Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

You can grow many plants successfully from seed, either collected by yourself from the flowers of existing seeds or using shop bought packet seeds.  The main advantage of growing plants from seed is the low cost and high yield, and of course the satisfaction of growing your own plants from seed.  You can also source seeds of exotic or hard to find varieties that are just not readily available to buy as plants.

Unlike asexual propagation techniques such as cuttings, grafting and division, plants grown from seed will differ from the parent plant.  Growing plants from seed will lead to variation of plants that may differ in flower colour, vigour, habit and other characteristics.  

You can give your plants a head start by sowing seedlings indoors or in a heated greenhouse around mid march. They will need to be protected from frost, and temperatures at night should not fall below 10 degrees Celsius. Depending on variety and size of your seed you can sow your seeds direct into the soil of your bed, or in pots or seed trays. 

Sowing seed indoors

When sowing in containers use John Innes 'seed and potting' compost. Sow small seeds in seed trays and lightly cover with a layer of compost.  Sow larger seeds in larger pots and place three seeds in each pot.  As a general guide a 1.5 cm seed will require a 15 cm pot. You can use any container as long as it has adequate drainage (punch some holes in the bottom if it doesn't) . Don’t forget to label the pots!

Water lightly and place in a propagator, or cover with a sheet of glass/clear plastic bag/half plastic bottle.  This will ensure that the seeds are kept moist until germination, after which this protection can be removed. Seedlings are at risk from fungal rots due to the damp conditions, so good ventilation is important. 

The seedlings will require high levels of light, around 12-16 hours of sunlight a day. A south facing window sill or shelf in glass house is ideal, although they will require the seed tray to be turned round daily to prevent the seedlings from permanently leaning.  Keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) until the seeds germinate, usually between 3 days to 3 weeks depending on plant variety.

You may wish to prick out some varieties of seedlings and transplant to larger pots. These pots can be filled with a standard potting compost or John Innes potting compost no.1 or 2.  Wait until the seedlings have produced their second set of leaves and then lift the seedling out of the seed tray using a pencil/dibber.  Hold onto the largest leaf and lift out the root ball carefully. Plant the seedling in the pot or in its final position and water gently.

The seedlings are ready to plant outside when the threat of frost is over, usually during May. Ensure you harden off the seedlings before planting outside by bringing them outside during the day and back in at night for a few weeks, or placing them in a cold frame.

Sowing seed outdoors

You can sow seed direct into the soil from mid May onwards, when the soil has warmed up and the threat of frost has passed.  You could sow your seeds a month or two earlier if you protect your seedlings by using a cloche.

Prepare your soil prior to planting, incorporating a general fertiliser or organic compost as required for your variety of seed.  It can often be an advantage to plant seeds in thin drills a few centimeters deep.  This allows for easier identification of the seedlings and differentiates them from other plants and weeds, which should be removed.  Water well especially during dry spells and stake any tall plants as necessary.

For related articles click onto:
Feeding plants
Herbaceous borders
How to Grow Agave from Seed
How to grow geraniums from seed
How to grow lavender
How to grow seeds indoors
How to grow squash
How to grow thyme
How to plant Dahlia tubers
How to propagate using division
How to propagate by grafting
How to propagate from seed
How to take a stem cutting
How to propagate from root cuttings
Green manure: Broad beans
Growing herbs
Growing herbs in pots
Ladybird facts
Plant names
Plants for free
Plants for Autumn
Pruning trees and hedges
Rose pest and diseases
What is the difference between a rambling and climbing rose?
What is the difference between a rhododendron and an azalea?
What is green manure?

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