Of all the ways to propagate plants, growing from seed isthe cheapest way to generate new plants. Packets of seeds cost much less than young plants and many seedlings can be grown from just one packet. Also if kept in the rightconditions, surplus seeds can be stored and used again thefollowing year. The only drawback in growing from seed isthat it can be a slow process for larger plants like shrubs or trees. But on the whole it is an economical and quick way to grow annual and biennial flowering plants and herbaceous perennials. Here is a quick guide on how to grow plants successfully from seed.
Unsurprisingly, spring is the time to sow seeds. However, if you have bought packet seed, it should tell you on the back of the packet the best time to sow. But as a general rule those plants that are tender and need to be started indoors are normally sown in February or March; hardy annuals are sown in March or April directly into the soil;and herbaceous plants are normally sown indoors in about March, or outside later in spring.
Which container you use will depend on the size of the seed. Usually, if the seed is small sow indoors thinly intotrays. Larger seeds can be sown individually in pots. Make sure your seed tray is clean and fill it with seed or multi- purpose compost. If you are sowing directly into the ground, make a seed bed by breaking up the soil finely before scattering the seed. With either method, sow the seed thinly on the surface and cover with a thin layer of compost. If the seed is very small you might find it easierto mix it with sand before you sprinkle it. Water the seed thoroughly.
Different seeds need different conditions to germinate.Some like petunias and snapdragons need maximum light, so place them on a bright window sill. Some like pansies or verbena prefer dark, so cover the pot with board or black plastic. Others need warmth and will need to be placed in a plastic propagator or plastic bag tied aroundthe pot. You can now leave your seeds to germinate. Some take only a few days, other may take weeks.
As soon as shoots begin to appear remove any covering and bring the seedlings into the light, but avoid direct sunlight. The seedlings will initially produce a pair of leaves which dont look like the plants normal leaves. Wait until a second pair of real leaves has developedbefore you prick out the seedlings into individual garden planters and give them their own space to grow.
Never pick up a seedling by its stem as it is easilydamaged. Instead, loosen the soil around the base of the root and lift the seedling by a leaf when you want to transplant it. Make sure you water your seedlingsregularly but avoid over-watering. Once the weather has warmed sufficiently you can harden-off your seedlingsready to plant outside by placing them in a cold frame or outside during warmer weather, bringing them inside again at night.