The Potty Potter: Top Tips for Sowing Seeds in Spring

This is the perfect time to start sowing seeds at home. Higher light levels and warmer weather offer the best conditions for your seedlings to grow nicely.  Follow the tips of Inspired Villages’ Head of Horticulture, Pilar Dell, to get the best results at home. You won’t need much to be successful.

I find seed sowing one of the most satisfying things in horticulture. Propagation is exciting and fascinating.  Spotting the cotyledons (this is the term for the first two embryonic leaves that come through the soil from a germinated seed) appearing as if by magic one morning when you’ve been monitoring over them every day, well, that’s the most exciting thing in the world.  Checking every hour to see if anything has germinated is a bit extreme I know, but I can’t help it!

Growing seeds


I grow seeds on my kitchen windowsill, you don’t need much space to grow. The ones on the right germinated too soon and they’ve got leggy. It’s really time to prick them out now.

There are many different ways to sow seeds and it will all depend on the materials you have available or which plants you want to grow; the requirements will be different depending on the plant. Sweet peas will need a deeper container than poppies for example.

Sweet pea seeds

Sweet peas will need to be soaked overnight and a deeper container is more suitable. You can still sow them now.

The five best methods for sowing seeds:

•   Direct sow straight into the ground – this suits plants that will germinate fast once the soil is warm. Usually hardy annual plants are good for this sowing technique.

•   Seed trays and plastic good containers –  I only use trays for very fine seeds that are difficult to handle individually and if I want a large number of plants. There’s a lot of pricking out (the removal of seedlings to prevent overcrowding) required after, so you will be wasting time and seedlings if you only want a small number of plants. Poppies have very fine seeds for example. Don’t throw plastic tubs after you finish your ice cream, they are perfect containers!

•  Modules or cells – these are my preferred method as you can be very precise on how you grow. You can place one or two seeds in each cell and discard one of them when pricking out to save time. 

•   Individual pots and cardboard loo roll – these are excellent for larger sized seeds like sunflowers. Cardboard loo rolls are perfect for sweet peas or any kind of beans as they like to have space for their roots to run.

•   Old guttering – if you have any these can be used to grow your salad leaves.

Examples of what to grow seeds in


Don’t forget to keep your empty ice cream tubs or plastic vegetable containers like this one on the right.  Just make holes on the bottom for drainage if they haven’t got them already.

The five keys to successful seed sowing:

•   Don't sow too early – or your seedlings might get leggy due to fluctuating temperature and light levels. Late March and early April are the best times for many annuals and perennials.

•   Don't let your seedlings get pot bound -  or it will be very difficult to separate them, prick them out when you see two or three true leaves coming through.

•   Sow as thinly as you can – do this to avoid the plants competing with each other for light, water and nutrients.

•   Always do your watering from below – this will prevent your seeds going everywhere when you first water them and it will give them the right amount of water needed. Take them out when the compost feels slightly damp, make sure you don’t drench it.

•   Get the right compost mix – this should be low in nutrients and just add a small sprinkle of horticultural grit to help with drainage.

Growing seeds

Fill a tray with water and place your seed trays in it to water from below. I’ve used an oven dish here!

You can find more information on the RHS website. The link below will take you to a document that gives very detailed information on the germination requirements of a large number of plants. It’s invaluable if you are really getting into it and want to go further with your seed sowing skills.

Look out for my next video ‘Seed Sowing Step by Step’ for a more practical guide.

Pilar Dell, your Potty Potter!

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