Saturday, 1 October 2011

Time to Get Sowing!

You can feel it getting cooler in the UAE although the sun still has that scorching edge in the afternoons.
What I learnt from my gardening adventures last year tells me that the time is just about right to sow seeds for the nightshade family- tomatoes, aubergines and peppers both hot and sweet.

Here's what you need:

Potting Soil- Shalimar or Desert group are the ones I come across the most.

Seed Trays or you can use paper cups, egg cartons, small yoghurt pots with drainage holes punched out or even toilet roll tubes. I use seed trays simply because they are reusable from year to year and also do not get blown away by the wind. When you sow seeds in small pots, the seedlings have a chance to develop good, strong root balls. When you transplant or 'prick out' your seedlings into bigger pots, you give your plant a chance to grow strong and sturdy rather than leggy and weak.

Seeds- This is by far the most fun part- choosing your varieties. Last year, I just picked whatever I could find in the supermarkets. This year I have indulged myself and ordered seeds from online catalogues from the US and UK. I was also quite keen to try some varieties from the subcontinent and have managed to get hold of a few.


Last year I used the Franchi tomato seed packets for a general salad tomato variety and for plum tomatoes, the Roma variety. Both grew extremely well and produced prolifically.

This year I have got Moneymaker & San Marzano.

Moneymaker is a heirloom, open-pollinated variety extremely popular among home growers. The fact that it needs insects like bees to pollinate the flowers is worrying me now since I have never seen any around. I bought too much into the whole heirloom thing I suppose but time will tell if my plants attract any bees.

San Marzano too is a heirloom- a popular Italian plum variety, apparently the greatest sauce tomato in the world! It is meaty, with few seeds and less water content than other tomatoes.And that's the idea since the family loves pasta so much and I am a bit bored with sauces from jars.


Last year I grew Yates Black Beauty bought from Dubai Garden Centre. They were a resounding success. In fact I had so many healthy, fruit bearing plants i didn't know what to do with them.

This year we are trying Bharata Star, Anamika, Violet Prince and Black Beauty.

As you can see I got tempted by quite a few aubergine varieties while seed shopping. Both the flowers and fruits are so pretty- I had to get them in various shades and sizes.


Last year, I didn't have a lot of success with The California Wonder and JalapeƱo peppers that I tried to grow. The reason may have been overcrowding of the plants and thrips, a certain type of bug that affects chilli and rose plants.

This year I have got varieties from the subcontinent as well South East Asia-Indian Jwala, Thai Chilli, Sweet Pimiento and Bell Pepper.

Let's see what happens. I do use a lot of chillies in my cooking, especially for flavouring the oil for curries before throwing the onion and spices in. So really hoping I get as prolific a crop as I have heard other growers do!

How to go about sowing

1- Soap and rinse your seed trays.
2- Scoop out potting soil into the small pots. Pat it down and water evenly with a watering can until soil is moist but not soaking wet.
3- Push down in the middle of the soil surface with your finger and drop in one or two seeds into each pot.
4- Cover lightly with soil and water again.
5- Keep soil surface moist at all times.
6- Germination should take somewhere between 7-10 days at around  21- 34 C.

Happy gardening!


  1. Hi - so pleased to get some advice! I'll definitely be heading to the garden centre this weekend! Claire

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  3. Hi Claire- Thanks! Garden centre does have a great selection of seeds from the yates range. I seem to be going there every weekend myself. Stay tuned for our seed giveaways and advice on transplanting and improving the soil.
    Happy gardening!

  4. Love it Shumaila, this is amzing, as I always try to grow herb, but somehow they end up dead!! this is very useful and i will be using your tips, hopefully my plants can start growing instead of dying lol :))

  5. hey Dima- thanks- its all trial and error mostly you know. Last year my basil, rosemary and coriander did great. Chives were ok, enough for a sprinkling on soup- but the mint never took off...let's see what happens this year!

  6. Hi,

    I love your blog!! I am trying to grow several varieties of veg here in Dubai too :) --I got really lazy with my blog and completely abandoned it...maybe I should revive it with my gardening experiences!

    where did you get your seed trays from?

  7. Hi Twizzle

    Thanks. I got the seed trays from Geant in Ibn Battuta Mall last year...haven't checked to see if they are still around. Carrefour has the version with slightly larger pots..

    Keep us posted about your growing efforts!

  8. Hi Shumaila,
    I was doing my research and came across your interesting blog and hope to gather some tips along the way, i am a beginner with not much success yet. I am curious if its ok to order seeds from online stores and if UAE customs have no restrictions. I have searched a lot of places for some really hot peppers seeds variety but could not find any, was afraid to order online in case of any restrictions.

  9. Hi Albert
    I have ever personally ordered seeds directly- its always someone who brigs them for me from the UK. However, a friend of mine does get her seeds from the states and australia and it seems to come through ok...let us know how it goes

  10. Thanks for your message. Have you read lots of picture books? It's an excellent way to get a really good feel for what works. And it's worth checking out the recent ones (so you could go into a bookshop and read through lots of them -very carefully of course!). And if you buy some that you think are great, or get some really good ones out of the library, try typing them out and looking at them as manuscripts so you can see where the page turns happen and the shape of the story. That can really help give you a feel for it. I would really recommend joining SCBWI and there are all sorts of events where you can learn from other authors and editors and agents. We've got critique groups which can be extremely valuable in helping you make your story the very best it can be. My latest post is all about feedback on your writing, which might help (click on my name on the right hand side of the blog and it'll come up). And don't worry about your story not coming out perfect first time round: it often takes lots and lots of editing to get it right.
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  11. wre do you get your jalapeno seeds in dubai? do you have any idea were can i buy bhut jolokia seeds as well? im into chilli plants i have red thai dragon and banana chilli as well as bell pepper but my bell has this leaves drying up i dont know why and now all my chili is inside im trying to over winter them

  12. hy guys...i just want to know whether there are any online buyin sites for seeds in uae..plz help me out..