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Sowing seed out of Doors
Spring and autumn are obviously the best seasons for sowing, spring being the more important. The soil should be broken up, dug and reduced to fineness by adequate raking.
Digging immediately prior to sowing leaves the surface crumbly and loose, so tread over the ground, moving forward with a shuffling motion, feet together; then rake over to remove footprints.
Except in the ornamental garden, always use a line when sowing. Stretch it tautly between stakes at each end of the row and work backwards, keeping one foot on the line and meantime drawing out the drill with a draw hoe.
Use only the corner of the hoe for shallow drills. Large seeds, such as Peas and Beans, are often raised in double or treble lines, 2 in. either by scuffling it back with the side of the foot, or, in the case of very small seed, by using the head of the rake. Label seeds after sowing, giving the date. Where soil is heavy or sandy and dry, use vermiculite, seed-raising mixture or shredded compost as a topping.
This is usually practised in the annual border for seeds like Marigolds, Shirley Poppies and Nigella.
Sowing under Glass
In cold climates most ornamental plants are raised by this method, the seed being sown in scrupulously clean pots, pans or boxes. Crocks are placed over the drainage holes of the pots or along the central drainage slit
of the boxes. A layer of roughage (leaves, sifted peat, etc.) spread over these prevents fine soil drifting down and fouling the drainage.
One basic seed and potting composts which is designed to suit a very wide range of plants, is made up of:
2 parts by bulk medium loam
1 part leaf or peat
1 part coarse sand
To every bushel of the above add:
1.5 oz. superphosphate of lime
.75 oz. ground chalk or limestone.
Fertilisers should not be added until just before the compost is used. When all the ingredients are mixed the compost should be moist but not wet. Ready-to-use vermiculite based seed-raising composts, that can be used effectively in any container, with or without drainage, are now available.
Three-quarters fill the pot or box with compost, pressing well down at the edges, and levelling the surface. Now sow the seed very thinly (mixing it with equal parts of sand if it is very fine) and cover lightly with silver sand or finely sieved compost. Exceptionally small seeds such as Begonia need no covering, although some growers lay a little Sphagnum Moss over the surface, removing it on germination.
After labelling, water the container, using a fine rosed can for the larger seeds, but the immersion method for fine ones. This involves placing the pans, etc., in a bath of water in which the liquid comes just below the level of the pot rims. Here they remain until the soil surface appears moist. Cover the tops later with glass or paper to prevent rapid drying out and stand pots in the frame or on the greenhouse bench.
As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the covering, and when large enough prick them out into boxes (approximately 2 in. apart with most varieties), keeping in a close atmosphere for a day or two. Later they may be hardened off in a cold frame for a week or so before being planted in flowering positions.
Greenhouse plants may be potted straight from the seedling pan into small pots. As growth progressses, transfer to larger pots without breaking the soil ball. Turn the plant from the pot by tapping against a bench. It should be nicely rooted but not have so many that they are twisted all round the pot. Crock the new pot as usual, add roughage and a little soil and stand the plant in the centre (after removing its crock). Drop new compost into the space between pot and plant, firming with the fingers or a dibber, not pressing the old soil ball. When finished, the level of the plant should be the same as before.