What do seeds need to grow?

Gardeners' World: Monty Don shares tips for planting seeds

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You can buy more mature plants from a garden shop, but there is something so satisfying and special (not to mention budget-friendly) about growing your own flowers, food or foliage from seed. Here is an easy guide to making sure your little seedlings thrive.

What do seeds need to grow?

The three key things needed for germination are warmth, moisture and oxygen.

In practical terms, this means you’ll need the following five things to sow your seeds:

  1. The seeds themselves
  2. Containers – you can get creative here and use any discarded household plastic or paper containers or trays. Think egg boxes! Just make sure there’s some drainage.
  3. Seed compost – this is potting soil made especially for starting seeds. You can buy a decent amount for under £10 from most garden shops.
  4. A spray mister – you can buy a new one from any garden shop, but you could also get creative here and use something you already have around the house. You just need a spray bottle with a mist option. Just be careful to clean it properly – you don’t want to spray bleach on your precious seedlings!
  5. Some liquid fertiliser for seedlings – this usually costs under £5.

How to sow your seeds

Now that you’ve got your kit, it’s time to get your hands dirty and sow your seeds!

Here are the steps to get your plants going:

Step 1: Check your timing

The goal with seed starting is to have your seedlings ready to go outside when the weather is favourable.

You can look at the seed packet, which should tell you when to start seeds inside, otherwise, you might need to do a little research on what it is you’re trying to grow.

Some types of vegetables, such as beans and squash, are best started outdoors.

There is little benefit to growing them indoors because they germinate and grow quickly.

Some flowers, such as poppies, are best planted outdoors, too. These seeds are usually marked ‘direct sow’.

Step 2: Prepare your containers and soil

Before filling your containers with the potting soil, moisten the soil a bit.

You don’t want it soaking wet, but nice and moist and crumbly.

Then fill your containers and pack the soil down a little to fill the gaps.

Step 3: Start planting

Check the seed packet to see how deep you should plant your seeds.

Some of the small ones can be sprinkled right on the soil surface, and larger seeds will need to be buried.

Once the seeds are in, use your mister to water your pots.

Top tip: To speed germination, cover the pots with plastic wrap or dome. This helps keep the seeds moist before they germinate – when you see the first signs of green, remove the cover.

Step 4: Water, feed, sun

As the seedlings grow, use your mister to keep the soil moist.

Feed your seedlings regularly with liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the bottle.

Make sure your seedlings get plenty of light, as this is what will make them grow!

If they’re on a windowsill, turn the pots around now and again so they’re all getting plenty of light.

Step 5: Planting out

Once your seedlings have grown a few “true leaves” and are big enough to handle without damaging them, they’re ready to be potted out into individual pots.

Don’t plant your seed babies straight into the garden at this stage as they need a little more time to get strong.

This process is called hardening off – about a week before you plan to set the seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected spot outdoors for a few hours, bringing them in at night.

Gradually, over the course of a week or so, expose them to more and more sunshine and wind.

Good luck!

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