Do’s and Don’ts of Sowing Seeds

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By Paul Matson And Lucy Anna Scott | Apr 26, 2018

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How, where and when you raise seeds depends on the variety and its specific climatic needs.
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“SowHow” by Paul Matson and Lucy Anna Scott break down the key steps of sowing, planting, and harvesting each featured vegetable.
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    SowHow, (Pavilion, 2017) by Paul Matson and Lucy Anna Scott features a fresh bright design and clear-cut instructions, it includes entries on more than 30 easy-grow vegetables to sow throughout the seasons, form kale to runner beans and carrots to cucamelons. Matson is a visual designer he uses beautiful design and clever infographics to simplify gardening and help first –time gardeners produce first-class vegetables. Scott is a writer with an artistic interest in stories that explore how plants, trees, and landscapes help us better understand ourselves. The following excerpt is from the “Things to Know” section.

    How, where and when you raise seeds depends on the variety and its specific climatic needs. Seed packets help guide you as to which of these growing methods you need to adopt.


    Starting seeds indoors creates a longer growing season because you can sow while waiting for the weather to warm up. It also offers protection and a controlled environment – especially heat. Get seeds going indoors (‘under cover’) by sowing seeds into a pot or tray. Then ‘transplant’ seeds to their final growing location later on.

    Windowsill: Offers a warm, sunny spot for a plant’s early life.

    Propagator: Heated or unheated – can provide a moist, warm, consistent environment.


    Sowing seeds ‘directly’ outside, where they grow to full-size plants, is more straightforward but your seeds (and young seedlings) are exposed to changes in the weather and to mice and birds. However, some crops, like carrots, dislike being moved – so for them, this method is the best option. Avoid growing frost-tender plants outdoors until risk of frost has passed.

    Sowing in Rows
    Sowing in straight rows makes weeding easier later on. Use string as a guide if you want to make precise rows.

    Broadcast Sowing
    Prepare the soil, then throw handfuls of seed over the area – not advisable on a windy day.

    Sowing Technique
    Seeds should be sown thinly and evenly. Don’t tip seeds straight from the packet; instead, pour a small amount into the fold crease of your palm. Pinch larger seeds from your palm and sprinkle. Scatter very small seed, like lettuce. Or, to help sow small seed evenly, mix with sand before scattering.

    Potting on
    Seedlings must be moved into bigger pots when they outgrow their first home. This is known as ‘potting on’. It is undertaken when ‘true’ leaves have developed, roots have emerged and the plant is large enough to handle.

    Pricking Out
    Removing seedlings from pots is called ‘pricking out’. Never handle a seedling by its delicate stem. Instead, hold it by a leaf and support the weight of the roots with a pencil as you lift it. Damaged leaves usually grow back; stem damage is more serious.

    Know How-Hardening Off

    Any plant raised indoors may go into shock if it is suddenly confronted with a changeable climate outside. Plants must be introduced to the outside world gently, through a process known as “hardening off” Do this over three weeks. Place plants in a sheltered position in front of a south­ facing wall or hedge and cover with a double layer of fleece. Bring inside at night for one week. During the second week, remove a layer of fleece. By week three, remove the other layer of fleece during the day, and leave plants outside at night.

    For more from SowHow:

    Compost Fundamentals
    Simple Solutions to Deter Garden Pests

    Reprinted with permission from SowHow: A Modern Guide to Grow-Your-Own Veg by Paul Matson & Lucy Scott, published by Pavilion Books.

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