If you’ve never grown your own produce from seed before, the process can seem a little confusing. When do I sow? When do I harvest? What do I do in between? The good news is there’s no mystery – here’s how to sow so you’re guaranteed a good yield:
Before you start…
- Good crops begin with good seeds, so use top quality seed from a reputable company such as those from the Unwins Bursting with Flavour range.
- Crops take time to grow, establish and mature, so sowing at the right time is essential. Delay sowing and you’ll delay harvesting too, so follow the instructions on the seed packets for each crop.
- To get the best returns from crops and herbs choose a warm, sheltered but sunny site to grow them. Few crops flourish in shade, so find somewhere that receives full sun for much of the day. This will also extend your growing season by warming up earlier in spring and remaining warmer well into autumn.
When to sow
Seeds need warmth to germinate, so postpone outdoor sowings if the weather is cold. Wait for conditions to improve, covering the ground with a cloche or sheet of polythene for a few days to warm the soil before sowing.
Top tip – make a mini-cloche by cutting the top off a large plastic bottle and popping it over seedlings to insulate them (see below).
Lots of tender crops can be sown in warm conditions in a greenhouse or on a windowsill during March/April and moved outside from mid-May. These include aubergine ‘Ophelia’, chilli ‘Cayennetta’, sweet pepper ‘Star Mix’ and ‘Lunchbox Mix’, cucumber ‘La Diva’, and tomatoes ‘Cherry Baby’, ‘Orkado’ and ‘Santonio’. All are perfect for the greenhouse, but most will also crop well in pots on a sheltered, sunny patio if moved outside from mid-May onwards.
Once soil has warmed up from March into April, try sowing crops directly outside into pots or beds. Choose from pea ‘Hurst Greenshaft’, beetroot ‘Cardeal’, carrot ‘Katrin’ and others from the Unwins Bursting with Flavour range.
Sowing seeds in the warmer months
Once outdoor conditions have warmed up from April onwards, make regular sowings of your favourite salads directly into beds or into large patio pots filled with a good seed compost. Try lettuce, radish, rocket and spring onions. Remember to water well, especially during dry weather.
Sowing in April and May
- Bean feast – Sow runner beans and french beans indoors in deep pots, then plant out in June. Or sow directly outside in large pots or beds in late May/June.
- Squash and courgette – Sow squash and courgettes individually into small pots and keep in a warm, bright spot. Plant them outside when it’s warmer in late May/June.
Sow a pinch or two of basil, coriander, parsley and chives about once a month into small pots of compost on a sunny windowsill.