Sowing Vegetable Seeds

There are many reasons to consider sowing seeds in your vegetable garden. The first and most obvious reason is budget. You get far more seeds for your money than you would buying trays of seedlings or worse, established plants. You can even save the vegetable seeds you don’t use to plant at a later date without spending a further cent.

The second reason is variety. When you grow plants from seed, there is so much more to choose from, from unusual species to interesting varieties you can’t find anywhere else. Nurseries tend to produce the plants the general public are looking for, so if you want something more specialized, seeds are the way to go.

You’re also likely to get stronger plants in the long run when growing from seed versus from seedlings (as long as you’re using the right technique and have the right conditions). Plants grown from seed can adapt to their surroundings much better, limiting issues with transplant shock later on.

And finally, yet most importantly, growing from seed is one of the greatest joys of gardening. There is no better excitement than harvesting from a plant you grew from a tiny seed months ago. The term ‘fruits of your labour’ gains a whole new meaning when you get to watch the lifecycle of a plant from start to finish, helping it along the way.

What you’ll need

First things first, you’ll obviously need some seeds to sow. Choose high quality seeds and purchase at the right time for your chosen plants to ensure they will germinate as reliably as possible. If you’ve saved seeds from your garden, use them as soon as you can or store well to keep them fresh for the following season. Each seed will have a different viability date, so check the packaging or your own labels to make sure they will still be viable before planting.

If you’re sowing seeds straight into the ground, that’s about it. But, if you’re sowing in trays either indoors or outdoors, there are a few more items to add to your shopping list.

Seedling mix is essential to sowing successfully in trays or pots. A light and well-draining mix that provides little resistance to root growth will create the strongest possible seedlings for better growth later on. You can either purchase a seed starting mix from your local nursery or online, or you can make your own by combining 8 parts palm peat with 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite. You can also use palm peat alone, covering with a layer of vermiculite to retain moisture. Just before sowing, add a sachet of Ecobuz Root Pro to control potential root diseases and give your seedlings a strong start.

There are also other optional tools to make the process simpler, depending on your conditions. A propagator can greatly improve your chances of germination if your indoor or outdoor conditions aren’t quite right for seed sowing. A heating mat can also help if you’re sowing seed in late winter, ready to plant out in spring. A trowel and some gloves are also useful in the seed sowing process if you don’t like to get your hands too dirty.

How to sow seeds successfully

Once you’ve prepped, you can get to the fun part – planting. If you’ve purchased a seed packet, this really couldn’t be easier. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging, including the correct spacing and depth, to sow. For those who have saved seeds, simply do some research on the spacing and depth needed before you plant.

Once the seeds have germinated, thin them out to keep the strongest growers, removing the rest. This will ensure your best harvest, eliminating any problematic seedlings before they grow any bigger. Once the plants are around 10cm tall, watering with a half-strength liquid fertilizer adds nutrients to the soil mixture. Keep the soil evenly moist until your plants have settled in, ready for the long season ahead.

Things to consider

Season: Make sure you plant your seeds at the right time, also indicated on the packaging. This not only improves germination rates, but also ensures your plants will grow healthily when moved into pots or out into the garden.

Climate: Seeds need warmth to germinate and can be killed off quickly in cold and frosty temperatures. If you live in a climate that isn’t quite right for germinating outdoors, consider germinating indoors before the season starts to keep vulnerable seedlings protected.

READ MORE: Learn how to make your own seed tape

The Gardener