is the accepted method.

One new method that seems to be working is to start parsnips under cover in paper pots and plant out before the root has time to hit the bottom of the pot. The root easily penetrates the paper when planted out.

However, paper pots can be tricky in themselves. Too dry and the seedling will fail but too wet and the pot will split prior to planting.


The Ministry’s plan provides for three rows of dwarf peas 2 ft. 6 in. apart. In view of the difficulty of getting pea sticks, dwarf and medium varieties are most suitable for the garden or allotment, since they can be supported by fewer sticks or by string stretched between short sticks inserted at intervals either side of the row.

If mice are troublesome, before sowing shake the seed in a tin containing a little red lead or paraffin.

Of course you can forget red lead nowadays and paraffin is getting hard to source. Other methods of deterring mice include holly leaves or gorse laid over the seed in the trench.

Rather than direct sowing in bad weather, starting peas in guttering filled with compost in the greenhouse or a number of seed trays is popular. Cloches are effective too and they keep birds off as well.


Sowing PeasWait until it is just nicely moist and works freely. Sow in broad, flat drills from 2 to 2-1/2 in. deep, made with either draw-hoe or spade.

Don’t just scatter the seeds slapdash in the drill: set them out in three rows (as illustrated) allowing about 3 in. each way between seeds. This may sound unnecessarily finicky, but it is worth it and the job takes only a few extra minutes.

Space the rows according to the height of variety, 2 ft. for dwarfs, 3 ft. for medium and 5 ft. for tall.

Birds will attack the germinating seeds as they come up, so protect the rows with black cotton stretched on sticks about 6 in. about soil. Or you can use pea guards.