A guide to sowing seeds

Growing from seed is both the cheapest and most rewarding way to grow your own – all it takes is a little patience. And, with prices constantly on the rise, there’s no better time to give it a grow!

Whether sowing into seed trays and propagators, or directly into the ground, have a go yourself this year and see what you can achieve – you might surprise yourself!

Here are 8 basic steps to sowing seeds!

1. Choose a container

You can sow seeds in a seed tray bought in store or alternatively, you can make do with a biscuit tin, an old flower pot, empty food container or something similar. Just be sure they have adequate drainage holes!

2. Fill with quality compost

Sow seeds in sterile, seed-starting mix or potting compost – we’d recommend John Innes Seed Sowing Compost. It’s important to keep soil consistently moist but avoid overwatering. An easy way to avoid overwatering is to bottom water your seedlings by dipping the base of your containers in water and allowing the soil to absorb exactly what it needs.

3. Sprinkle your seeds

Sprinkle small seeds over the compost from the palm of your hand using your finger but be careful not to cover small seeds with soil, as it can smother them. Larger seeds can be placed one by one into the compost. Precise tips for planting can be found on the seed packet! 

4. Cover your pots

Cover your pots with a clear polythene bag or plastic wrap to help maintain an even temperature for germination and then place your pots on a well-lit windowsill or in a heated propagator.

5. Give your seeds lots of light

Seedlings need a lot of light. If you’re growing on a window, choose a south-facing window and be sure to rotate the pots regularly to keep plants from getting too leggy.

6. Feed your seeds

Start feeding your seedlings after they develop their second set of true leaves, applying a half-strength liquid fertilizer weekly.

7. Transfer your seedlings

Once seedlings have grown a few pairs of “true leaves” and are big enough to handle without damage, they can be transferred into individual pots or trays.

8. Harden off and plant out

Once your plants have reached the stage where their roots are starting to emerge from the bottom of the pot, they can be planted out to their final location. Make sure the risk of frost has passed before risking putting your seedlings outdoors.

OUR TEAM’S FAvourite Seeds

Have a go yourself at growing your own by sowing a few of our favourites this year!

Fruit & Veg

Mr. Fothergills Courgette Zucchini

Country Value Pepper Mixed Chilli

RHS Carrot Maestro F1

Unwins Lettuce Butterhead

Herbs & Salad

Unwins Sweet Basil

Mr. Fothergills Coriander

Thompson & Morgan Parsley

Unwins Rocket


Mr. Fothergills Antirrihum

Thompson & Morgan Marigold Colossus

Unwins Sweet Pea Berry Kiss

Mr. Fothergills Dwarf Dahlia


*Subject to availability

Our most frequently asked questions about seed sowing

Can I sow seeds straight into the ground?

Any fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers can be grown from seed sown outdoors as long as the soil is warm and moist explains Phil, our garden sundries buyer. However, starting your seeds off indoors allows tender plants to be started off earlier in the season. When they have grown into young plants, they can be planted outside in the garden or vegetable plot once the weather is warm enough.

Do I need to use seed sowing compost?

Seedlings are tiny and delicate and therefore need a light compost so they can push through as they emerge from their seed says Steve, our plant buyer. Stay away from anything too heavy as this will smother the seedlings before they’ve had chance to surface resulting in poor germination rates and unhealthy plants.

Westland John Innes Seed Sowing Compost is perfect for bringing seeds to life and specially developed to help all seeds germinate successfully.

Do I need a greenhouse to grow my seeds?

Not necessarily! You can place your pots on a well-lit windowsill or in a heated propagator, just be sure to choose a south-facing window and rotate the pots regularly to keep plants from leaning into the light!

How often do I water my seeds?

Seeds normally need to be watered at least once per day to keep the soil moist. In especially warm climates, or depending on the position in your home or garden, you may need to water more than once per day.

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