Sowing Seeds: Outdoors

Getting your favourite plants into the garden can be fun, easy, and cheap by sowing seeds outside. But if you’ve never sown seeds before, it can be a little overwhelming. Do you have the information and tools necessary to begin? At Gardening Express, our gardening experts have some advice for sowing seeds outside.

The information below can be used for many plants to be sown from spring until autumn. Sowing seeds can vary in difficulty levels from easy to moderate so please do not be discouraged if the first lot of seeds you sow do not turn out perfectly.

Planting seed in the vegetable garden. Growing vegetables
Planting seed in the vegetable garden. Growing vegetables

When to Sow

Hardy plants—annuals, biennials, and perennials—can be sown mostly in the spring and early fall, with biennials like foxgloves needing to be sown in the summer. After the last frost, half-hardy annuals can be sown in late spring. Seeds for vegetables can be sown in the spring, summer, or early autumn for some crops that are hardy or grow quickly. Always check the seed packets to see when each plant will be planted.
Also, keep in mind that sowing can begin earlier in warmer regions and take longer in colder ones. Also, in the spring, lighter soils warm up faster and are ready for sowing, whereas heavy, damp soils may need to be sown later because they stay colder for longer.

How to Prepare Your Soil

Check the seed packet for specifics on the best location to sow the plants you want to grow. The majority of vegetables and flowers can thrive in shadier locations, but they require a warm, sheltered location with ample sunlight.

Weed the area with a hoe or by hand to prepare it for sowing. After that, use a fork to gently firm the soil before levelling it out and raking away any large stones and lumps of soil.

After that, you can sow the seeds using drills or by scattering them over the prepared soil. When you sow in a drill, it is simple to distinguish between your seedlings and weeds, allowing you to decide which to keep and which to remove.

How to Sow in Drills

1. Use a stick or trowel to create a shallow drill; verify the depth on the seed packet. While straight drills are best for sowing vegetables, curving or wavy drills or random drills within your sowing area may be more appropriate for sowing flowers.

2. Use water to dampen the base of the drill.

3. Find the recommended spacing between seeds by reading the seed packet. This will change depending on how big the plants end up being.

4. Put a few seeds in your hand and place them in your palm.

5. Simply place the seeds at the specified spacing along the base of your drill if they are large enough to be picked up one by one. If they are small, drop them as thinly as you can along the drill using a pinch of seeds between your thumb and finger.

6. After putting the soil you removed into the drill, gently firm it up.

7. Insert a plant label at the beginning of your drill to keep track of what you’ve sown and when.

8. To avoid removing the soil, use a watering can with a rose (sprinkler) head to water along the row.

9. Check the seed packet for the recommended row spacing if sowing multiple rows.

How to Sow Without Drills

Avoid sowing in drills if you want your plants to look more natural, perhaps for a wildflower patch. Seed distribution, or scattering, is a simple process. Sand or short sticks can be used to draw a line through your sowing area or to mark the corners. After levelling and weeding the soil, evenly distribute the seeds across the area. (When sowing very fine seeds, you can combine them with some sand to ensure even coverage. Because of this, you can spread them out more evenly and see where you’ve sown.) Next, use the back of a rake or trowel to press the seeds into the soil. Most of the time, small seeds don’t need to be covered, but larger seeds can be covered with a thin layer of soil or compost. Use a watering can to water. Add a label to help you remember where and what you’ve sown. Because weeding must be done manually with this method, knowing which seedlings are weeds is helpful.

Sowing Seeds in Containers

Seeds can also be sown in containers, either as their final growing location or temporarily until they reach a size where you can plant them in the ground.

Vegetables like radishes, short-rooted carrots, and small, quick-growing salads were among the seeds that could be sown outdoors in outdoor containers. As part of a display in a container, annual flowers that grow quickly can be sown. alongside herbs like coriander and parsley. Container-sown seeds can also be used to grow hardy trees and shrubs.

These six steps will make it simple to sow outdoors in containers:

1. Firmly compact seed compost or sieved multipurpose compost to just below the rim of a seed tray, module, or pot. (Because of its finer texture, seed compost is preferred for smaller seeds.)

2. Individually press larger seeds into the compost at the recommended spacing on the packet. Smaller seeds, on the other hand, should be dispersed as thinly as possible across the surface.

3. The majority of seeds ought to then be encased in a thin layer of compost. To determine how thoroughly to cover the seeds you are sowing, check the seed packets.

4. To keep the seeds from falling out, use a watering can with a sprinkler head to gently water the plant.

5. The container should be labelled so that you can remember what you’ve sown and when.

6. Water frequently to prevent drying out, and place in a warm, sunny area.

While most seeds can be sown right out of the packet, some with tough seed coats may need to be pre-soaked, scraped, or nicked to help them germinate. Information about this can be found on the seed packet. Some others require heat or cold for a while before germinating.

Looking After Your Seedlings

Seedlings need constant care to get the best results because they can be very vulnerable in the first few months before they become strong and rooted. In particular, make certain that they are protected from pests and hard frosts and that they do not run out of water or become outcompeted by weeds. Keep slugs and snails at bay – Slugs and snails like to eat soft, juicy seedlings, so keep populations at bay or put in place protection. Keep the compost slightly moist at all times – seedlings will soon die if they get too dry because they don’t have deep roots. If the soil appears dry below the surface, water it regularly. When watering a fine rose, use a watering can to avoid damaging the seedlings. Weed every few weeks to prevent seedlings from competing for water, light, and nutrients. On dry days, hoe between rows or manually remove weeds.

Protect from frost – hardy seedlings from autumn sowings should survive light frosts; however, if a hard frost is expected, cover them with horticultural fleece or cloches. Make sure they have room, most seedlings need to be thinned out after about a month. Overcrowding can impede growth and increase disease susceptibility. Thin out if necessary by first removing the smallest and weakest seedlings, as indicated on the seed packet. Then, if you still don’t have the right spacing, take out a few more if you need to, leaving seedlings that are healthy and well-spaced. Be careful when removing the unwanted seedlings to avoid loosing the remaining plants’ roots. After that, water gently to reposition the soil then firm it down.

Updated on April 12, 2023

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