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Gardening Techniques - Sow Your Seeds Right

Mar 13, 2008
Spring is the time of year when all garden magazines are full of the plans you should be making for the season to come, but very rarely do they cover one of the most basic of gardening techniques. Sowing seeds properly is crucial if you want to ensure a good crop of flowers and vegetables in your garden. We all love to take that small flat packet of seeds and take joy in the vision of what it will produce, but like everything, a good foundation is required to ensure a good crop.

The seed contains everything that is needed to start the growth cycle of the plant and it will keep safe the promise of the future until the time is right. Most basic of those requirements is water, followed swiftly by temperature and appropriate growing conditions in terms of soil and nutrients. Then you must protect that baby plant from pests and diseases until it is strong enough to fend for itself, just as you would any newborn.

The most basic method of sowing is to use good quality seed compost which has not been stored somewhere cold. Place it in seed trays or pots so you can avoid too much thinning or pricking out later. Make sure your seeds are fresh and of good quality before sowing them gently onto the soil, not too close together, and then cover them lightly with a fine layer of compost or vermiculite. As a rule of thumb the depth of the covering should be about twice the diameter of the seed, certainly no more. If your seeds are a little shriveled you can try soaking them. This is often done with hard coated seeds or where you are expecting a dry spell if you are intending to sow outdoors. It can speed up germination quite noticeably.

Some seeds require a little preparation before they are sown, peas and beans particularly produce seeds with hard coverings that need to be pre-treated if you want them to germinate in our somewhat artificial environments. Generally speaking I try to just chip the surface which mimics nature's action in breaking down the seed coating. If the seeds are too small to do this, like Lupins for example, I put them into a plastic tub, secure the lid and shake them for a while which just breaks up the skin - it has the added advantage of amusing everyone watching me as well!

Sowing seeds outside, especially vegetables, is usually done in rows. I always like to fill the drill with water before I plant anything, and let it drain. Again try not to sow too thickly as this will avoid wasting those precious seedlings when thinning and if you are sowing where you plan to grow, it will save a lot of labour. I must admit I don't sow flower seeds in rows all the time as I do like rather more informality in my flower garden, but where vegetables are concerned I try and sow in such a way that I can tend them easily. It might be rows or it might be in squares depending on how I intend them to grow.

Fine seeds are best mixed with some silver sand or suchlike to spread them more evenly - it can be a nightmare trying to keep all those tiny seeds evenly spread and the effort of mixing them with the sand more than pays off in time saved later. Larger seeds can be individually placed either where you are going to grow them or you could try using a little trick of mine. I save the cardboard centers of toilet paper rolls, fill those with compost and plant the seeds in those. When they are big enough to plant out I just soak the cardboard (which is generally pretty wet anyway) and plant the whole thing. You don't disturb the tender baby roots and they just grow through the wet cardboard as they develop.

Whichever method you use to plant your seeds, make sure you keep them adequately watered, using fresh clean water. Using these simple gardening techniques will ensure that you have a good supply of plants for your garden and vegetables for your table.
About the Author
Lizzie Westerley has spent many pleasurable years developing her garden and her gardening skills. You can find more of her insights and information on how to make your garden equally magnificent at The Garden Magazine
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