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Grow Your Own: How to sow seeds for vegetables

So you’re looking to grow your own veggies? Genius! Thinking of doing it from seed? Even better. Here's a handy guide on sowing seeds for vegetables - it's simpler than you think!

There's something infinitely satisfying about growing your own food. Sure, it takes a bit of trial and error, but even the smallest harvest of the wonkiest carrots can take you from zero to hero.

And when you do get it right, the vegetables themselves are just so tasty - sun-ripened, nutrient-rich - what’s not to love?

Why bother with sowing seeds?

  • Sowing seeds for vegetables is a cost-effective way of growing your own ‘produce’ (lingo in the gardening world that just means ‘fruit and vegetables’).
  • It also means you get to start early too; depending on what you're growing, you can start as early as February, and so it's a great way to start looking forward to spring and summer when you'll be able reap the benefits of your work.
How-to-sow-seeds-for-vegetables
How-to-sow-seeds-for-vegetables

Top 5 vegetables to grow from seed

We've compiled our top five recommendations to get you started. They’re the most straight-forward seeds to sow and the easiest ones to handle.

  • Courgettes
  • Runner beans
  • Summer cabbage
  • Leeks
  • Carrots

Read on to read about sowing method and what month to plant them.

Vegetable seeds to sow in February

Summer cabbage

Skill level: Medium

When to sow: Late February

How to sow:

  • Fill a couple of 8-9cm pots right to the top with compost (you can recycle small nursery pots or you can get seed starting trays). You can use specialist seeds and cuttings compost, but you can also use multi-purpose compost.
  • Tap the pot a couple of times on the bench or unit you’re working on, to settle the compost
  • Sprinkle about 10 seeds over the top of the compost so none and touching and they’re nicely spread (It might take a bit of practice getting this but you’ll be an expert in no time if you keep at it. You’ve got this!)
  • Cover the seeds with a final thin layer of compost.
  • Place the pots in a tray, and fill the tray with water (so it’s kind of a bird-bath for your pots.) The soil takes up the water through the bottom of the pots rather than you watering them from above).
  • Pop a plant label in the pots to remind you what you’ve sown and on when.
  • Leave the pots in a light spot indoors.
  • Check the water in the tray each morning. If it’s empty and dry, fill it up a bit; if there’s water still in there, tip it out and fill the tray with fresh water to a depth of 1/2cm.

Leeks

Skill level: Medium

When to sow: February

How to sow:

  • Fill a couple of 8-9cm pots right to the top with compost (you can recycle small nursery pots or you can get seed starting trays). You can use specialist seeds and cuttings compost, but you can also use multi-purpose compost.
  • Tap the pot a couple of times on the bench or unit you’re working on, to settle the compost
  • Sprinkle about 10 seeds over the top of the compost so none and touching and they’re nicely spread (It might take a bit of practice getting this but you’ll be an expert in no time if you keep at it. You’ve got this!)
  • Cover the seeds with a final thin layer of compost.
  • Place the pots in a tray, and fill the tray with water (so it’s kind of a bird-bath for your pots.) The soil takes up the water through the bottom of the pots rather than you watering them from above).
  • Pop a plant label in the pots to remind you what you’ve sown and on when.
  • Leave the pots in a light spot indoors.
  • Check the water in the tray each morning. If it’s empty and dry, fill it up a bit; if there’s water still in there, tip it out and fill the tray with fresh water to a depth of 1/2cm.
How-to-sow-seeds-for-vegetables
How-to-sow-seeds-for-vegetables

Seeds to sow in May

Courgettes

Skill level: Easy

When to sow: May

How to sow courgette seeds:

  • Fill a couple of 8-9cm pots right to the top with compost (you can recycle small nursery pots or you can get seed starting trays). You can use specialist seeds and cuttings compost, but you can also use multi-purpose compost.
  • Tap the pot a couple of times on the bench or unit you’re working on, to settle the compost
  • Courgette seeds are big so you only need one for each pot. Create a hole with your finger about 3-5cm deep in the middle of the pot and drop in the courgette seed.
  • Fill the hole with some more of the compost.
  • Place the pots in a tray, and fill the tray with water (so it’s kind of a bird-bath for your pots.) The soil takes up the water through the bottom of the pots rather than you watering them from above).
  • Pop a plant label in the pots to remind you what you’ve sown and on when.
  • Leave the pots in a light spot. Ideal temperature needs to be around 20C. Although May in the UK can be quite warm, average temperatures range between 7 and 16C so probably a safer bet to start them indoors or in a growhouse where they'll be protected from colder nights.
  • Check the water in the tray each morning. If it’s empty and dry, fill it up a bit; if there’s water still in there, tip it out and fill the tray with fresh water to a depth of 1cm.

Runner beans

Skill level: Easy

When to sow: May

How to sow:

  • Fill a couple of 8-9cm pots right to the top with compost (you can recycle small nursery pots or you can get seed starting trays). You can use specialist seeds and cuttings compost, but you can also use multi-purpose compost.
  • Tap the pot a couple of times on the bench or unit you’re working on, to settle the compost
  • Runner bean seeds are big so you only need one for each pot. Create a hole with your finger about 3-5cm deep in the middle of the pot and drop in the bean seed.
  • Fill the hole with some more of the compost.
  • Place the pots in a tray, and fill the tray with water (so it’s kind of a bird-bath for your pots.) The soil takes up the water through the bottom of the pots rather than you watering them from above).
  • Pop a plant label in the pots to remind you what you’ve sown and on when.
  • Leave the pots in a light spot around 15C. As with the courgette seeds, it's probably safer to start them indoors or in a growhouse where they'll be protected from colder nights of early May.
  • Check the water in the tray each morning. If it’s empty and dry, fill it up a bit; if there’s water still in there, tip it out and fill the tray with fresh water to a depth of 1cm.

Carrots

Skill level: Tricky

When to sow: May

How to sow:

You can sow carrot seeds outside, either in a pot or in a bed in the garden. If you sow it in a pot then follow the instructions as if you were sowing summer cabbage. If you sow it directly in the bed here’s how you’d do it:

  • Rake the soil surface so the soil is fine and crumbly. (If you’re a cook the texture is kind of like the end result when you rub flour and butter together with your fingertips.)
  • Water the soil with a watering can.
  • Create a mini V-shaped trench (a row about 1cm deep) using the side of the rake.
  • Sow the seeds along the trench about 3cm apart.
  • Fill the trench back again with the soil.
  • Put a label at the end of the row with the variety and date on it to give you a record. Water the area in the mornings only if the soil is really dry.

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