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
Keep your pots and trays steady while you work by putting your compost into a compost tidy, or a washing up bowl, then anchor the pot or tray by packing compost around to hold it.
- Use a wide, shallow dish or jam jar lid to hold your seeds - you should be able to pick them out more easily than from the packet.
- 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 and 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. Work in short sessions and try to vary how you use your hands to avoid strain.
Fine seed can be mixed with sand to make it easier to sow and pelleted seed is larger and therefore easier to use.
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. Place the block in water so it expands and simply place the seeds in the compost.
- Consider sowing into 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 to work. Find out more about raised beds
- Sowing and pricking out seedlings is fiddly and can be awkward with weak hands, if you have arthritis or a weak grip. Do a little at a time and take breaks.
- 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
Seed sowers are gadgets that release one seed at a time with a release or push mechanism. Some designs can be fiddly to use so if you can, try them out first.
Modular seed trays come in a range cell sizes, including 40-cell, or 24-cell for larger plants. You can also buy them for longer-rooted plants.
- Self-watering propagator units combine a 40-cell seed tray, a clear cover and an integral watering tray. Watering from below can help avoid problems of over-watering.
- A plastic compost tidy tray - or even a washing up bowl - gives you a space to work and stops compost getting spilt everywhere.