Seeds come in a vast array of shapes and sizes, but there are a few simple tips that will increase your chances of success.
If simply following the instructions on the packet hasn’t worked for you, here is the ‘belt and braces’ way to proceed.
- Buy fresh seed. Seed that has been on display in a hot nursery greenhouse can give much lower germination than fresh seed. Keep your seed in a cool place.
- Read the sowing instructions! This includes the instructions on how closely to sow the seed.
- Use seed compost to sow them in. Seed compost is sterile, doesn’t get easily water logged and has been designed especially for germinating seeds.
- Be water wise: Don’t pour cold water over seedlings that are all nice and warm in a propagator and try not to drown them. Only water as the compost starts to dry out. For container grown seeds, water from the bottom by standing the pots in tepid water until the compost is moist then allowing them to drain. For seeds grown directly in the ground, water with a fine rose or spray attachment.
- Damping off can be a real problem. Perfectly healthy looking seedlings suddenly keel over and die. This is a fungal problem that requires preventative action.The traditional treatment was Cheshunt compound (copper sulphate) but this is being replaced with copper oxychloride. Simply follow the packet instructions.
- Pot seedling on when they have developed their first true leaf. Hold the seedling by one of the seed or cotyledon leaves and use a pencil or something similar to loosen the roots from the compost. Drop into a hole in some potting compost and gently firm the compost around it.
- About a week to 10 days before you plan to plant the young plants outside, start to harden the plants off. This is the gradual process of getting the plants used to cooler conditions. If you are home at the weekend, that can be a good time to start it. Put the plants in a warm sheltered position out side for about 4 hours in the middle of the day before bringing back inside. Then increase the time they spend outside each day. An unheated green house or cold frame can be useful. Allow a good air flow to prevent it getting too warm.
- Protect from slugs, snails and birds.