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Get ready for sowing vegetables20 February 2013
Get ready for sowing vegetables by making a 'stale seedbed', an area of ground which you've prepared and then covered with clear polythene to warm it up ready for your seeds. It's an old market gardening trick which gets your seedlings off to a flying start.
Start by digging over the area to a fork's depth, bashing any clods with the back of your fork so they break up. Then rake the area thoroughly in two different directions to create a lovely crumbly bed for your seeds. You're aiming for a texture similar to that of breadcrumbs.
Now lay clear polythene, available in handy packets or off the roll in your favourite garden centre, on the soil and weight down the edges with bricks. This captures every drop of warmth from the sun and traps it at ground level, where it slowly brings the soil temperature up by several degrees compared to uncovered ground.
You'll find a green carpet of annual weeds germinates in the unexpected warmth. This is actually a benefit of the technique: just before you need to sow, lift the polythene and hoe the weeds off, eliminating the competition as far as your seedlings are concerned and giving them a head start on the year.