Sowing small seeds

Find out how to sow small seeds, in this No Fuss Guide with David Hurrion.

Discover how to get the best results from sowing small seed such as aquilegias, in our No Fuss Guide to sowing small seed, with David Hurrion, BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine.

Sowing small seeds: transcript

When it comes to small seeds, you want to surface sow them. If you bury those seeds too deeply, you’ll find that they will never, ever germinate. So, for things like aquilegias, I like to fill a seed tray that’s already got these individual cellular trays within it and fill it with compost, lightly tap it, strike it off make sure it’s nice and level. And then sow the seeds on the surface and then barely cover them, so that they get the maximum amount of light which will help quick germination.

So, open the seed packet. And this seed is very, very fine. It’s almost like ground black pepper. Empty all the seeds out into your hand. They’re very tiny, so it’s really difficult to see them. Make sure that you’ve filled every one of these little cells with some seed, just sprinkling it over the surface. And the trouble is, that if we left those
completely uncovered, then when we came to water them, we’d probably wash the seed out of the surface.

So, what I like to do is either cover them with a layer of vermiculite or very fine grit – horticultural grit. So, just sprinkle this loosely over the surface with a very, very gentle layer – a very, very fine layer – just covering the seeds, holding them in position; so that when we come to water them, they won’t disappear. And when
you water these, make sure that you use a fine mist – one of those mist sprayers, just to moisten the compost (rather than using) as even the rose on a watering can will wash the seeds out of position. So you need to be very, very careful with these, as I say, not to wash them out of their position.

So there we are – covered and ready to go. Put these into a warm, sunny spot, covered with a propagator lid if you’ve got one, to keep the humidity up around them. Put them on a warm windowsill or even, in the summer, out in the open garden, and you’ll find that they will germinate very readily. Make sure that the compost doesn’t dry out and you’ll get 100 percent germination.