It’s sowing time! If you want to improve your success with seed sowing, we’re here to help. We’ve got five top tips from the pros that will boost germination rates, save time and simply make seed sowing easier.
1. Make Your Own Seed Tapes
Do you find it hard to space out your seeds accurately? Then make your own seed tape. This method is perfect for spacing out smaller seeds. For this you’ll need some toilet paper, a paste made from equal parts flour and water, and your seeds. Start by rolling out enough toilet paper to run the length of your row. Place a daub of paste at the correct spacing on the paper using an artist’s brush. Drop two seeds onto each daub of paste. Then fold over the toilet paper. The paste will help to hold it all together.
After drying, the seed tapes can be labelled then rolled up and stored until you’re ready to sow. To sow simply unravel the tape into the seed drill and cover to the correct depth with soil. Water along the row and, hey presto, they’re ready to grow!
You can also make squares of pre-sown seeds using paper towel. The same method applies: daub on your paste, add your seeds, then sandwich with another layer of towel. These squares are great if you grow your plants in blocks, for example if you’re using the square foot gardening method.
2. Sow Tiny Seeds Successfully
Tiny seeds such as carrots are notoriously tricky to sow evenly. Make the task easier by mixing the seeds with fine, dry sand. Thoroughly mix together a pinch of seeds with a couple of teaspoons of sand, then sprinkle along your seed drill. Now fill in the seed drill.
3. Scarify or Soak Big Seeds
Large seeds or seeds with a tough seed coat will germinate quicker if their coats are first punctured or softened, just before you want to plant them. This allows the water and gases necessary for germination to enter the seed faster. A simple way to do this is to gently roll your seeds between two sheets of sandpaper until the seed coat just starts to rub off. Stop at this point or you risk damaging the seeds.
Alternatively soak your seeds in a bowl of lukewarm water for 24 hours. This method is great for seeds of beans, peas and okra. Parsley seeds also benefit from soaking for 48 hours, with a change of water halfway through.
4. See Your Seeds and Get Rid of the Weeds
Some seeds are hard to make out against the dark soil. A simple way around this is to line your seed drill with toilet paper. The white background makes it easier to see your seeds and to space them evenly along the row.
Using a label will help you to locate rows of seeds, but if you want to be certain you can backfill your seed drill with compost so that it stands out from the surrounding soil. This is particularly useful once they start to grow, as it helps you to differentiate seedlings you’ve planted from weeds which need removing.
One other method is to mix quick-growing seeds such as radishes with slow growers like parsnips. The radishes will germinate within a few days to mark the location of the row. They’ll be harvested long before the parsnips grow big enough to need that extra space.
5. Pre-sprouting Seeds (Chitting)
Another way to work with seeds that have a long germination time is to chit them – that simply means encouraging the seeds to sprout before planting them in the soil. This method works particularly well for those seeds that can take weeks to germinate, especially in cool weather. You can also use it for any early-planted seeds to speed things up.
Start by lining a sealable container with a couple of sheets of damp paper towel. Space out the seeds over the surface then add two more layers of damp paper towel over the top. Press on the lid. Keep the container in a warm place at about 8-21ºC, or 65-70ºF. As soon as the seeds are showing tiny roots they are ready to plant. Don’t delay planting or the roots may end up distorted or forked. You needn't worry about planting them the right way up - the seeds will naturally send the roots downwards.
Do you have a seed-sowing hack? If so, don’t keep it to yourself – share it by dropping us a comment below!