Sowing seeds is rewarding and the most economical way to enjoy a supply of veg and flowers for many months of the year.
Different seeds need sowing at different times of year, either inside or outside, and some can be sowed successionally over several months to avoid gluts and ensure continuous harvests.
Read our guide to sowing seeds.
Give your seeds the right amount of heat, light and moisture, and they will germinate successfully. But there are some important rules to remember, including include good hygiene, using fresh seed and compost and good soil preparation. Read our nine tips for seed sowing success.
Starting seeds off early, encouraging cuttings to root or raising tender plants? A heated propagator or heat mat will help create the best conditions and encourage them to thrive. Here are some useful suggestions:
- Buy Garland Super7 Electric Heated Propagator on Amazon
- Buy Garland One Top Electric Propagator on Robert Dyas
- Buy Garland Big 3 Electric Propagator on Amazon
- Buy ROOT!IT Heat Mats on Suttons
Here’s our month-by-month guide to sowing seeds.
January is a good time to order seeds for the year ahead. If your green fingers are itching, a cold frame, polytunnel, greenhouse or a heated propagator, will allow you to start sowing tender crops, such as chillies, that need a long growing season. Garlic can be sown outside too, and you can also sow sweet peas, plus microgreens on a windowsill. Discover 10 microgreens to grow.
Veg: Microgreens, chillies, aubergines and peppers plus tomatoes under cover; garlic outside
Flowers: Sweet peas, under cover
You can begin or continue to sow tender crops such as tomatoes, chillies, aubergines and peppers, plus some hardy crops and hardy annuals such as sweet peas. You could also get a head start on peas, sown under cover in guttering. If you’re super keen you could have a go at sowing perennials. A heated propagator is ideal if you have one, though a warm, bright windowsill is fine, too. You can also sow garlic.
Flowers: sweet peas and perennials
As the days lengthen and become warmer, you can begin sowing hardy annual flowers and crops outside. If the weather is still cold, warm the soil with polythene before sowing and protect seedlings with cloches or horticultural fleece. You can also start sowing half-hardy annuals and continue to sow tomatoes, chillies and aubergines under glass. Towards the end of the month you can plant out first early seed potatoes.
Veg: Aubergines, chillies and tomatoes (under cover), broad beans, peas, beetroot, Swiss chard, radish, kale, spinach, spring onions, first early potatoes (outdoors), plus shallot and onion sets and salad leaves (protect under fleece or a cloche)
Flowers: Cosmos, nicotiana, cleome, nasturtium, cornflowers, marigold (Calendula), clarkia, cerinthe, morning glory and more
Seed sowing begins in earnest in April, now that the days are longer and warmer, and many crops can be sown outside. Find out how to sow seeds outdoors. More tender crops such as runner beans or courgettes still need to be sown under glass, either in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill. You can also plant out second early potatoes in early to mid-April and maincrop seed potatoes in mid to late-April, onion and shallot sets and garlic and Jerusalem artichokes.
Veg: including aubergines, chillies and tomatoes, plus courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, marrows and leeks under cover. Beetroot, carrot, celeriac, peas, radish, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, broad beans, spring onions, second early and maincrop seed potatoes.
Flowers: Nicotiana, cosmos, morning glory and many more
With the risk of frost gone, most seeds can now be directly sown outdoors, including more tender crops such as runner beans and courgettes towards the end of the month. You can also sow half hardy annuals, including sunflowers, plus make a start on sowing biennials for blooms next year.
Veg: Beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peas, radish, carrots, spring onions outside; sweetcorn, cucumber, runner beans and courgettes (under cover at the beginning of the month, outside toward the end of the month) courgettes, squashes and pumpkins, under cover
Keep sowing quick growing crops such as beetroot, radishes and lettuce successionally, every week or so, for crops in a few weeks’ time. You can also sow carrots but be sure to protect sowings from carrot fly, using insect-proof mesh. Continue sowing biennials, and try sowing half-hardy annuals direct outside. You can also sow runner and French beans and courgettes direct outside for later crops.
Veg: lettuce and radish every week or so, beetroot, peas, runner and French beans, spring onions, courgettes, lettuce, carrots, purple sprouting broccoli
Flowers: Zinnias, foxgloves, wallflowers, cosmos, sweet rocket and more
This is your last chance to sow biennials. It’s also time to make a start on sowing winter veg. It’s a good time to sow carrots to avoid carrot fly, as well as continuing with radishes, beetroot and lettuce. You can also sow runner or French beans for a late crop. If you fancy growing potatoes for Christmas, now is the time to plant some.
Veg: Runner beans, Swiss chard (for crops the following spring), kale, winter cabbage, spinach, spring onions, potatoes for Christmas, radishes, beetroot, lettuce, radish
Flowers: Foxgloves, wallflowers, sweet rocket
You can still sow lots of crops in August, for harvests into autumn and beyond, and it’s a key month for sowing winter crops. Discover some winter veg crops to sow in August. Continue to sow fast-growing crops such as radish, between slower-growing crops.
Veg: Lettuce (keep out of the glare of direct sun), rocket, spring onion, radish, plus winter salads, including mibuna, mizuna, mustard leaf and lamb’s lettuce.
Now is the time to start sowing hardy annuals for early summer flowers next year. Some, such as Ammi majus, do better from an autumn sowing. You can sow leafy veg such as spinach, plus winter salads and quick-growing crops such as radish.
Veg: Spinach, winter salads, radish
Flowers: Ammi majus and other hardy annuals
You can sow peas (protect from mice) and garlic outdoors. It’s also a great time to start sowing sweet peas for early flowers next summer. Still time to sow winter salads such as Japanese and Chinese salad leaves, corn salad, mustard and more.
Veg: Winter salads, peas, garlic
Flowers: Sweet peas
You can sow broad beans now for an early crop next year – watch Monty’s video guide to sowing broad beans in autumn. Garlic, onions and shallots can also be sown at this time of year. You can also sow sweet peas for early flowers next summer.
Veg: Garlic, onions, shallots, broad beans
Flowers: Sweet peas
Seed sowing in unlikely to be on your mind at this time of year, but garlic is traditionally sown on the shortest day of the year. Microgreens can be sown and grown year round for an intense pop of flavour. You can also sow sweet peas.
Veg: Garlic, microgreens
Flowers: Sweet peas
Where to buy vegetable seeds
Inspired to grow your own? Buy a range of seeds from the following online suppliers:
- Crocus – Offering a wide range of vegetables, including Italian varieties from Franchi seeds.
- Thompson & Morgan – Hundreds of varieties are available, including organic seeds, Nurseryman’s choice and F1 Hybrids.
- Suttons – Plenty of choice, including new varieties like Beefsteak tomato ‘Burlesque F1’ and ‘Black Knight’ runner bean, plus a new allotment favourites collection.
- Dobies – An great range that includes helpful collections, such as organic, blight and disease resistant, heritage and varieties for small gardens.
Where to buy flower seeds
Grow the flowers we’ve mentioned in this article, from the following online suppliers:
- Crocus – Search for seed by type, colour, aspect to help you find the right varieties for your garden.
- Thompson & Morgan – Browse annuals, perennials and other flower seeds.
- Suttons – From popular favourites to native wild flowers, there’s plenty to inspire in this seed collection.
- Dobies – Over 170 varieties to choose from to add colour and scent to your garden.
Invest in the right kit
It pays to invest in a few essential items to make seed sowing easier. Watch Alan Titchmarsh’s No Fuss Guide to the essential kit for seed sowing.