How to sow seeds: The right equipment to do the job
Once I got a taste for sowing seeds I’ve not been able to stop and I sow all kinds of things now from pips I extract from my weekly kiwi fruit supply to flower seeds I glean from the garden when I notice seed heads making an appearance.
I can only summarise that I experience some successes and some failures. I’m never too disappointed because I am sowing mainly for fun and that sense of anticipation of what will emerge from my sowing. If you get the right basics though you’ll find you’ll start getting more successes and fewer failures.
Here are my tips on how to sow seeds depending on their size.
(I recommend that you read our blog called 'Creating a life- the satisfaction of sowing seeds' if you are new to growing plants from seeds to give you a helpful introduction before reading on.)
For tiny and small seeds (less than 1/2cm long/less than 2mm in diameter)
1) Fill a seed tray with airy seed compost – which is light and contains a small but balance level of nutrients in the soil. I like to pile the compost in and strike excess soil off the excess with my hand so that the compost is flush with the top of the seed tray.
3) Submerge the seed tray into a waterbath beneath so that the soil slowly absorbs the moisture from the bottom without disturbing the soil on top.
4) Sprinkle seed evenly on the soil level using the furrows in your palm and tapping the seed off with the other hand.
5) Cover the seeds with a small layer of vermiculite or perlite. (These are both soil additives that make a good topping for seed-sowing. Airy and porous they hold just the right amount of water and both vermiculite and perlite are light enough for seeds to push their way through at germination).
6) Water above with a fine hose and add fungicide to the first watering to guard against damping off.
7) Label and date the seeds and place in a cool light place
For larger seeds that you can pick up individually with ease
2) Press the seed/s into the soil to a depth of about 2cm using a dibber or pencil.
3) Fill back the hole with more seed compost
3) Water above with a fine hose and add fungicide to the first watering to guard against damping off.
4) Cover the seeds with more of the seed-compost.
5) Label and date the seeds and place in a cool light place
Storing seeds for a rainy day
Sow as soon as is possible. However should you need to keep seeds in store for a while, here is what I do to keep the seeds healthy and viable.
Seed packets are firmly sealed to keep the air out and lasting for longer. This ensures seeds get a good shelf-life and keeps them in a dormant stage.
So if you open the seed packets and keep some seeds stored within for future use, their chances of germinating are significantly reduced. To get around this I store any remaining seeds from a seed packet in as air-tight a container as I can find such as air-tight plastic containers with seals.
I make sure it’s not see through though to keep light out as well as air. I then put the containers in a draw in the garden where they remain cool year round. A basement would be equally viable but a fridge would be a bit too cold in the long-term.
Fight off fungal diseases in seeds
My seeds have come a cropper to damping-off disease. This is a fungal disease that occurs when your seeds have been sown too densely, and light and ambient temperature fluctuates too much.
To troubleshoot this control the light levels and ambient temperature by investing in a seed propagator which regulates humidity levels and distributes light evenly to the seedlings beneath. The micro-climate has a controlled temperature too that prevents damping off.
Handle with care!
Seedlings are very fragile and plants can injure so easily further on in their development if they are disturbed or hurt at the seedling stage. When watering make sure they are watered underneath using a seed bath under the tray or with a very fine hose. This will get water to the seedlings without flooding them.
When I’m transferring seedlings from a seed tray to a pot or into the ground I unearth them with a dibber or pencil to loosen the roots and hold onto a seed leaf to get the seedling from A to B. I avoid holding the stem. Squashing the stem even slightly will affect the plant’s growth later down the line.