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How To Grow From Seeds

Seed sowing is not only rewarding, but it can also be a very economical way to feed your family and decorate your garden. We have put together a few simple guidelines ...

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Seed sowing is not only rewarding, but it can also be a very economical way to feed your family and decorate your garden. We have put together a few simple guidelines that can make your efforts in the garden even more successful.

Growing From Seeds

Seeds, like plants, need some essential conditions to achieve germination. These are: heat, air and moisture. Many plants are better started off in seed raising trays or containers. This way you can control the temperature, moisture, light and the mix used to germinate the seed.

Follow the instructions on the packet, especially the guide to the planting depth as planting seeds too deeply can lead to the seed decaying.

As a general rule, most seeds should be sown in trays as new shoots are tender and small and can find it difficult to push through the soil’s crust. In seed trays, you can protect your seeds from weather and pests. Seed trays also give the proper drainage that is necessary to prevent the seed rotting off. Once the sachet is opened, the seed is exposed to light, moisture and heat, causing it to deteriorate. An opened packet of seed should be used within six months.

Use a seed raising mix rather than a garden soil. These mixes are especially formulated to a fine texture to give the best chance of germination. Garden soil contains weed seeds and tends to pack down tightly, removing oxygen that aids seed germination. Garden soil could also contain soil-borne pest and diseases.

Water from the top using a mister. This will give you a finer spray and prevent soaking the seed. Keep the trays out of the sun but make sure they are in a warm spot. Label your trays.

Sowing In Trays

Fill the container with seed raising mix to 10mm below the top of the container. Level off the soil and firm down with your hand. Scatter the seeds evenly over the surface then cover the seeds lightly and evenly with seed raising mix. Once covered, gently firm down the surface.

Lightly water the seeds. Cover the tray with glass, plastic or a sheet of paper to keep the seeds moist and warm during germination. Most seeds do not require light to germinate, but all require light once they have germinated.

After the seed germinates and seedlings have emerged, uncover and move the tray to a warm, sunny, sheltered position in winter, or shady position in summer. Keep seedlings well watered as they will dry out very quickly in the seed tray.

Pricking Out

Shortly after germination two juvenile leaves called cotyledons appear. These are the plant’s food source during germination and will eventually shrivel up and disappear. Wait until the seedling produces two true leaves – which look very different to the rounded cotyledons – before putting into another container or straight into the garden.

Using a pencil, gently dig beneath the seedling and lift it carefully by the leaves. Tease the seedlings apart. Make a hole in the soil big enough for the seedling, place seedling in hole and firm soil around it. Water in well. A cloche or plastic tunnel will help protect the seedlings, allowing them to acclimatise. Alternatively pot up seedlings into small containers of potting mix and place plants in a sheltered position for 3 – 4 weeks before planting out.

Hardening Off

If seedlings have been grown indoors they will be “soft” and therefore need to be “hardened off” before planting into the garden. Hardening off is a process of exposing seedlings gradually to outdoor temperatures before planting. Place seedlings outside during the day and bring them inside at night. After a week or two the seedlings will be ready to plant in the garden. Keep seedlings well watered during the hardening-off process and water them well before planting into the garden.

Sowing Direct

Seeds can also be sown directly into the garden. Prepare the soil by digging in generous quantities of peat or compost.

Level and smooth the soil surface using a rake. Follow the instructions on the packet or as a general rule of thumb plant the seed in rows approx 5cm deep, firm the soil around the seed with your hand. For best results always sow seeds into a moistened soil.

When seedlings appear, thin to the desired spacing. Slugs and snails love tender young seedlings so protect with slug and snail bait.

Troubleshooting

Damping off – this is caused by soil borne fungus. Seedlings collapse due to poor drainage, lack of ventilation and over watering.

Seeds fail to germinate - because they are planted too deep. Follow seed packet recommendations.

Over watering - mix should be damp and not wet.

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