Seeds can be ordered from various companies on line or bought in garden centres, but if you want to grow something different and interesting, 'Chiltern Seeds' based in England is a company I would recommend. They are set up to send seeds abroad.
Why should you choose seeds rather than buy plants in a garden centre.
- Diversity - You have a much wider selection of varieties to choose from. For example Chiltern Seeds has 20 different varieties of Basil and over 20 varieties of Sage to choose from, much more than you will ever find in a garden centre. In addition seed companies offer unusual plants that you do not find in the garden centres.
- Save money - It is much cheaper to grow your plants from seed, especially if you have a large garden.
- Satifaction - January is probably the worst month of the year weather wise, often too cold to work in the garden. It is also the month in which seed catalogues for the present year become available. Selecting the seeds you want to try this year, to see them germinate and turning into plants gives enormous satisfaction.
So what do you need:
- You'll need something to grow the seeds in, this can be a tray, an old plastic icecream container, plastic trays that contained salad leaves or fruit or just used plastic pots. Makes sure you pierce holes into the bottom for drainage.
- A container larger than your seed tray. When you want to water the seeds, you should not water them from above, but place them in a larger container that is filled with some water. Place the seed tray in the larger container to moisten the soil from the bottom. This way you do not disturb the seeds or wet them by watering from above which can cause damping off, a fungal infection encouraged by damp conditions.
- If you are using trays and pots that have been used before, wipe the pots with 10 parts of water to 1 part bleach.
- Potting compost.
- A piece of glass or plastic (can be clingfilm) to cover the tray.
How to sow:
- Empty some of the sowing compost in the middle of the tray and spread it out till your tray is filled, level it and firm it lightly so that the soil is about 1 cm below the rim.
- Sow seeds thinly in rows, 1/2 cm apart. Sowing too densely may result in thin, spindly plants and possibly damping off, a fungal infection.
- Fine seeds and those that need light to germinate do not normally need to be covered with soil. The general rule is that you sprinkle the seeds with a thin layer of fine sieved compost to the depth of 2 x the size of the seed.
- Label and date the container, place the seed tray in a tray of water to dampen the soil and to prevent the seeds from dislodging.
- Minimize evaporation by covering the container with glass, plastic or a sheet of cling film.
- Place them in a cold frame or serre or in an area of the house that received a lot of light.
- Protect the seedlings from too much sun by providing some shade with newspaper.
What to do when the first leaves appear:
Once the true leaves have emerge, it is important to prick them out and transfer the plants to another tray or pots.
When pricking them out with a dipper or pencil, hold the seedling by the leaves, never by the stem or roots.
The new pot or tray should be prepared, filled with compost, firmed up and with a receiving hole (made by the pencil) for the seedling to minimize the transfer time.
Place the tray in another tray filled with some water to dampen the soil. After a few weeks the plant will have developed into a full grown plant ready to be transferred into the soil (if frost has passed).
In the meantime trays and pots can be put outside during the day and taking inside during the night or cover them with fleece. This way they slowly toughen up.
There are a lot of seed companies to choose from, 2 that I would recommend:
Both supply free catalogues of their products.
Info: RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening + Web