The arrival of the new year brings with it the opportunity to sow some seeds indoors for the year ahead.
For some plants, including tropical crops like chillies and aubergines, an early start is the best way you’ll get them to produce a worthwhile crop.
However, early seed sowing will require some patience. Low light levels and high temperatures indoors can produce weak seedlings, prone to ‘damping off’. Prevent issues by thoroughly cleaning everything that will come into contact with seeds or seedlings. Use good peat-free seed compost – it’s worth spending a bit more for a good brand.
Don’t forget to read all of our tips for success with early sowing, at the bottom of this page.
Discover 10 seeds to sow in January, below.
Flowers June to October/November.
Sow thinly in small seed trays using seed compost + 10 per cent grit; barely bury the seeds.
Temperature 24°C (75°F); germination takes 3-12 days.
Red pelargonium flowers
Flowers May/June to August.
Sow seeds 6cm deep in ‘tubes’ or 7cm pots using seed compost + 10 per cent grit.
Temperature 12°C (55°F), unheated greenhouse or cold frame; germination 10-14 days.
Pink sweet peas
Flowers July to October/November.
Sow 1-2 seeds in cells or small pots using seed compost + 10 per cent vermiculite.
Temperature 18-21°C (65-70°F), germination takes approximately 5-20 days.
Pink, single dahlias
Flowers June and July.
Sow delphiniums thinly in trays of seed compost + 10 per cent vermiculite; barely cover with vermiculite.
Temperature Keep in fridge for three weeks, then 15-21°C (59-70°F); germination takes 7-28 days.
Tall spires of pink and blue delphinium flowers
Harvest May to October.
Sow thinly on the surface of pots or trays of seed compost; cover with vermiculite.
Temperature 15-25°C (59-77°F); germination takes 14-21 days depending on temperature.
Begonias, tuberous and bedding types
Flowers July to October/November.
Sow thinly on the surface in trays of seed compost with a thin layer of vermiculite.
Temperature 19-24°C (66-77°F); germination slow, 15-60 days, light essential.
Yellow-orange-red begonia flowers
Chillies and aubergines
Harvest July to October.
Sow 2-3 seeds thinly per small individual pot using seed compost + 10 per cent silver sand. Cover to own depth with vermiculite.
Temperature 21-27°C (70-80°F); germination 3-10 days.
Crop of red chillis
Flowers late June to September.
Sow thinly on the surface in small trays of seed compost + 10 per cent vermiculite and lightly dust with vermiculite to barely cover.
Temperature 24-27°C (75-80°F); germination 14 days, light essential.
Velvety, crimson petunias
Flowers June to October.
Sow 2-3 seeds on the surface of each small individual pot of seed compost + 20 per cent fine grit.
Temperature 12°C (55°F) in a cold frame; germination takes 14-21 days.
Pale-lemon Iceland poppies
Foliage display June onwards.
Sow thinly in pots or a tray using seed compost + 10 per cent vermiculite, covering to its own depth.
Temperature 19-24°C (65-75°F); germination 10-20 days depending on temperature.
Striking deep-pink, pale-yellow and green foliage of coleus
Early sowing dos and don’ts
- Do clean everything that will come into contact with seeds or seedlings, including pots, dibbers and drip trays
- Do use new compost. It needs to drain freely yet hold just enough moisture – peat-free seed compost is ideal
- Do reserve a bright, warm windowsill for sowing, where the temperature stays fairly steady
- Do sow seeds even more thinly than usual, so that seedlings will have space to grow – overcrowding will encourage damping off
- Do give germinating seeds plenty of air by opening ventilators even if it seems a waste of heat
- Do wipe away condensation in propagators once or twice daily
- Do check seeds and seedlings daily, so that you can take remedial action before problems develop
- Don’t use too much heat – results are a bit slower but there’s less risk of legginess and more damping off