If you love tomatoes and chillies, now is the time to sow your seeds. Seeds sown in mid-February must be sown inside – they are a half-hardy annual plants which need warmer temperatures to germinate, and cannot withstand frost, hence our cold wet and windy springs are defiantly a no-go.
Waiting until May to sow directly outside means losing two months of tasty fruit picking. February-sown seeds will have grown into mature plants that will produce a bumper crop of fruit for longer.
Fill small pots with a multipurpose compost, firm down lightly, moisten with water and sow around three to four seeds per pot and cover lightly with compost. Once germinated (approximately 7-14 days), place the pots in a bright spot, avoiding direct sunlight. Continue to water sparingly, using a very fine rose. Turn the pots daily as this will encourage good strong growth and avoid the seedlings leaning towards the light.
When you see roots appear at the base of the pot, thin the seedlings, discarding the weakest and potting on the strongest into larger pots, giving them more space to grow. You will need to repot once more into 30cm-deep container when you see the first flowers form.
After the risk of frosts have passed around mid-May, gradually “harden off” the plants (gradually introducing them to outside conditions) and place them outside in a sunny, sheltered spot.
Ideally, they need six hours sunshine a day, to be kept well-watered, and fed weekly. Remember not to water over the leaves of the tomatoes as this will only increase the chance of the plant getting tomato blight, a fungal disease caused by erratic watering and poor air flow.
Tomatoes: gardeners' delight, moneymaker, red or yellow currant
Chillies: padron, filius blue, habanero
Amanda Brame is head of horticulture at Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden, 27-31 King St, London WC2E 8JB; petershamnurseries.com