A seed is defined in the dictionary as being ‘the unit of reproduction of a flowering plant, capable of developing into another such plant. We recently spoke about how plant cells grow and how to sow seeds indoors, so we thought we would expand on that a little bit.
Benefits Of Growing From Seed
There are so many benefits to growing from seed that you may choose to start planting and growing flowers and vegetables at home rather than buying them fully grown in store...
- Plant seeds are quite simply cheaper – no complaints there.
- You know that your flowers and vegetables are always organic
- There are so many different varieties available – some of which you may not have heard of as there are hundreds of species available only in seed form as opposed to starter-plants, plugs or cuttings.
- You’ll get to enjoy the gardening process – and watch your garden grow.
Guide To Germinating Your Seeds
1) Buy Your Seeds
One of the great perks of growing your own plants and vegetables from seed is the fact that you’ll have so many to choose from. Try looking online or in garden centres and you’ll be able to find the perfect seeds to suit you and your garden. Remember to pay attention to the requirements of the seed. Look for the water requirements, soil temperature, and light needed to germinate the species you consider.
2) Learn About Your Seeds
Once you’ve got your seeds you will need to sow them Guidance can usually be found on seed packets, catalogues or online about when, how and where to sow. Some seeds can be sown directly into your garden soil but others will need sowing in containers to start with and transplanting once they are stronger and the weather conditions are right. This decision depends hugely on the species you wish to sow as some require more sensitive care than others.
Garden soil can contain high levels of disease and insects that can cause harm to your seeds. Therefore it is the safer option in most cases to start your seeds off indoors in 'seed and cutting' compost unless specified on the pack. Several veg and some flowers prefer not to be disturbed once sown and therefore are better directly sown into prepared space where they are to grow. Remember to check the pack for guidance.
3) Pick Your Container
You will need a container that is two to three inches deep with small holes at the bottom for drainage purposes. The width of the container can depend on how many seeds you are sowing. Choose one that allows seeds to be spread out and not piled on top of each other. It is common practice to use seed trays or modular trays and seed compost to start your seeds off. Once they have germinated and developed their first true leaves they can then be transplanted on to larger containers with potting compost to provide further nutrients and room to grow.
Check your seed packet for sowing instructions. Generally you can ¾ fill your seed container and then water it before spreading seeds on top and lightly covering with a sprinkling more soil. Some seeds have particular requirements such as light, no light, cold treatment, soaking or no water. This should be specified on the pack though.
4) Time It Right
Normally you should sow your seeds between 4-6 weeks prior to moving them outside but this timeframe is really dependent on germination, seedling development and weather. The seed packet will guide you on suitable sowing times and you can transplant when they are strong enough to brave the outdoors.
5) Provide Heat And Lighting
You may need a source of heat and light to give your seedlings a good start . Windowsills are a good spot to start with but seedlings may get elongated if they aren’t getting enough light. You could pick up a plant lamp to keep your seeds happy indoors with light and heat but please check it is fit for purpose and safe to use indoors. A heat mat may also be a good idea for plants that require extra heat but again, check it is safe and fit for purpose. You don’t want to burn your baby plants so check for temperature controls.
Alternatively if you have one, a conservatory, greenhouse, or propagator is ideal.
6) Keep The Growing Medium Moist
We suggest covering your container lightly with plastic sheeting/damp newspaper. This will act as a way to regulate and trap moisture and temperature. This is important because if your seeds dry out they will not germinate properly.
Once you see the first shoot poking through you will need to move the container into a sunny area. Ensure that the room temperature is above 70°F (21°C) and in bright light so that your plants can grow. You can now remove the plastic/paper covering, but ensure you keep the seedling moist by watering throughout the day. We advise you to water gently in the early morning and in the afternoon.
7) Transporting The Seedlings
Once your seeds have germinated and are beginning to grow you will need to give them room and nutrients to grow by pricking them out and potting them on in to fresh potting soil. Wait until they have their first pair of ‘true’ leaves, then you can transplant into modular trays or small pots so they can grow strong enough to be planted out when the time is right.