Growing your own plants from seed can be one of the most exciting and worthwhile gardening activities. And of course it is a really inexpensive way to grow the number of plants you need for your garden or containers.
In this article I am going to deal with growing seeds from packets purchased at a garden centre – as this is the easiest way to start. These packets will have a picture on the front and growing instructions on the reverse, including germination times and the best time of year to sow. The instructions are important so do keep the packet safe even if you have used all the seeds!
1. Equipment you need:
– Clean pots or seed trays, with drainage holes and not too flimsy
– Seed compost or multi-purpose compost is just as effective
– Clear plastic bags or cling film or propagator
– Vermiculite – can be used to give the seeds a light covering instead of compost
– Dibber or pencil and widger or teaspoon
– Small watering can with fine rose
– Plant labels – white plastic ones are cheap
2. Sowing the seed:
– Fill your pots or seed trays with the compost to about 1 cm below the rim and water the compost well
– For small seeds, tip them into the palm of your hand and then lightly tap it with your other hand to sprinkle the seeds thinly on to the compost
– For large seeds, push the seed into the compost until it is just covered by its own depth of compost
– Cover the seeds thinly with a little compost – do not cover very fine seeds
– Seal the pots or trays inside a large loose plastic bag or propagator, or cover with cling film
– Place them in a warm, light place – on a windowsill but out of direct sunlight
– Water gently if the compost starts to dry out
3. Germination and pricking out:
When the seeds start to germinate, the first thing you will see growing are the seed leaves – two small round leaves that look very much the same on all plants. Then the first pair of true leaves appear and you can recognise that these tiny leaves are like those on the mature plant. This is the time to move the seedlings into new pots.
– Fill clean 9 cms pots or seed trays with fresh compost and water well
– Gently loosen each seedling from its pot/tray with a widger or the handle of a teaspoon, holding the seedling by its seed leaf
– Make a hole in the new compost with a dibber or pencil and gently lower the seedling into the hole, making sure that all the roots are tucked into the hole and the seed leaves are just above the surface
– Carefully fill the hole to cover the roots
– You can space the seedlings in a seed tray about 3-4 cms apart; otherwise plant them individually into pots
– Water carefully, either by soaking the pot or tray, or using a small watering can with a fine rose
– Place in bright light, but not direct sunlight, and check regularly
– Keep watered, but not too wet
– Once the roots fill the pots or trays, then it is time to plant them either into your containers in the garden or into the garden border.
It’s not as complicated as you might think, but it does require a little thought and care – the equipment must be clean to prevent disease or infection; don’t over-water; provide enough light; handle gently; and check regularly.
And that’s all there is to it!