info can be found on the
How, when and where you sow your seeds will depend on a number of things,
Type of seeds,
How many you have,
How many plants you want
What the growing conditions are in your particular area. Weather, soil temperature, available space and time you have, all have an affect on your ability to start sowing your seeds.
Consider the following
Sow Seeds in small square plastic pots, in a compost of 50/50 loam-based John Innes No. 2 and a peat-based multi-purpose compost. Alternatively the plastic trays that soft fruit is sold in supermarkets make great little greenhouse for sowing seed.
Only sow small quantities of seed. Don't waste sowing the whole packet when you only need a few plants. You can always sow more later.
Some seeds germinate better if the seed coat is nicked. I use a pair of nail clippers to make a small hole in the middle of the seedcoat. Some seeds benefit from being soaked before sowing. I usually use hot water and only soak for an hour or two. I find seeds sometimes rot when they have been left to soak for a long period.
The basic rules when it comes to seed sowing? It all depends on what seeds you want to sow, what time of year it is, whether there's room in the propagator/kitchen/greenhouse, whether it's too cold to go outside ...
Many seed packet info will have 'sow in situ'
This simply means sowing your seeds where they are to flower. You can either sow them broadcast or in drills or rows. Sowing them broadcast means scattering them on the surface, and sowing in drills means sowing them in rows. Sowing them broadcast is a good method for sowing seeds of annuals flowers where you have plenty of seed and want a good patch of colour. It's particularly appropriate for a mixture of types or colours. Sowing in drills or rows is usually the method for planting vegetables which prefer to have space and are easier to identify wheneach type in its own row.
Before sowing the seeds, you need to prepare the ground. You need to dig it to make sure there are no large lumps of soil or stones, and then rake over the surface to give a fine 'tilth' - a smooth surface with the soil broken down into small particles. To sow seeds broadcast, simply scatter them over the surface, rake them in gently, and water the ground carefully.
To sow in drills, dig over the soil, rake it, then mark out rows with a stick or the back of a hoe. Water along the drill before you sow the seeds. This avoids the seeds being washed away in the rows, then cover by raking the soil from the side of the row over the drill. Small seeds are usually sprinkled evenly along the row, large seeds - like peas or beans - are usually sown singly a few inches apart. If the seedlings come up too thickly to allow the plants room to grow properly, you will need to thin them out by removing the unwanted seedlings.
Helps to use a length string as a marker for the row which can help identify where the row is.
Remember that seeds sown outside in the garden will need weeding, and you need to keep an eye out for damage by snails, slugs, caterpillars, birds.
Seeds can be sown in seed trays either outside or in a cold frame or greenhouse. Fill the tray with compost. Either sow the seed broadcast, in rows, or singly, depending on their size. Cover lightly - about the same depth of compost as the width of the seed is the traditional rule.
Water the compost before sowing the seeds to prevent them being washed out of place, but you can water them carefully after sowing if you prefer. Try not to over water, you may find a spray bottle might help to keep the soil moist but not soaked.
Some seeds need to be kept dark, some need light. The instructions will usually note which If they don't germinate, I stir the compost with the label, which moves the seeds that were covered into the light and those that were uncovered into the dark. You may prefer to be more methodical and cover the seed tray with a newspaper. You can also cover it with a sheet of glass to prevent it drying out.
Because you are using compost, nothing should come up in the seed tray except the seeds you sowed.
Sowing in trays of individual cells:
This is a cross between sowing in seed trays and sowing in individual pots. Cell packs are plastic trays which either fit into seed trays or can be used on their own. They provide an individual cell for each seed (or group of seeds for small seeds). Sow seeds as for seed trays.
Sowing in individual pots:
Seed trays are fine if you want large numbers of plants, or if you have plenty of seed. If you are sowing a small number of seeds, you might prefer to sow them in separate pots for each variety. The size of pot will depend on how many seeds you have, the size of the plant, how fast it grows, and when you intend to pot up the seedlings? Vegetable seed tends to be small , sowing them in a pot of their own means you can keep an eye on them easily and they won't be overlooked, as they might be in a large seed tray.
Fill the pot with compost - you can afford to provide a different mix of ingredients more suited to the individual plants if they have their own pot . Firm it gently, water, then sow the seed, covering or not as appropriate. Some people like to add sand, grit or vermiculite as a top dressing.
Sowing seed in individual pots makes it easier to give each type of seed the appropriate care - moving them when they have germinated, for example, or keeping them in a frame if they are expected to take more than one season to germinate.
Sowing seed in a propagator:
Seeds such as tomato, cucumber an chilli usually need higher temperatures to germinate. This is most easily provided by sowing the seeds in individual pots and keeping them in a propagator. There are many types available, from large models with thermostatically controlled temperatures to a simple seed tray with a ventilated plastic lid. If you have an unheated propagator, the bottom heat these seeds prefer can be simply provided by keeping the propagator on top of a boiler. If you have no propagator at all, a couple of small plastic trays as mentioned above used can be used. If they need to be kept in the dark, the individual pot can be put inside a plastic bag, the bag closed with a wire tie, and put in an airing cupboard or warm cupboard in the kitchen. Remember to check it every so often to see if the soil is drying ou
When to Sow Seeds:
Seeds of annuals are usually sown in the spring. They can be sown outside when there is no danger of frost, or under cover and planted out when there is no danger of frost.
Seeds of hardy annuals can also be sown outside in the autumn. This will give them a longer growing period and a head start over similar plants sown in the spring, so they will flower earlier.
Seeds of half-hardy annuals can be sown outside in the spring, or under cover in the autumn.
If they are germinated in warmer conditions, they will need to be acclimatised to harsher conditions, by putting them outside for longer periods each day until they are finally strong enough to be able to stay outside all the time. This is called 'hardening off'
The seed packet will give recommended sowing times. Do allow for the conditions in your area at the time. There's no rule that you should sow according to the packet if your soil is still frozen. A few weeks here or there will do no harm and you will avoid having to start again.
Successful Seed Sowing:
Always use fresh compost
Always use clean pots
Always label the seeds
Don't let them dry out
Don't keep them wet
Watch out for snails and slugs can get anywhere!
Improvise - use whatever you have that will give the seeds the conditions they need to germinate.
Don't be afraid to experiment - often, one 'expert' will tell you a particular type of seed needs to be stratified, and another 'expert' will tell you it needs to be sown in heat. Your guess is as good as theirs.
Remember to move seedlings into the light once germinated to avoid them going leggy
Finally - they won't grow if you don't sow them!
What's the right way to germinate my seeds? ~ There is no right way to germinate seeds. You will hopefully find the right combination of moisture and temperature that suits your particular seeds. If you look at several different germination instructions, you'll find they often give the opposite advice for a particular seed. There are methods which have been found over a long period to be the most effective for germinating particular species, but every seed is an individual, and might be satisfied with some different set of circumstances.
How long are seeds viable? ~ There's no answer to that, either. Some seeds are best sown fresh, some seeds do die in a few weeks, but most seeds will remain viable for several years if kept in a cool, dry place.
Are seeds poisonous? ~ Some seeds or other parts of some plants are poisonous. There's a very comprehensive list of these plants on this page. This doesn't mean that all parts of these plants are poisonous, especially as the list includes almost every plant we use as food (peas, carrots, potatoes), but that there might be a risk that some part, or product (oil, for instance), of some members of that plant family might have some ill-effects if eaten. I've always found the best approach to this is to find out what's dangerous and teach your children.