It is spring and many are now frantically busying themselves sowing all their vegetables and flowers. Nothing gives greater satisfaction than growing your own plants from seed. Carefully sowing seed in special compost, pricking out, potting on, watering, feeding, etc., really gives one great joy and eventual pride (provided the little beggars germinate, of course!) Some, however, feel that they don’t have enough time or knowledge to grow plants from seed. The truth is, once the initial sowing is done, not much effort is needed at all (especially if you are sowing seed in situ). So how does one go about it?

Knys Knysna Lifestyle Seed Sowing David James 1


Before sowing seed in containers, ensure that the containers are clean! Pouring boiling water over containers and seed trays should suffice. Ensure that the compost used is well-drained so that water doesn’t sit in the container.

Some seeds require special treatment before they will germinate. Some (especially those of some trees and shrubs) need stratifying, that is, exposing to low temperatures, before they will germinate. This can be accomplished by putting them in a brown paper bag and into the fridge for a fortnight. Some hard-coated seeds can be soaked to speed up germination. Other seeds are sown best after harvesting them, like those of primulas.


Fill the tray or pot with the seed compost and then firm down evenly. When sowing the seed, do so sparingly and try to space them as evenly as possible. Then cover these with a thin layer of compost to about the depth of the seed. Alternatively, for the depth, just follow the instructions on the seed packet, or look online for more information on specific seeds. Water with a fine spray or alternatively place the container or tray in a couple of inches of water.

Knys Knysna Lifestyle Seed Sowing David James 2

Pricking Out

Once the seeds have emerged and have developed one or two true leaves (different from the two seed leaves, or cotyledons, that emerge initially) they need to pricked out. This should be done very gently and the plants should be handled by their seed leaves, not the roots, stem or true leaves. If the plant shows any resistance when tugging at it, leave it and try and gently break up the compost with a label or kitchen fork. These can be pricked out into larger pots and trays or straight into the soil. Put some sharp stones or broken eggshells around them if you are planting straight into the soil to prevent slugs and snails getting to them – also, go out with a torch at night and kill every one in sight! Perhaps, put them into a bucket to feed a friend’s ducks…

Outdoor Seed Sowing

Some annual seed mixes and other quick-growing plants can be just sown in situ. The seed bed should be dug over and raked flat. Depending on the seed either sprinkle the mix evenly over the area, or sow in shallow drills. Lightly rake/tickle the soil to cover the seeds and then water with a spray.

Sowing seed is easy, fun, satisfying and rewarding work! Give it a go and you’ll be amazed at how something so simple starts to fill your mind, days and conversation. You’ll soon immerse yourself in the horticultural world!


An eccentric, plant-obsessed nutter!