Gardening > Sowing Seeds

Sowing Seeds

Fruit Trees
Although it is now possible to buy most vegetables as small plants from nurseries and mail order companies it is far cheaper to grow them from seed. Growing from seed also gives the gardener control over the use of pesticides and above all it is very satisfying to oversee the whole process from a packet of seeds to a trug of fresh vegetables.

Once the vegetable plot has been prepared and the choice of seed made, sowing can begin. There is no advantage in sowing too early outside since most seeds require relatively warm soil and will not germinate below 7 degrees C. A soil thermometer is a very useful aid. The soil can be warmed up by covering it with cloches two weeks before sowing. The earliest crops can be started off on windowsills or in the greenhouse and then planted out in the warmed up soil under cloches in early spring.

Try to sow seeds very thinly to avoid seedlings having to fight each other for light. Use a line to get the seed drill straight and either drag a stick along the soil to make a drill or press a broom handle into the soil to make a suitable indentation. If the soil is very dry, water the drill before sowing the seeds, never after, as this can lead to a hard crust being formed which can prevent more water penetrating the soil or stop the seedlings from emerging.

Seeds should never be sown too deeply. If they run out of their food reserve before the shoot reaches the light they will fail completely. So do not be tempted to make the seed drills too deep. As a rough guide they should not be deeper than a quarter of an inch.

Always use a proper seed marker and write the name of the vegetable clearly on it. It is surprising how quickly seed packets used as markers can disintegrate and it is so easy to forget what is planted where.

All sorts of old containers such as plastic bottles, yogurt pots, toilet rolls (for single broad bean seeds) can be used to bring on seedlings indoors. Do remember that drainage is most important and holes need to be made in the bottoms of plastic cartons etc. to allow excess water to escape.

Remember also, especially with very early sowings of quick growing salad vegetables like lettuce and radish, not to bring on too many seedlings at one time. It is better to sow small amounts of seeds at two weekly intervals for a continuous supply throughout the growing season. By doing this one packet of seeds can be made to go a long way and the waste of plants running to seed is avoided.