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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 plants for your garden. First master the techniques by sowing annuals in spring that will reward you with flowers in summer, then use these basic skills to grow perennials, trees and shrubs. If you're new to gardening, limit yourself to growing one or two types of annuals. Sow about 20 seeds to see how you get on. You can always sow more a week or two later.

How to do it

Watering pot of compost

1Fill small pots or seed trays with seed compost. Use a watering can fitted with a fine rose to moisten compost. Leave pots to drain.

Sprinkling seed onto compost

2Sprinkle 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.

Covering pot with sheet of glass

3Cover pot with a sheet of glass or an inverted polythene bag. Place on a well-lit windowsill or in a heated propagator. Keep compost moist.

Pricking out seedlings from pot

4Remove cover as soon as seedlings emerge and grow on in a warm place indoors. They are ready to be 'pricked' out when the first 'true' leaves emerge.

Handling seedlings by seed leaf

5Only handle seedlings by their first seed leaves. Fill a seed tray with seed compost and plant seedling about 5cm apart, burying the root up to the base of the first leaves.

Potting young plants individually

6After six weeks, the young plants will be large enough to pot individually into 7.5cm pots. After three weeks, transfer on to larger pots.

Adam's 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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