Preventing damping off disease

A zinnia seedlings which has gone brown at the base of its stem

This page may contain affiliate links – thank you for your support of our Quest for Veg!

It looks like we’ve been visited by damping off disease. We found this little zinnia seedling flopped over, and going brown from the base of the stem upwards.

It looks as though we have been lucky in that we only seem to have lost three zinnia seedlings to date. It can wipe out a patch of seedlings in a tray or spread to the whole tray or beyond.

What causes damping off?

Damping off is caused by several types of organism, particularly certain types of fungi and bacteria. They live in the soil and are usually carried by water.
Continue reading

We’ve been sent some seeds to try

We all like to be asked our opinion, right? So, when Westland got in touch and asked if we’d be interesting in trialling and reviewing some of their products, of course we said yes.

As a start, they sent us some seeds from their Bursting with Flavour range.

The six packets of seeds we received

According to the Westland website, the Bursting with Flavour range has been designed: “… to help food enthusiasts reach new flavour heights in their home-cooked meals. The range includes a mix of easy to grow fruit, vegetable and herb seeds that can be grown in small spaces …”

I think that here at Quest for Veg we can safely be described as food enthusiasts!

The seeds we received were:

Here’s Andrew sowing the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in the greenhouse, and the radishes in a raised bed in the allotment:

We’ll sow the carrots and beetroot as soon as we get the beds prepared.

One thing that did strike us was that for the ones we sowed in the greenhouse: there were not many seeds in each packet. The average packet contents for the peppers is just six, and the tomatoes and cucumbers ten in each. At £2.99 per pack, I think if we were buying these in the garden centre, we’d probably choose a variety with more seeds in the packet – we do like to feel we’re getting our money’s worth! But if space is at a premium, or you’re looking for something promising more flavour, why not give these a try?

I am happy to report that we will probably not go short of beetroot (200 per pack),  radish (400 per pack) or carrots (500 per pack).

A very quick tour of the greenhouse

It’s the middle of April and we have a full house – the greenhouse is bursting at the seams! We’re aiming to bring on a succession of seedlings over a range of plants and we’re not quite ready to start hardening things off.

Not only that, Andrew won some zinnia seeds from Mr Fothergill and couldn’t resist sowing them. We have no idea where we’re going to plant them but their rosy purple flowers should look amazing.

You may get the impression from this video tour that Sandra is not a huge fan of marrows. Can you convert her? If you have any recipe suggestions, please let us know!

And here are a couple of pictures:

A pumpkin plant surrounded by tomatoes to the left and herbs to the right with aubergines and courgettes beyond that

A pumpkin plant surrounded by tomatoes (to the left) and herbs (to the right), with aubergines and courgettes beyond that

A tray of parsley and dill, with tomatoes to their left and lettuce seedlings beyond that

A tray of parsley and dill, with tomatoes to their left and lettuce seedlings beyond that

How to prick out seedlings

In this video, Andrew demonstrates how to handle seedlings during pricking out.

Aim to prick out seedlings as soon as you can get hold of a seed leaf (called a cotyledon). That is the only part of the seedling you should handle. This is because the cotyledons are very hardy. Other parts of the seedling can be damaged easily which may at best put the plant under stress, and at worst damage or even kill the seedling.

Choose a container that is going to be big enough to allow them to grow to the size you want for planting out into their final position. We used a range of cells trays and pots depending on the size the plant is likely to grow to – pumpkins went in larger pots than alpine strawberries!

The compost used for pricking out can be potting or universal /multi purpose compost. We use peat free.

When you have potted up your seedlings, give them a good watering, and water regularly. When the plant shows signs of growth, such as developing more leaves, you should consider adding a fertiliser to encourage root growth.

Andrew holding a cell tray containing newly pricked out zinnia seedlings
The seedlings shown in the video are Zinnia Purple Prince that Andrew won from Mr Fothergill.

End of March tour of the plot

We’ve got a lot further in our Quest for Veg than we had dared to hope.

This is mainly due to the terrific amount of help we’ve received from our very good friends Richard Anderson (Anderson Landscapes), and Elisa Contreras and Rodney Williams (The Secret Garden).

When we started, I think we anticipated that our first year would probably be spent getting the allotment into shape. And yet here we are, just entering April, and we are looking forward to sowing our first seeds on the plot.

Not only that but during March, Richard very kindly gave us the use of his greenhouse. This enabled Sandra to sow her first seeds.

A view of the greenhouse: empty, clean and ready to use

The greenhouse Richard is allowing us to use


Coriander seedlings in a seed tray

Coriander seedlings in the greenhouse

We decided to try to create some woodchip paths to help define the plot and give us some relatively mud free areas to work on. By chance, Andrew came across a Garden Inspirations of Cheam who were working on a tree across the road from where we live. They enthusiastically agreed to deliver the woodchip straight to the plot.

A huge pile of woodchip being tipped out of the back of a truck

Our delivery of woodchip

We found a little garden cart by Draper which we could attach to Andrew’s mobility scooter. It’s perfect for transporting tools and equipment to and from the allotment. Andrew made a liner so that we could also use it for moving the woodchip from the gate to our plot.
A view of the garden cart, full of woodchip and attached to the back of Andrew's scooter

Our very useful little cart


Our woodchip path

Our woodchip path which is wide enough to get the scooter turned round

Richard also came up with some compost that was surplus to requirements. He brought it to the site, and he and Elisa moved it to the plot. We used it to add to the raised bed we made using builder’s bags.
Richard and Elisa shovelling compost out of the back of Richard's van

Richard and Elisa hard at work moving the compost

We bought some weed suppressing membrane and covered most of the plot to, er, suppress the weeds.

Our plot covered in weed suppressing membrane

Our plot all tucked up in its geotextile blanket

And we’re chitting some potatoes which are now ready for planting out.

Potatoes chitting

Potatoes chitting away very happily

We should be planting out our potatoes very soon. We’ll also be direct sowing some seeds and transplanting some seedlings that have been started in the greenhouse.

Hopefully, we’ll also be putting a water tank on the site soon and deciding on what shed we want. Roll on April!

Getting a heated propagator for the greenhouse

Andrew in the greenhouse with a pot of seeds

It’s been a week since we sowed our first seeds in the greenhouse that our good friend Richard is kindly lending us.

It might be early days but so far there are no signs of life. We had a basic thermometer in the greenhouse and, even though the greenhouse has a tube  heater, we were worried that the temperature was dropping in the evenings and at night below what we needed to germinate our seeds.

On average, plants need a temperature of around 15-20 degrees centigrade to germinate, although some plants may have particular temperature requirements outside this range.

Andrew decided that we needed to raise the temperature under the seeds, so we went in search of a basic propagator. We didn’t want to spend too much money so went to a DIY store rather than a garden centre where we have found prices tend to be higher.

We ended up in Homebase where we found a Stewart essentials propagator. It doesn’t have a thermostat, but the instructions say that it should achieve a temperature of between 10-15 degrees centigrade above the ambient temperature.

We have set up a max/min thermometer with a probe in the propagator to see what temperatures we achieve. We’ll let you know how we get on.

In this video, we set up the propagator and sow some more seeds – including the pot black and rose bianca aubergines that Sandra won from Mr Fothergills.

We had a lot of fun making this video. Be sure to check out the out-takes at the end of the Video!