Live Better

Sow your seeds right with this simple guide.

A close-up of a little girl gardening.

Seed planting is an important activity, as it allows for a constant supply of new plants for the garden for minimal cost. It is much cheaper to plant seeds than to buy seedlings or larger plants, and in many cases means you end up with a really abundant crop.

Seeds are usually sown in one of two ways – direct sown into the ground where they are to grow, or sown into trays or punnets for transplanting into the garden beds at a later date. This activity refers to direct sown seeds.

Sometimes seeds are infertile. This can happen if they are old or have been stored incorrectly, or if they have been gathered from certain types of plants. Check the age of your seeds before you go to the effort of planting them and don’t use any that are out of date.

It is always very important to read the seed packet carefully as it will tell you all the information you need to know. Check:

  • What the name of the plant is
  • What time of year you should be planting
  • That your seeds should be sown straight into the ground
  • Whether the seeds should be covered with soil (do not need light to germinate) or not (do need light to germinate)
  • How far apart you should plant the seeds
  • How deep you should plant the seeds

Depending on the type of seeds you are planting you will need to choose which items you require from the following list:


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What to do

  • 1. First identify the area in which you will be planting your seeds.

  • 2. Using the garden forks and wearing your gloves, dig the area over, ensuring you break up any large clods of soil, and remove any large stones, roots or weeds. Do you have to add any well-rotted compost while you dig? Now is the best time.

  • 3. Once the area is dug over, use the garden rake to gradually work the soil into a flat area, with no lumps or hollows.

  • 4. If you require a really fine tilth (or crumb-texture), you might choose to use a large drum sieve to pass through the top few centimetres of soil, to ensure that the seeds have a really level bed in which to grow.

  • 5. Mark out where you are to plant the seeds.

  • 6. Broadcasting sowing: If they are fine seeds like carrots or parsnips you will need to broadcast sow, which means to gently and evenly spread the seeds over the area with your hand. They will be too small for you to place them individually in the soil. Sow to the recommended rate per square metre. Check whether the seeds need to be covered – if they do, use the drum sieve to gently scatter a fine layer of soil over the seeds.

  • 7. Sowing: Larger seeds like peas or broad beans can be sown individually. If you are planting them in a row lay out your string line or tape measure along the ground. At the recommended intervals, poke a hole to the correct depth in the soil, drop in your seed and gently backfill with soil.

  • 8. Once your seeds are planted you will need to mark where they are so you don’t accidentally dig them up before they have grown. For straight line planting, put a waterproof label at each end of the row, clearly marked with the name of the plant and the date the seeds were sown. For broadcast planting you might want to mark the corners of the area with flags, decorative pieces of small tree branches, or with a light bird-net covering. Use a decorative garden sign to let everyone know your carrots are growing and are not to be disturbed!

  • 9. Gently water your seeds in with a watering can or hose, using the finest spray watering can rose or hose nozzle setting you have. Water gushing onto the seeds can often disrupt or dislodge them, leading to no or reduced levels of germination.

  • 10. If you have problems with birds or garden predators, consider a protective structure covered in fine bird netting for the first few weeks of your plants’ lives.

  • 11. Keep an eye on your seeds – many need to be kept moist for the first few days or weeks to ensure germination. Watch for the first sign of growth, then the first true leaves, and chart the progress of your seedlings!

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