For me this is one of the most magical parts of gardening, it still amazes me every time I plant a seed that a week or so later, up pops a little shoot through the soil.
People are often intimidated about growing from seeds, you read the back of the packets and it seems like there is a huge science to it all, but for me as with all my gardening and the no faff method. I bung them in the soil, water them, and then I am forever hopeful and 95% of the time, it works.
Growing plants flowers, fruit and vegetables from seed has a huge bonus, it is very cheap to end up with hundreds of plants. Seeds are around 50p-£3 a packet and depending on the variety and type will contain 30 – 300 seeds. When most plants cost that for one, and some plants cost far more.
And you do not need lots of expensive equipment, I have some cheap purchases from 4 years ago that are still going strong. But if you are just starting out, you really don’t need to spend a lot.
So what do you need to grow from seed? And how do you do it to be successful?
Equipment you need to grow plants from seeds
These are the basics, I explain more about types and where to get them below
- Containers to put the compost & seeds in
- Ideally a bright window sill or table in front of the window
- Just a little bit of patience
There are so many different types of compost at varying prices, my advice is to use the best your budget allows. If that is a cheap big bag from the DIY shop or B&M etc that is fine. At the other end of specialist seed growing compost, that is finer and has (apparently) special nutrients, and will be peat free.
I have used both ends of the compost spectrum and everything in between. And seeds have germinated and grown just fine. If you use a multi-use compost, just put any bigger lumps to the side or break them up before using it with seedlings.
(I am not dismissing peat free as being best for the environment, but if that is out of your budget don’t let it stop you from having a positive environmental impact from growing plants and food!)
This year I am back to Wilkos seeds, they are really cheap and good and have a great variety. For the previous couple of years, I have purchased online from DT Brown Seeds. It is a great joy flicking through an actual paper seed booklet.
All the seed packets will have instructions on the back, and a chart of if they can be grown directly into the soil outside or need to be grown inside first. And also the months of the year they should be started and when they will flower / produce fruit etc.
These are guidelines…. I very rarely grow any seeds straight into the soil outside for a few reasons, mainly that I will forget where they are and dig them up, or think they are a weed and remove them. I like the control of growing in a pot first and then moving them. Other instructions might be on the more technical side of depth to plant the seed and the temperature they should be at. I also ignore these, and this year everything has germinated and grown all at the same temp, with a random hole made and the seed thrown in.
As I said…. no faff gardening. Do not be intimidated.
I choose seeds based on the pictures and if I like the colour/flower. And for vegetables, I decide what I want to grow and then read about the size (e.g. I grow cherry tomatoes and not big ones)
The sensible thing when buying seeds is to not buy too many different varieties, I am yet to live by that and buy far too many. It really is addictive.
Container to grow seeds in
Depending on your budget you can use things you already have around the house.
This year I sewed my sweet pea seeds in toilet rolls and they went in plastic storage boxes I already had.
You can use margarine tubs, or plastic fruit tubs from the supermarket.
Just make sure that it has holes in the bottom for drainage, and if it doesn’t poke some through carefully.
I have some windowsill seed trays that I got in Aldi 4 years ago, similar to these wilko ones, that come with lids, and this year I added to my collection with some windowsill seed trays with covers. These are great as they fit on our windowsill neatly.
But don’t feel like you have to go out and buy lots of new (plastic) things. I know my equipment will be stored over winter and reused again and again, so acknowledge the plastic use.
If your containers don’t have clear lids, you can just put some cling film over them (with a few small holes poked in for air)
Where to put your seedlings best to germinate?
The best place is a sunny window sill, that you regularly look at. Don’t put them anywhere you don’t often check as you will forget to keep them watered, and it’s so exciting to every day be looking for new little green shoots popping out of the compost.
If you have limited windowsills, then any table, desk, or bookcase that gets good light will really help the seeds germinate, they need light, and ideally some heat from the sun.
If you have a greenhouse, you can put them outside once the temp warms up a bit to germinate, but most will germinate with a bit of inside heat faster.
HOW TO PLANT SEEDS
Fill your container with compost, not right to the top.
If you are using individual pots, or cells, then use a pen, dibber or your finger to poke a hole in the middle. Or if you are planting more than one seed per pot then poke as many holes as you are going to plant.
For me, there is no science as to how many seeds I plant per pot, often with the smaller pots and cells I will put two seeds in to maximise my chances.
If you are using seed trays, fill them up and then place or sprinkle (depending on the seed sizes) the seeds across them. You will see when you open the packets of seeds some are really tiny and there is no chance to carefully place them.
Once your seeds are in, you then cover the hole or in a seed tray, gently covering the compost and seeds with a thin layer of compost over them.
Label your pots
You WILL forget what they are if you don’t.
So use a lolly stick, proper plant label or anything to label them
WATER YOUR SEEDS
If the compost you have used is quite dry you will need to give them a gentle water, you do not want to dislodge the seeds. I find at this early stage it is easy to use a water sprayer to gently dampen the top of the compost. It is about making the compost damp rather than soaking. You want to check your containers every day and if the compost had dried out then give it another spray.
These are all different, when I planted all my seeds the first ones appeared in 5 days and some took 3+ weeks. So you will need some patience, once they start to appear you then remove the covers or cling film.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT to your seedlings?
When your seeds have germinated and started growing out of the compost, you will see most of them begin to grow quite quickly, changing every day.
Make sure you turn them around as you will see they start growing towards the sun, so just switch the side facing the window each day.
They will be ready to pot on, once they have their second leaves.
The first leaves that sprout up are called ‘seed leaves’, they are not true leaves of the plant. Once your seedlings have their second ‘true leaves’ which you will notice are the shape that you are familiar with of that type of plant.
To find out how to repot your seedlings, see my next post here.