Nothing beats the satisfaction of sitting down to a delicious meal prepared from ingredients you’ve grown from seed. But planting seeds is no guarantee of a healthy harvest – there are many pitfalls along the road from germination to gustation. To help make sure you get the bumper crops you deserve, we’ve found some of the best articles, videos and Instagram posts for expert advice on how to sow and grow your own vegetable seeds.
Best reasons to grow vegetables from seed
While supermarkets do offer a good range of fresh produce, if it’s taste and variety you’re looking for, growing from seed is where you’ll discover the true wonder of veg. Craig, @craig_grows_veg, says: “One of the best things about growing your own has got to be the seemingly infinite variety of produce available from seeds.” Just look at his incredible carrots! You couldn’t get these colourful beauties from any regular store!
Anyone raising a family knows the importance of household budgeting, and growing from seed really is an excellent way to save on food bills. To help get you started, Eli at the popular gardening YouTube channel, The Kitchen Garden with Eli and Kate, explains how she goes about planning out her veg garden. This video is a great introduction to succession planting – planting little and often to ensure regular, manageable harvests all summer long.
As well as planning your sowing, you need a system for keeping your seeds organised. Over at Grow with Hema, this edible garden enthusiast and influencer gives you the full run-down on her own seed-organisation system. Out of date seeds? Hema says the best thing to do is to sow them on the windowsill: “Vegetable seeds like radish, beetroot, lettuce and kale can give you the most delicious and nutritious little seedlings [to snip into] salads and soups.”
If you’re new to veg growing, you might imagine that sowing seeds is something you do in the springtime. In fact, sowing goes on right through the year from January to December. Surprised? Check out our monthly sowing schedules here on the Suttons website for some surprising sowings – like aubergines – which you should start off in February.
Best advice on germinating vegetable seeds
“It’s easy to be put off by the detail (or sometimes lack of detail) on a seed packet,” says Katharine Woods at The Teabreak Gardener but, “read this and you’ll begin to understand what your plant needs. You can then think about how you can provide this in the context of your own home. Not everyone has a greenhouse, or propagator, but given a bit of thought anyone can grow all but the tricksiest of seeds.” To decode the information on your seed packets, this is the place to start.
Getting your seeds to germinate begins with clean pots and trays, says Lee Burkhill, aka Garden Ninja: “If you wouldn’t eat off it then give it a clean is a good rule of thumb!” Once that’s done Lee says: “As much as it is possible to grow seedlings in that 3-year-old half-empty dried out bag of compost behind your shed, I would urge you to think twice. If you’re taking the time to sow, nurture and then pot on your seeds, the right seed mix is the essential first step.”
To give them the greatest chance of success, many seeds are best sown in multiples rather than individually, says no-dig gardening supremo, Charles Dowding: “I observe how plants like being with their friends in clumps.” Do head over to this excellent article for information on how many seeds to clump-sow for each of the listed veg.
Best advice on direct sowing vegetable seeds
If you like to plant the sort of seeds you can sow directly into their final positions without the need for seed trays and propagators, go for broad beans, says Emma Bailey @emmasallotmentdiaries. “When in doubt, plant broad beans because they will pop up out of the soil and fill a bed with beautiful green plants in no time.”
Another direct sower, Shaz @grow.to.eat, sows seeds directly into her polytunnel where she wants her crops to grow. She says, “spinach, rocket, radish, spring onion, turnip and tatsoi have been scatter sown in blocks,” proving that not all crops prefer to be planted in uniform rows.
When plant spacing is important, there’s a great trick to ensure you sow your seeds the correct distance apart. Over at the Grow Veg YouTube channel, Ben Vanheems explains what you need to do – you’ll need toilet paper, flour and water, plus an artist’s brush. Intrigued? Do watch the video to find out more about this and other brilliant hacks for seed sowing success.
As the soil warms during the late spring and early summer, the variety of seeds you can sow directly into the ground increases. Over at the popular gardening blog, Growing Family, blogger Catherine provides a long list of the veg you can direct sow during June. One of her favourites is salad leaves which she enjoys because it’s so quick. “Some varieties can be ready for harvesting in as little as two to three weeks.”
Best advice on growing on and planting out veg seedlings
If you’ve started your seeds off indoors, once they germinate you’ll need to prick out the seedlings and transplant them into larger pots, or move them to their final growing positions. Over at YouTube channel, Sow Much More, host Becky Searle demonstrates how to prick out seedlings, a task which she says can be a really lovely and mindful thing to do, provided you know how. Have a watch of her video before you get stuck in.
When it comes to planting your lovingly nurtured seedlings and young plants into the garden, timing is everything. To help you get this right, Matt Peskett at Grow Like Grandad offers you an array of great tips on timing your planting out to perfection. If a cold spring has you champing at the bit, he says, “you will have to wait for soil temperatures to reach near optimal levels before sowing.”
If we have a cold, wet spring, Alan Down from Down to Earth explains that you don’t necessarily have to delay your sowings. One way to beat the weather is to transplant your seedlings into modules to continue growing. He explains how to grow your crops on in this way, giving useful advice about which modules work best for which vegetables, and how ingenious root trainer cells work. This post is well worth a read.
Just in case, despite your best efforts, some of your veg seed sowings fail, you should always grow backups, says Steph @stephs_allotment who found herself with unexpected extra space after lifting her garlic. “It’s good to have crops ready to replace others after harvesting or loss due to bolting, pests etc. As it turned out I had sown way more dfb [dwarf French beans] than I initially had space for so this worked out perfectly.”
Best vegetables to grow from seed
If you’re looking for great ideas for easy vegetables to grow from seed, Ann Marie Hendry from Grow Veg shares some easy options to get you started. She gives top billing to lettuces, radishes, and beetroot, particularly if you’ve left it a bit late and the soil is already nice and warm. She says, “cut-and-come-again (or leaf) lettuces are easiest, and you can enjoy several harvests from the same plant by just snipping off what you need each time.”
Over at the highly rated gardening blog, Lovely Greens, Tanya Anderson reveals her top picks. She recommends radishes which germinate easily and quickly grow to produce a peppery crunchy harvest. Then there’s the first early potatoes, lettuce, garlic, peas and more. Our favourite from her list is pumpkins which, aside from needing regular watering plus a fortnightly feed in summer, are easy to grow and great fun for kids.
Runner beans, spring onions, lettuce and Chinese cabbage feature among Instagrammer Shaz’s easy Easter plantings. A wise gardener, she cautions against sowing and planting out too early before all risk of frost has passed. Find out what else she’s been sowing in her potting shed by checking out her Insta @grow.to.eat.
If you have access to a greenhouse, you can keep sowing seed all through winter – Hema at Grow With Hema certainly does. If that sounds like something you’d like to try, head over to her blog and take a look at what she’s been planting. Think lots of different greens including chard, kale, and pak choi – a great way to enjoy healthy microgreens over winter or raise early crops for next spring.
Sowing vegetables from seed really is a great way to achieve steady harvests of wonderful fresh produce almost all year round. We hope that, armed with this wealth of helpful advice from our favourite online experts, you’ll be ready to start your own veg patch this season. If you’re up for trying something different, take a look at our new vegetable seeds here.
Lead image: Dwarf French Bean Seeds ‘Colour Mix’ from Suttons