Seed sowing guide 101

Why is seed sowing such a vital skill? Seeds are the essence of life and healthy, productive plants. Sowing seeds correctly is vital to giving your plants a strong start to life, and is an important skill for any gardener. It can mean the difference between healthy seedlings that thrive vs seeds that fail to germinate or flourish. To learn all about how to sow seeds and raise seedlings, you’ve come to the right place, this is our Seed sowing Guide 101.

In the table below, we have summarised our top tips, honed over the years on when and how to sow different types of seeds the correct way to maximise germination rates. Once you know how to sow seed, it’s easy and opens you up to a world of countless varieties of heirloom vegetables from around the world that you wouldn’t be able to find as seedlings in your local nursery. Growing from seed is also much cheaper than purchasing seedlings from the nursery, and gives you much more control over when you sow, and also seedlings that have acclimatised to your climate.

Don’t forget to check our range of quality heirloom seeds, all of our favourite varieties, grown and nurtured by us.

Heirloom Frost bean seeds as featured in Seed sowing guide 101 for temperate climates

How do I keep my seeds healthy after germination? After your seeds sprout, keep a close eye on them. They are babies at this point and need a fair bit of coddling to flourish.

  1. Check on them at least once a day. If the surface of the soil looks dry, you will need to water them. We recommend a technique called bottom watering, which you can see in action in our corn planting masterclass video (you can use the same technique for all seedlings). This minimises the risk of fungal disesases from overhead watering and maximises deep and healthy roots. Look out for pests like aphids on the underside of leaves and squish, squish squish!
  2. If you have been raising them indoors, your seedlings will also need to head outside now for at least a few hours of full sun a day. Otherwise they will become leggy and weak. If they’ve been grown indoors so far, gradually lengthen their exposure to the real world using a technique called ‘hardening off’ which is also covered in our corn planting masterclass.
  3. Once the seedlings have at least 2 sets of ‘true’ leaves (these are the leaves that resemble their adult leaves, not the two baby leaves that first grow), you could transplant to a larger container. It’s a fine balance between not transplanting too early, as the seedlings won’t have formed a sufficient root zone, and not too late as you don’t want your seedlings to be hungry and root bound. Look also for roots poking out the bottom of the container as a sign that you might want to repot.
  4. Gradually pot your seedlings up into larger containers, we do this at least two times before planting out into the garden, and aim for seedlings that are 10-15cm tall. This ensures youjr seedlings are a good healthy size with a substantial root zone, ready to thrive in your veggie patch. Growing them to a larger size also ensures they are more resistant to attacks by pests.

How to sow various types of seeds

This guide focuses primarily on temperate and cool temperate climates (areas with seasons) but also has lots of advice for warmer tropical areas.

SEED + WHEN TO PLANTHOW TO PLANT
1. BEANS
When to plant?
– Indoors late winter / early spring
– Outdoors mid-spring/summer  

When to harvest? Spring, Summer, Autumn




1. Light requirements: Full sun or Part shade
2. Spacing: Sow seed 20cm apart
3. Sowing:
– Bean seeds do not need to be soaked before planting in our experience, as this increases the risk they will rot before they germinate, particularly when it is cold and damp.
– Plant into quality potting mix and water in well, but don’t water again until you see a sprout emerging or if the potting mix dries out.
4. Direct or in punnets? Sow direct in late spring and summer when the soil temperature warm enough (25 degrees celcius or 80 degrees farenheit in the soil). To get a head-start on the seaosn, you can first sow into individual punnets indoors in late winter/early spring. Once sprouted, the seedling can be planted directly outdoors – use biodegradable punnets and plant direct into the soil (e.g. toilet rolls). Use the technique covered in our corn sowing guide.
5. Soil? Beans don’t need too rich a soil, being nitrogen fixers. But perform best when enriched with quality compost, worm castings and well-rotted manure. 
6. Trellis? Dwarf beans will only need a short stake or no stake. Climbing beans will need a tall trellis or structure to climb on.
2. CORN
When to plant?
– Indoors late winter / early spring
– Outdoors mid-spring/summer  

When to harvest? Summer, Autumn
1. Light requirements: Full sun
2. Spacing: Sow seed 20cm apart in blocks of at least 9 corn for pollination
3. Sowing:
– Corn seed benefits from soaking for 12-24 hours prior to planting to soften the hard outer coating
– Sow direct if soil is warm enough (25 degrees celcius or 80 degrees farenheit in the soil). If not, sow into individual punnets indoors first, once sprouted can be planted outdoors.
4. Direct or in punnets? We recommend sowing in individual punnets. Use the technique covered in our corn sowing guide for everything you need to know about growing epic corn.
5. Soil? An extremely rich soil enriched with quality compost, well-rotted manure, worm castings and fertiliser is ideal. Corn being a grass is very hungry and it’s hard to go too rich for corn! Give it lots of love.
3. TOMATO
When to plant?
– Indoors late winter / early spring
– Outdoors mid-spring/summer  

When to harvest? Summer, Autumn and in warmer climates also in Spring
1. Light requirements: Full sun / Part shade
2. Spacing: Plant tomato plants with as much space as you can give them, minimum 50cm but ideally space more than 1m apart
3. Sowing: Sow seeds indoors in punnets first. You can get a head start on tomatoes by sowing your seeds in mid to late winter, using a Seed raising heat mat to provide bottom heat and aid germination. Tomato seeds can be sown close together.
4. Direct or punnets? We recommend sowing in punnets first, although you don’t need individual punnets as tomatoes seedlings don’t mind a bit of root disturbance and transplantation.
5. Soil: Tomatoes don’t need too rich a soil as otherwise they produce all leafy growth and no fruit. Enrich with quality compost, worm castings and gentle manure such as cow or horse manure. Don’t use nitrogen rich fertilisers such as chicken manure which encourage leafy growth at the expense of flowers and fruit. If fruit set is poor, add potash. 
4. CHILLI, CAPSICUM, PEPPERS AND EGGPLANT
When to plant?
– Indoors late winter / early spring
– Outdoors mid-spring/summer  

When to harvest? Summer, Autumn and in warmer climates also in Spring
1. Light requirements: Ideally full sun, but can also tolerate part shade
2. Spacing: Space plants according to packet instructions but generally give them at least 25cm
3. Sowing: Sow seeds indoors in punnets first. You can get a head start by sowing your seeds in mid to late winter, using a Seed raising heat mat to provide bottom heat and aid germination. More than one seed can be sown together in a punnet.
4. Direct or punnets? We recommend sowing in punnets first, although you don’t need individual punnets as chilli/capsicum/eggplant seedlings don’t mind a bit of root disturbance and transplantation.
5. Soil: Chilli/capsicum/eggplant seedlings like a soil enriched with quality compost, worm castings and gentle manure. Richer fertilisers like blood and bone and chicken manures can be added in small amounts prior to planting and then again mid-season for a boost, but don’t add too much or you will get all leafy growth and very little fruit.
5. PEAS AND BROADBEANS

When to plant?
– Direct outdoors in autumn and spring
– Sow indoors first in winter

When to harvest?
Peas: Winter and spring
Broadbeans: Spring and summer
1. Light requirements: Ideally in full sun, but can also tolerate part shade in warmer climates 
2. Spacing: Follow packet instrucitons or aim for at least 15cm apart
3. Sow direct: Peas and broadbeans don’t like to be transplanted. You can sow direct in autumn while the soil is still sufficiently warm. If sowing in winter, seed needs to be sown into individual punnets indoors first (use the technique covered in our corn sowing guide), before planting out into the garden as cold wet soil can cause rot. Seed does not need to be soaked prior to planting; we find that soaking leads to a highly risk of seed rotting.
4. Soil: Peas and broadbeans, being legumes are nitrogen fixers which means they don’t need a soil super rich in nitrogen. However they appreciate enriching with loads of organic matter in the form of quality compost, worm castings and gentle manure such as cow or horse manure.
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