Invest in a heated propagator and you'll transform your seed-sowing life this spring. Getting going early is essential to allow long-season veg like peppers, chillies and aubergines enough time to grow and ripen fruit. However these are plants from exotic climes, used to germinating in warm, cosy conditions - impossible to recreate in a chilly British January.
A heated propagator kids your seeds that it's warm enough for them to risk germinating. They also keep temperatures constant night and day, so later on you can get beans, courgettes or cucumbers up and out of the ground in record time, sometimes as little as three days.
You'll find a range of models in your garden centre from economical one-heat units to state-of-the-art machines with variable thermostats and adjustable vents. They'll all germinate seeds much faster than sowing direct or even in an unheated greenhouse, as the extra warmth kids your seedlings it's spring.
Heated propagators are also invaluable for early sowings, as they keep seedlings and young plants warm while you're waiting for the garden to wake up properly. Turn the thermostat down a little and take the lid off to avoid fungal diseases and your babies stay cosy till they're ready to be gradually transferred outdoors.
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