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How to Sow Seeds - Surface Sowing for Success.

Get this part of the procedure of growing seeds and you are more likely to succeed than fail. It is in the actual sowing of the seeds that most attempts at seed growing falter or even fail altogether. There is no one method of growing all seeds, for all seeds are different. However there are enough similarities with several groupings to be able to adopt a standard procedure for most seed – with variations. Surface sowing seeds.

Seed packets give a wealth of information, but there is nothing that will compensate for care and experience. Many follow what is written on the seed packets yet still fail. As with many things gardening, it is not what is written, but what is not written that leads to success or failure.

Surface sowing of seeds works for most seeds most of the time – providing that ideal environmental conditions are provided. All seeds are sown on the surface of course, then covered with compost or soil - whatever. It is actually the timing of the soil covering that is important. I have grown hundreds of thousands of seedlings commercially – and in the home situation – with a single well tried and successful method. Follow it; adapt it; and you should be will on the way to successful seed growing.

Dandelion seed headThis is not an advertisement, simply an explanation of a simple, successful method of sowing seeds that will eventually grow into plants. It will need to be adapted for some seeds, but is a good starting point.  

All I did to find this basic method was to study what actually happens when a plant decides to ‘sow seeds’. The normal method is for the seed pod to ripen, split open and seeds either fall on the ground or are transported by wind, sea or animals and then deposited on the ground. Quite a simple act in itself – varied to suit all manner of soil types and surfaces – of scattering seed on the ground. seeds are sown on the surface!

The dandelion is a typical example of this very simple method.

 It is not a foolproof way of doing things, so the plants provide many seeds in the hope that some will succeed. Many fail because of the immediate environment in which the seeds are dropped. Control that environment, and you increase the chances of success enormously. That is what we can do! We can control the immediate environment to make that difference between failure and success! 

Surface Sowing of Seeds – My Way!

Most Bedding Plant seeds are sown on the surface of soil or compost, then given a covering of soil and left to their own devices.

The method I prefer, which has never failed me or the many growers I have explained it to, simply allows for the seed to be sown and NOT covered, and allowed to ‘chit’ before covering with a layer of horticultural Vermiculite.

We are essentially talking about sowing seeds in a controlled environment for this article. Sowing seeds outdoors is another matter. This method of ‘surface’ sowing’ is suitable for a wide range of annual bedding plants such as Antirrhinums, Petunias, Pansies, Begonias and many more.

The ‘essential’ for this method, is to ensure that the seed compost and the seeds of course, are always kept in an enclosed environment. This is easily accomplished by covering the seed tray with a sheet of glass; in a propagator, the lid needs to e kept on until later in the process; in a pot, either with a sheet of glass, or the whole thing enclosed in a clear plastic bag.

This covering is vital otherwise the seeds would not have the controlled environment necessary for germination. A single sheet of newspaper is laid on top of the glass or propagator lid. With the smaller container – pot – keep out of direct sunshine, but still with full light.

Chitting of surface sown seeds

The seeds will swell and start their germination process, by sending out the first small root – the radical. After a couple of days, the germinated seed can be covered with a dusting of Vermiculite, or compost. (I prefer vermiculite, for it holds moisture well – especially where it is needed – to the small seedling underneath – and it is inert so little possibility of soil-borne fungal diseases.) Water the covering down to settle it over the small chitted seeds. Leave the glass cover on for a few days, then gradually remove as the leaves of the seedlings start to emerge.

With smaller seeds such as Primulas and Pansies etc, the covering can be spread over a few days or so – firmly anchoring the seedling down to the compost.

Once this process has finished, and the seeds are covered and sprouting, then treat as normal seedlings, eventually pricking out and growing on into young plants.

I have found this method more or less foolproof with seeds up to the size of sweet peas. Larger seeds, or the elongated seeds of the cucumber family etc, are best covered with compost in the normal way. 


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