Hoping to take the next step on your gardening journey this spring, but not sure where to start? Here’s how to sow, nurture and grow your own plants from seeds, no matter how much experience or space you’ve got.
While the weather outside may not be strappy dress-appropriate just yet, the temperature is definitely starting to warm up as we head through the early stages of spring – a shift that might have left you dreaming about bringing more life into your space.
It’s also incredibly satisfying to see something so small grow into a fully-fledged plant as a result of your hard work – and the process can be pretty relaxing, too.
Of course, the process may not always go to plan. But it’s actually a lot easier than expected – especially if you do your research.
So, to help you get started, we put some of the most commonly asked questions about growing plants from seeds to Alice Vincent, gardener, journalist and author of the audiobook Seeds From Scratch.
From finding the right spot to help your seedlings thrive to picking the right pots and equipment, here’s what she had to say.
What tools do you need to grow plants from seeds?
“You don’t really need any tools if you’re just sowing right at the beginning, because even when it comes to needing to pot them and put them into their right places, you can make do with a spoon if you don’t have a trowel,” Vincent explains.
“What you do need is something to sow into. You can make a lot of this from home – you can use things like yogurt pots, egg boxes and those trays that you get tomatoes and mushrooms in – you can use all of that. As long as it’s got a hole in the bottom, that’s the most important thing. But if you’re using a yogurt pot or whatever, you can just poke a hole in the bottom – I heat a fork up on the stove and shove it through.
“That’s all you need – something to sow the seeds in and then some soil as well.”
Which are the best plants to grow indoors?
If you’re short on outdoor space and want to give indoor growing a go, Vincent recommends looking for the sunniest spot in your home.
“There are definitely some varieties of plant you can grow on a windowsill – the crucial thing is how sunny your windowsill is,” she says. “If you’ve only got indoor space, use the sunniest window sill you’ve got, because newly-sowed plants need warmth and they like heat and light.”
Herbs such as basil, chives, rosemary, oregano and parsley will all thrive indoors as long as they’ve got plenty of light and water.
However, Vincent says, if you’ve got outdoor space, it’s probably better to grow your seedlings outside, “especially at a time of year when we can put them outside without any risk of frost.”
How much space do you need to grow plants from seeds?
“I live in a very small one-bedroom flat – my balcony is tiny – so I literally have like a little folding table, it’s probably less than a metre square,” Vincent says.
“It depends on how many you’re sowing – it’s how many seed trays you can fit into your spot, so anything from the size of a laptop to as much room as you’ve got is great really.”
Where can you buy seeds?
“It really depends how organic you want to be – if you want to be super supportive and eco-friendly, look for somewhere like Real Seeds. They’re a great company that sells online and they’ve got loads of varieties.
“But otherwise, if you’ve only got access to supermarkets or your local plant nursery, then the ones that you pick up there will be totally fine as well.”
What are the benefits of growing plants from seeds?
Besides the fact that growing our own plants from seeds feels pretty damn great, are there any other reasons why growing from seed is a good idea?
“You get far more choice on variety,” Vincent says. “Especially at the moment when at the garden centres you’ve got to queue to get in to them and they’ve only got so much stock, you can grow far greater varieties from seed.
“Growing something from seed is also a really good way of learning the fundamentals of gardening, so if you would like to learn more about plants and want to start a gardening adventure, the act of raising a plant from seed will give you the confidence to tackle other things in the garden.
“It teaches you lots about watering properly and light and growth – and those sort of things are crucial to mastering the rest of gardening.”
What are three important things we should keep in mind?
- “Light is really important. Seeds will grow towards the light, so if you have seeds that are very bendy, turn them around. Unless you want them to be wonky, you’ll need to keep turning them.”
- “Never let your seedling compost dry out – they really need moisture otherwise they just won’t do anything. So water them every day.”
- “If it all goes horribly wrong, don’t worry. It’s only a packet of seeds – you can try again.”
Seeds From Scratch: A Step-By-Step Audio Guide To Gardening In Lockdown is available to buy now.
This article was originally published on 26 May 2020 and has since been updated throughout.