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How to sow seeds indoors

You will need

  • Seeds
  • Seed compost
  • Seed trays or pots
  • Plant labels
  • Pencil or waterproof pen
  • Watering can with rose attachment
  • Polythene bag
  • Sheet of glass or a propagator
Do it: January - April
Takes just: 30 minutes to sow and 30 minutes to pot on


Growing from seed is a simple and economical way of raising new ornamental and edible plants for your garden. Sowing indoors allows you to raise plants from seed in early spring - much earlier than if sowing direct outside. This method also enables you to have plants ready to fill empty spaces as they arise. When growing salad crops, it's a good idea to sow seed successionally every two weeks, to ensure you have a long season of fresh leaves to eat throughout summer.

How to do it


Fill small pots or seed trays with seed compost. Use a watering can fitted with a fine rose to moisten compost. Leave pots to drain.


Sprinkle seeds evenly and thinly over the surface of the compost, leaving approx 2cm - 3cm between each one. Cover seeds with a thin layer of compost.


Cover pot with a clear polythene bag or piece of glass, to preserve compost moisture. Place the pot on a well-lit windowsill or in a heated propagator. 


Remove cover as soon as seedlings emerge and grow on in a warm place indoors. They will ready to be 'pricked' out when the second pair of leaves, known as 'true' leaves, emerge.


When pricking out seedlings, handle them only by their leaves, not the stem. Fill a seed tray with seed compost and plant seedlings about 5cm apart, burying the root up to the base of the first leaves.


After a couple of weeks, the young plants will be large enough to pot individually into 7.5cm pots, or planted outside in well-prepared soil. Handle plants gently, firm compost around them and water well. Don't allow the soil or compost to dry out.

Our tip

Don't sow seeds too close together as they can be more prone to dying or 'damping off'.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to sow seeds indoors
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dereck 24/11/2011 at 15:27

Thanks for the info, it is a great help.

What of the beans in the loo rolls, you never went any further. Why loo rolls? Do they get planted out in the loo rolls or must the young plant be removed from the loo rolls first>?

anthonyhazell 24/11/2011 at 15:27

Hi Anneho
When my seeds have germinated in the propagator, I then remove the covering from the seed tray for about a week, then remove them to the greenhouse bench (after turning up the heat in the greenhouse to approx 50F).
Suppose a windowsill indoors will do the same job.
This seems to have worked a treat in previous years.

joannep 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I have an unheated propagator which I keep in the Greenhouse, when seeds have germinated I just put them on the staging until they are big enough to either pot on or put out. This is my first time growing from seed, but this method seems to work for me.

alisonmacaulay 24/11/2011 at 15:27

Good tip about the copper tape! How do you stop the compost from escaping from the bottom of the loo rolls when watering?

foxgloves 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I grew my sweet peas in empty toilet roll tubes for the first time this year & I wondered the same myself, but once stood on it's end watering is easy and no compost escapes from the bottom. I presume that when ready for planting there will be enough roots to hold the compost together and avoid the whole thing dropping out of the end. I am going to do sow my beans the same way this weekend.

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