Dan’s top tips for seed-sowing

It’s the news you’ve all been waiting for: seed-sowing season is here! After longingly flicking through seed catalogues all winter, it’s now time to get sowing and look forward to a riot of colour come summertime. Head Gardener, Dan, shares his top tips to help you get started.

Seed-sowing season is most gardeners’ favourite time of year; after daydreaming about our spring and summer gardens, it’s finally time to get on with it and make those dreams a reality. But it can be a challenging time too. There’s lots going on all at once and the stakes are high, because even the best laid plans can be scuppered by some dodgy germination or a midnight rodent attack! But fear not, here are my top tips to ensure success and keep your seed-sowing ambitions on track.

Always use fresh seed

Lots of seeds will germinate many, many years after harvesting, but most will yield the best germination results if they’re as fresh as possible. Try to avoid using old packets of seeds that have been stuffed in a drawer somewhere in the house. If you want to keep seed from one year to the next, the fridge is the best place to store them (old take-away containers are useful for this), as most will prefer to be kept cool and dry.

Don’t sow seed too thickly

This will make it more difficult to separate the plants when they are ready for pricking out and cause unnecessary root damage as you do. It’s much better to air on the thin side and leave yourself lots of room to wield your dibber! Try emptying seeds from a packet into your hand first and then sprinkle them across your seed tray with your free thumb and forefinger on your other hand. You’ll have more control of the distribution this way than you would if you sow directly from the packet.

 Don’t sow everything all at once

There are plenty of exceptions of course, but most veggies and annuals will need to be sown somewhere around March and April. This might be early March in the south where it warms up quicker, or early April in the north where it stays cooler for longer. We like to sow our seed in Birmingham in batches, from mid-March onwards. If you sow it all at once, it all needs pricking out and potting on at the same time, which can be quite the task! It’s much better to stagger the sowings if you have a large quantity to grow.

 Check your seeds daily

Wherever you choose to germinate your seeds, you’ll need to keep your eye on them right from the off. They’ll need to be kept moist initially and watered freely once germination begins (if they’re in a heated greenhouse or propagation unit, they’ll often dry out faster than you’d expect). Mice love bigger seeds like peas and beans, so it’s good to check daily that everything’s still intact too. Covering vulnerable seed with chicken wire is an easy and affordable form of defence against such unwanted attention from pests.

So, there you have it. Those are my top tips. I hope you find them helpful and that you have many, many exciting plants to plant out his summer as a result. Happy seed-sowing season!