Growing plants from seed can save you money and you often have spare plants to share as a result. It is one of the most satisfying gardening activities, and one you can do either indoors, in the conservatory or greenhouse, outside on a table, or direct into your garden soil.
Making sowing seeds easier
- When you garden sitting down, it will help if you can adapt your garden to avoid doing any work at ground level. Consider using raised beds and containers. These bring the soil off the ground and if the beds are built to the right height, you can sit comfortably without any need to bend. Find out more about raised beds.
Sow your seeds into a modular seed tray filled with compost and then you won’t need to prick out the seedlings. These modular trays are divided into separate cells so that you sow one seed, or a very small pinch of seeds, per cell. Seedlings are lifted out in their own cell of soil ready for potting up or planting out.
- Fine seed can be mixed with sand to make it easier to sow and pelleted seed is coated making it larger and easier to use.
- A plastic compost tidy tray - or even a washing up bowl - gives you a space to work and stops compost getting spilt everywhere.
For seed sowing outside, you could consider using seed tapes. These are paper strips with the seed ready spaced, and can be cut to length. However, seed tapes are only available for a limited number of vegetables, flowers and herbs.
- Jiffy 7s are compressed blocks of compost which can be useful for sowing seeds and mean you don’t have to handle loose soil. Simply put the compost block in a pot or cup, and add water – the compose will swell and then you can put in the seed.
Sowing and pricking out seedlings is fiddly and can be awkward if you have arthritis or weak grip. Do a little at a time and take breaks.
- Make sure your table or greenhouse staging is at a comfortable height. Some people find it helpful if there is a recess cut in the table so that it is easier to reach everything you need.
- If you are recovering from an illness or coping with the effect of a stroke or heart disease, you can use an activity like seed sowing to try to build your strength and coordination. As you improve, put the items that you need a little further away to try and increase your reach.
Hints and tips
Go for tried-and-tested seed varieties with good germination rates. Only use fresh seed and take care to read the instructions fully - some seeds need special treatment to germinate and grow. Fine seed can be mixed with sand to make it easier to handle and sow.
- You can sow large seeds individually in 9cm (3 inch) pots. Longer rooted plants like sweet peas and beans can be sown into cardboard toilet roll inners and planted out intact when established.
- If you want to enjoy raising plants without seed sowing, plug plants can be a good choice for growing vegetables or creating annual flower displays. You can get a good range by mail order, and at the garden centre.
Equipment and tools