How to Raise Seeds

30 second executive summary

  1. Soil
    When you are starting out the easiest thing you can do is buy a bag of seeding mix from a garden center. While you’re there you could ask if they have any seedling punnets they are happy to give you.
  2. Moisture
    Try to keep your seeds just moist all the time. Avoid letting them dry out or getting soggy.
  3. Warmth
    Avoid midday sun in mid summer, but otherwise find your seedlings a warm spot in direct sunlight.

 30 minute summary (Now with decreased mortality!)

Firstly, read the instructions.
Any attention you can pay to the seed’s instructions will help with regard to:

  • planting in trays vs. in the ground
  • soil depth
  • proximity to other plants
  • watering instructions


Fungal diseases may attack, particularly if the soil mix is too wet or heavy, soil needs to be aerated to avoid this.

Sowing in the ground v.s. in trays

Direct into ground

This is generally simpler, since it doesn’t require any further transplanting, and is suitable for larger, robust  plants and root crops that are hard to transplant.

Preparing the soil

Use a garden fork to slightly lift sections of earth, without turning over completely. Don’t do this when it is wet .

Compost or lime can be added and forked through, though this should be done several weeks apart.

Planting depth

Generally this is proportional to the size of the seeds – twice the diameter of the seed. So for extra fine seeds, they can be placed on the surface, pressed in or covered with a fine layer of sifted soil.


Don’t cover the seeds with mulch, but do mulch between the rows/plants to prevent weeds from competing with your plants. You can cover your seed with an upturned pot, apply the mulch and then remove the pot.

Mulching is essential to avoid the soil drying our and becoming hydrophobic (unable to absorb water). Aim for 10cm of mulch.

Sowing in trays

Useful for:

  • Tiny seeds
  • Precious seeds
  • Seeds that require warmer temperatures, and hence need to be grown indoors

You have a heap of different options…

  • Plastic punnets, you can track these down from a garden center
  • Used milk bottles/cartons or yogurt cups , cut off with drain holes.
  • Commercial solutions
  • Styrofoam boxes with a sheet of glass or plastic on top:
    This forms an insulated, mini glass house. Energy enters the box through the glass, as it hits the soil the wavelength changes and can no longer leave through the glass, building the heat in the box. If you have a smooth topped box, then there is no room for slugs or snails to enter the box! I used mum’s light n easy boxes, but these boxes are everywhere.

This guide is a work in progress, so if you have any pointers or questions please leave them below.