Tips for Sowing Seeds

There are four essentials for the successful germination of seeds of all types — darkness, moisture, warmth and air. The depth of sowing is governed by the size of the seed, and, as a general rule, seeds should be covered by a layer of soil that is equal to their own depth. There are some seeds, however, that should be sown deeper because they have a tendency to push up to the surface as they germinate. The broad bean and the runner bean, for example, should be sown 3 in. deep, and the garden or culinary peas should be sown l to 2 in. deep. Most small seeds need only a little covering of fine soil, while those of a dust-like nature should be sown on a smooth, prepared surface that is thoroughly damp in pans or pots in a greenhouse or frame.

Outdoor sowing should be in properly prepared soil or seed beds. It is useless to sow seeds in loose, freshly dug soil. Always firm the surface by treading or rolling, then rake it evenly to remove stones and create a fine tilth or surface covering of crumbs. On heavy soils of a clay-like nature, add sand, ashes or other gritty material to the surface to make it friable.

The actual times for sowing vary according to district, season and soil conditions, and no hard and fast rules can be laid down, but do not sow until the weather is right and the air temperature high enough to have warmed up the soil.

Once the seed bed has been prepared, the seed drills should be drawn. Using a measuring rod graduated in feet and inches, measure off the prescribed distances between the rows on both sides of the plot, and place small sticks to mark the ends of the rows. Then stretch a good strong garden line (a plastic clothes line is ideal) across the plot from stick to stick, and draw out the seed drill on one side of it to the correct depth.

For shallow drills, use a piece of wood, such as a 12-in. wooden label. The pointed end will make an ideal drill for smaller seeds such as cabbage and lettuce. For larger seeds a small draw hoe or a triangular ‘seed hoe’ can be used. Flat-bottomed drills should be drawn, particularly for the larger seeds, because they allow an even distribution. If the drills are V-shaped the seeds will run together at the base of the drill.

Watering is usually unnecessary out-of-doors except during prolonged dry periods. If the ground is very dry, water it well a day or so before the seeds are sown, or water along each drill a short time before scattering the seeds. The latter method is very helpful, especially for seeds that may take some time to germinate. Watering with hot water prior to sowing is often considered a definite aid to germination. Drills which are to be sown with parsley are treated in this way because parsley seed can take as long as six to eight weeks to germinate.

Moisture is essential for germination, but the ultimate success of a crop depends on the thin sowing of the seeds. Thick sowing results in enfeebled seedlings through overcrowding and lack of light; and much time and patience will be required to thin out the overcrowded seedlings in order to leave some at the required growing distance. There are usually far more seeds in a packet than are required, and it is a great mistake to sow them thickly in order to use the whole packet. Successional sowings are an advantage with short-duration crops. After sowing, cover in the seeds by using the back of a rake, then gently firm along the lines of the drills and rake over the surface to make it even. Always rake in the same direction as the drills, and not across them, so that the seed is not displaced and pushed out of line. Label each kind distinctly and give the date of sowing and any other particulars that may be helpful.


Seeds can be sown by broadcasting or scattering them over a prepared patch of soil, where informal groups of flowering plants such as annuals are grown in a border, or where crops of such vegetables as carrots, lettuces, and radishes are grown in frames. This method is particularly easy and, provided the seeds are sown thinly and the plants are later thinned out, gives good results. The final result is very natural and pleasing where flowering plants are concerned.


There are various methods of seed sowing that apply to plants raised in greenhouses or frames, but the necessary requirements for germination — darkness, moisture, warmth and air are the same as for sowing out-of-doors.

Sowing in a greenhouse or frame is done under controlled conditions so that the question of climatic interference does not arise. Very high temperatures are not essential, nor are they conducive to the best results. Generally speaking, the seeds for many greenhouse plants and also for half-hardy annuals need a temperature of only 55 to 60° F. (13 to 16° C.).

11. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Gardening History, Plant Biology, Top Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tips for Sowing Seeds


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