As we ensure we stay safe at home during these uncertain times, us lucky ones will seek respite in our gardens. The sale of seeds in the last week has been unprecedented, so with this in mind I’ve put together a list of my top tips when growing from seed. Sowing seeds is one of the most rewarding gardening tasks and I never cease to be amazed by the huge potential in one tiny seed. It’s also a great thing to enjoy with your kids.
At this time of year most seed planting should be started indoors. A greenhouse is ideal but failing that, a sunny windowsill will also work. There are some seeds that can be sown direct but it’s best to let the ground warm a bit more first before we do that.
Hygiene is an important consideration when sowing seeds and you should ensure that all trays and pots are clean. If not clean already, wash them with hot soapy water before use. Ideally you should use fresh seed compost. It’s not a good idea to use garden soil as it is too variable and full of unwelcome organisms.
Sow Fresh Seed – For the best results use fresh seed. Some seed types will not be viable if more than twelve months old. However if you only have out of date seed then not much to lose so have a go anyway, especially if it has been stored correctly.
Containers – Small seeds are generally best sown in shallow trays and pricked out (transplanted) into bigger pots/containers while still at seedling stage. Larger seeds can be sown into individual modules or plugs trays, this limits over handling and transplant shock. You can get creative and use margarine tubs or cardboard toilet roll tubes as containers/trays however, always ensure that you put plenty of drainage holes in anything you are up-cycling.
Follow packet Instructions – Different seeds have different needs so it’s important to always follow the instructions on the packet regarding sowing depth, light levels, temperature and timing. It is also important not to over sow, sowing thinly will be much more successful than over sowing.
Label – It is invaluable to label each tray/pot with not only what you have sown but also the date you sowed it. You may think you’ll remember what you’ve sown and when but it’s too easy to forget!
Careful Watering – Some seed (especially very small seed) should be sown on compost that has already been watered. However the majority should be watered carefully (ideally with a fine rose) after sowing (the instructions on the packet will advise). Once sown they should be carefully monitored to ensure they do not dry out, but by the same token it is important not to overwater as they may rot or damp off.
Cover – It is helpful to cover seed trays with a clear plastic lid or film to hold in moisture this can be removed once the seeds have germinated.
Pricking Out – If seeds have been sown in a tray and not in individual pots then once large enough they should be pricked out into individual pots or cells. Depending on the plant this can be done as a bunch or individually. Again refer to the directions on the packet for advice.
Hardening Off – Before moving plants to their final location they should be hardened off. This means acclimatising them to their final position over a period of several days. There are various ways of doing this, if you have a cold frame you can move from a greenhouse to cold frame and gradually open the lid or vents for extended periods each day. Or move them from indoors out each day making sure to bring them in at night initially. Keep an eye on the forecast, generally in the East Midlands the threat of frost has not passed until the end of May so tender crops such as tomatoes, sweetcorn, courgettes, peppers etc should not be planted in their final position until all risk of frost has passed.
Seed Storage – Seed should ideally be kept in an airtight container in the fridge, if this is not possible it should be kept dry and dark, seed kept on the shelf in the greenhouse will deteriorate very quickly.
If you have any questions message me here and I’ll be happy to help. I’ll also be doing video tutorials about seed sowing in the coming weeks so look out for those on my social media. Happy sowing!