How to grow seeds for beginners
Seed sowing is a basic horticultural skill, yet few things give as much pleasure as raising plants. With just a little bit of care many flowers, trees, and vegetables are easy to grow from seed. Often, very minimal equipment is needed and all you really need to do is provide the basic requirements for germination; just warmth, moisture and oxygen. Yet just a little trouble taken to understand and meet their needs, will be well rewarded and anyone can do it, even a complete beginner.
So why should you grow seeds? Taking up the past-time of gardening has many benefits, its a far healthier lifestyle, you know where your own food is coming from and its an inexpensive but rewarding hobby. But more than that, gardening has been proven to:
- Build strength,
- Improve memory,
- Foster relationships,
- Boost mood,
- And reduce stress
While gardening can be done alone, working as a team has whole host of advantages, and getting the kids involved can function as both a healthy learning incentive for the whole family, while also keeping them occupied for several evenings. Perhaps during a tumultuous period like this, taking time to slow down smell the roses is what we all need a little more of.
What is a seed?
To put it simply, a seed is an incredible feat of packaging; a tiny plant in embryo form, complete with a food store and all protected by a tough outer skin. Kept dry it will remain dormant but, in most cases, remain viable for one to several years, particularly if stored under cool conditions. Once exposed to a favourable combination of moisture and warmth it will usually start to take up water. This causes it to swell which, in turn, results in the skin bursting and allows the embryo plant to being its growth. This process is called germination.
What do seeds actually need to grow?
Typically seeds will need:
- The correct soil,
- Suitable temperature.
Specifically seeds will need oxygen, suitable soil and moisture to initially sprout, then followed by light and appropriate temperature to maximize growth. Each type of seed has its own set of rules for germination. If you already know something about the type of plant you’re growing, you may already recognize its germination needs.
In general however, soil needs to be well drained, well aerated and not too rich in fertiliser. If you’re using pots and seed trays, a wide range of seed and general purpose composts are available. Garden soil is not suitable for this particular purpose and only fresh compost should be used. In the garden the soil should be thoroughly broken down and be moist but not too wet. A gentle covering of soil or compost will help to keep seeds moist but small seeds with only a very small store of food cannot grow from any great depth and are best sown at or near the soil surface.
With regards temperature, as a useful rule of thumb, if the plants have origins in tropical climates, their seeds need warm temperatures and moisture to germinate. But, if they’re plants native to mountains or cooler locations, their seeds may need far colder temperatures.
When should you sow Seeds?
When to sow Indoors?
- As a general rule, most annual vegetables should be sown indoors about six weeks before the last frost in your area. We recommend checking local frost dates.
When to sow Outdoors?
- Once the soil is warm and moist, seed can generally be sown and will germinate quickly. In practice, this typically means either mid-spring to early summer (April-June), or late summer (September). However if you can provide the crop with protection, such as cloches or fleece, sowing can even begin in early spring.
Helpfully, all seed packets give you the basic information you need to grow from seed. They will generally tell you when to sow, ideal germination temperature, how to grow and when you can expect flowers or harvest. The exact recommendations may vary from brand to brand but all of the essential guidelines are there.
Here are the basics you’ll need:
- The seeds themselves,
- Seed compost (potting soil made especially for starting seeds),
- A spray mister,
- Standard gardening equipment (trowels, shovels, forks etc),
- Depending on your plant site- containers (we recommend seed trays or boxes)
What do all those terms and abbreviations mean?
Hardiness of plants describes their ability to survive adverse growing conditions. Tender plants are killed by freezing temperatures, while hardy plants may survive.
HA: Hardy Annual
A plant that goes through its entire life cycle in one season and which can be sown outside in the open garden in spring where it is to flower.
HHA: Half Hardy Annual
Plants sown in pots and kept sheltered in a greenhouse. These are then planted out later in the year when the risk of frost has passed.
HP: Hardy Perennial
A ‘Hardy Perennial’ should be capable of average low winter temperatures and will come up each year for several years.
HHP: Half Hardy Perennial
These are between the tender perennials– which can live several years if given sufficient heat, and hardy perennials which can be left out in the garden.
Biennial plants have a two-year life cycle. During the first year, they grow the roots, stems and leaves. In the second year they come into flower, produce seeds and die.
IA: Indoor Annual
An indoor annual plant is a plant that completes its life cycle, from germination to the production of seeds, within one growing season, and then dies
IP: Indoor Perennial
Indoor perennials are those that continue to grow year after year after remaining dormant throughout the winter.
F1: Filial 1
Filial 1 hybrid seeds refers to the selective breeding of a plant through the cross pollination of two different parent plants
F2: Filial 2
When F1 plants produce flowers and when they self-pollinate or hand pollinated, then F2 seeds are produced.
Why should you shop with McD’s for seeds?
- We’re a local Irish business with years of experience and who carefully work with only the best suppliers across the world.
- Buying from us means no import fees or shipping delays caused by the current political climate.
- We aim to offer excellent customer service and have been awarded the highest grade through our shopping network partners.
- We offer delivery nationwide for only €4.95 on packs of seeds. Note when larger items are added, the standard delivery is €6.95 however we also offer free shipping on standard packages under 25kg weight for free when you spend €75 of more