Winter may still be holding us close, but fear not, its days are numbered. Already, gardeners have signalled the change as they open their shed doors to a new growing season. Dormant greenhouses slowly stir into life, pots are dusted down and fresh bags of compost are eagerly opened.

It’s been a long time coming, but finally the ritual of sowing and planting begins once more. So, if you want a growing season to remember, now’s the time to think about sowing tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.

Tomatoes have always been popular amongst growers. Their unique aroma, and depth of flavour, is something no supermarket can rival. In recent years, thanks to social media, many gardeners are now looking to grow more unusual and heritage varieties. Filling their Instagram posts with fruits of all shapes, size and colour. And with names such as Rebel Starfighter (a nod to Star Wars fans) and Green Zebra, it’s easy to see why a few growing plants can bring so much joy to the grower.

Great British Life: Growing chillies. Photo: Ade SellarsGrowing chillies. Photo: Ade Sellars

But, before we can enjoy these summer delights, first we need to sow the seeds. And for that a warm greenhouse or sunny windowsill, heat matts, propagators and plant lights will play a key part in getting seeds germinated and seedlings established during this chilly time of the year.

Peppers, chillies and aubergines require a long growing season. So, for gardeners equipped for warmth and low winter sun, they will often sow their seeds as early as January. For tomato plants, they can be quick to put on growth, so sowing in March or early April isn’t a problem. If you’re struggling for growing space, then sowing these later in spring might ease things a little.

Whether you use small pots, seed trays or coir pellets, sowing seeds for all your greenhouse favourites couldn’t be easier. For me, I tend to sow each variety in its own pot, that way there’s no mixing up of different seed types. I start by filling a small pot with peat-free seed compost. Then, I tamp the soil down and sow several seeds across the surface. I’m not too concerned if they end up bunched together, as once the seedlings have developed their true leaves, I’ll prick them out and re-pot them individually into small pots to grow on.

Great British Life: Pricking out. Photo: Ade SellarsPricking out. Photo: Ade Sellars

With the seeds lightly covered over with compost, I label and sit the sown pots in a tray of water, allowing the soil to soak it up. Watering this way means there’s minimal seed disturbance, compared with watering them overhead which can hamper germination. Once the soil is moist, I place pots on a sunny warm windowsill, or heat matt, to germinate. Tomato seeds should germinate within seven to fourteen days, where aubergine, chilli and pepper seeds can take up to twenty-one days. Whatever you sow, there’s no doubt to the thrill you’ll get when you see the first green shoot nervously peeking through the dark soil.

Let seedings grow on until they’ve established their ‘true leaves’ before you prick them out. Simply hold the seedling by its leaves, never by the stem, and plant them individually into compost-filled 9cm pots. Water, label and place somewhere warm and sunny. Once roots emerge from the base of its growing container, re-pot into a larger pot to ensure the plant remains healthy. You may find you’ll have to repeat this process several times, over the next few months, before the plant goes into its final growing position.

Over the years the amateur gardener has tended to grow these summer loving crops indoors. But, with a changing climate there are now countless varieties that will happily grow outside in the ground, containers and hanging baskets. Ensure your plants have been hardened off for several days, either in a cold frame or left outside in sheltered spot for a few hours every day, and there’s no risk of a late frost before you plant them out.

Great British Life: Tomatoes grown in a hanging basket. Photo: Ade SellarsTomatoes grown in a hanging basket. Photo: Ade Sellars

Wherever you grow them, it needs to be somewhere warm, bright and with good ventilation. However, a warmer climate can also bring damp and humid growing seasons, which can result in tomato blight. This fungal disease can discolour foliage and rot the fruit. If you do see the onset of blight, remove affected plant from site in hope to stop the spread of this disease. There’s little to prevent blight, except give plants plenty of space, ventilation and water regularly. Also, when sowing consider blight resistant varieties, such as Crimson Crush and Mountain Magic.

As we head into early summer, your established plants will be ready to go into their final growing positions. Most growers tend to use grow bags, or large pots filled with a good compost. If they’re going straight outside into the ground, ensure the soil has plenty of well-rotted organic matter mixed in before planting. Plant deeply into a sheltered, sunny and warm area of the garden.

Great British Life: Tomatoes on the vine. Photo: Ade SellarsTomatoes on the vine. Photo: Ade Sellars

Tomatoes are grown in two ways, bush (or determinate) or cordon (or indeterminate). If it’s a bush variety, then these won’t need staking, as they grow out rather than up. But a cordon variety does grows tall, so it’ll need support. Whether you use a cane or a length of string tied from the upper structure of your greenhouse, prepare the necessary support before planting. Ensure you tie the main stem to the cane, or if using string, wind it round the plant and fix the loose end into the plant soil with a peg. As the plant grows up, keep tying in or winding round.

A regular water regime is vital as irregular watering tomatoes can lead to blossom end rot or split fruit. Blossom end rot appears at the bottom of the fruit as a blackened spot that causes the fruit to sink. This occurs when there’s a lack of calcium, and irregular watering can encourage the problem. Therefore, water regularly and never let the soil dry-out. A good time to do this is either first thing in the morning, or at dusk. There’s less chance of water evaporation, so the plant is getting all the benefit. Water at the base of the plant, as watering over its foliage can lead to the plant becoming scorched by the sun and prevent its development.

Great British Life: White Knight aubergines. Photo: Ade SellarsWhite Knight aubergines. Photo: Ade Sellars

Once flowers form, feed plants every few weeks with a liquid tomato feed, this also applies to aubergines, peppers and chillies. As your tomato cordon plants grow tall pinch-out side-shoots; this will transfer the energy into the growing tomatoes. With several trusses of fruits growing, remove the tip of the main stem. That way the plant can put its efforts into producing the fruit and not trying to grow taller. Bush variety tomatoes can be left to their own devices.

Improve ventilation of tall plants by removing the lower branches of the plant. This will also allow sunlight to ripen the fruit and reduce the onset of pests and diseases.

Whether it’s a flavoursome aubergine, the sweet taste of a tomato or a fiery chilli, now’s the time to sow these vegetables that’ll guarantee to ignite your taste buds this growing season.

Great British Life: Ade Sellars. Photo: Ade SellarsAde Sellars. Photo: Ade Sellars