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12 November 2014

Growing Seeds in Guttering

I was reading recently about starting an early crop of peas in a length of guttering, and as I have a spare piece I have decided to give it a try. Most of my vegetables are grown in raised beds 4 feet wide, and as my guttering is just short of 4 feet long it should be ideal.

You should be sowing your seeds between late September and mid-November and then placing your guttering in a greenhouse or cold frame.

Some people say that you should drill drainage holes in your guttering, while others say that this makes it harder to slide your plants out as roots grow through the holes. I intend to leave mine without holes this year and see how it goes.

Fill to the top with seed compost, making sure you block up the ends of your guttering to keep it in. This could be as simple as just taping over the ends. Continue by sowing an early pea variety, such as 'Feltham First', with seeds about 3in apart, using two seeds to each station. If both germinate you can discard one of them. Keep the compost moist.

Once the seedlings have established you can plant them out. Dig out a shallow trench and gently slide the pea seedlings into it, then water and cover with cloches to encourage growth. The sliding out may not be quite as easy as it sounds, and it may be necessary to cut your crop into shorter lengths, though not the guttering.

One of the advantages of this method is that you can sow your seeds while working at table height, without having to bend. This makes it easier to sow carefully and space evenly. Likewise when you come to thin out your plants you are again working at a comfortable height. You can even carry out these jobs indoors in the warm.

Planting in guttering can be used for many crops in addition to peas, such as salads and herbs, and can be successful even without a greenhouse or cold frame. Just line up your sections in a sheltered spot and cover them with a mini extendable polytunnel - you will still get faster germination.

You can buy lengths of guttering from a builders merchant or DIY store, or keep a lookout for builders' skips where old pieces may be found.

I'll let you know if my first attempt was successful in due course.
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