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Seed Sowing - How and When.

The sowing of seeds to obtain new plants is simply the first stage in a process which will include germination as part of the full process of seed growing. When all are completed successfully, then and only then, will you have new plants. Seed sowing is simply the start.

It needs to be done properly, with the variations that are necessary for different sizes and types of seed. Get it all right, and you will be on the road to providing all the plants you need – and more! Get it wrong, and you are left with a seed tray of damp – or dry – compost which is only good foe spreading on the garden as compost!

Seed sowing can become addictive, for there is little more rewarding than seeing a pot or seed tray full of young healthy plants that you - through your skills and care - have bought into the world! Seed sowing can also be frustrating, if you feel that you have done all that is required yet fail in your attempts.

 Through this section, we give you the basics and pass on some hints on how to succeed with raising new plants from seed. Seed sowing requires as much if not more care than the subsquent growing of plants. 

Seed packet instructionsMy first experience of a failure - a big failure - was my Father's attempt at growing mushrooms. (Growing mushrooms does not actually include 'seed sowing' but there are enough similarities to use as an example here.)  In brief, he spent a lot of time and money building a mushroom shed, laying the beds, buying the spawn and 'sowing' it. The result? Nothing! No mushrooms, just a leftover heap of rotted straw and manure.

The ‘compost’ was eventually spread on the ground of our smallholding, in order to do some good by way of manuring the plot.  A few weeks later, the whole plot was covered in a fantastic crop of mushrooms. Basically, just throwing the spawn (seed) on the ground worked better than trying to do it the right way! The right way had a wrong in there somewhere. In fact it was discovered that the bed temperature was too hot.

Essentials of Seed Sowing.

Many seeds can be sown and grown by planting outdoors at the right time. Others will require a little bit more attention by being sown undercover, whilst yet others will need a good source of heat before they can start to germinate.

All seeds require the three basic ingredients for success - being Heat, Moisture and Oxygen. They will also need a growing medium such as garden soil or seed/potting compost. (Hydroponic growing – no soil – is dealt with elsewhere.) Light – or lack of it, also plays an important part with most seeds.

The actual method of sowing the seeds is an important operation that can often determine whether or not you will succeed in growing your plants from seed. How you sow the seed is as important as any of the other basic requirements.  Most seed packets will give the information required, and should be taken into account and acted upon. Seed producers have a vested interest – and a great knowledge – in your success. Produce plants from their seeds and you will buy more. Fail, and you go to garden centre plant shelves instead!

In this image - Thank you Mr. Fothergill - the back of the seed packet gives a wealth of information about this particular crop; one of the Tomatoes. There is not enough space for all the detail about seed sowing - so I will continue!

The Three Essentials

  • Water is an essential, and somehow has to find its way through the seed coat to start the germination process off. It is also needed beyond that stage to allow the young plant to develop.
  • Heat is often misunderstood in seed growing, for too much - or too little - and the seed will not break its dormancy, and will normally rot within the compost - as a result of the water not being used.
  • Oxygen is required for most forms of life, and plants are no different. The emerging root of the seed will need access to Oxygen in the soil in order to grow and live. Oxygen is normally available in the soil water, but also in the 'pores' of air in the soil.

Two of these ingredients will be made available from your choice of compost, and how you sow your seed in that compost. The right compost, and careful sowing of seeds will be a good start, but only a start towards growing seeds into plants. 

If your seed propagation is carried out in an artificial environment such as the kitchen window sill, a heated propagator or greenhouse, ensure that you use good quality compost as a first measure. The use of garden soil taken indoors and used for tender bedding plants is almost certainly doomed to failure.

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