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Seeds sown indoors allow earlier flowering and cropping. The protected environment is also easy to manipulate for specific requirements
© The Royal Horticultural Society 2006



Fill the tray with a standard seed compost and level with a presser board to 1 cm (1/2 in) below the rim. Photograph copyright Dorling Kindersley Containers

Many containers are available. Small seeds are generally sown in a shallow tray and pricked out into larger pots. Slightly larger seeds can be sown into individual modules if space allows, limiting transplant shock. Large seeds can be sown individually into 9cm (3.5in) pots. Old containers should be thoroughly cleaned before use.

Sprinkle the seeds thinly over the surface of the compost to achieve an even covering. Photograph copyright Dorling Kindersley


Use a standard soil-based or soil-less seed composts for indoor sowings. These are finely milled and contain few nutrients, which could otherwise damage seedlings.


Cover the seeds with a layer of sieved moist compost to about the same thickness as the seeds temselves. Water the seeds in lightly. Photograph copyright Dorling Kindersley


Many seeds require specific sowing treatments, such as light-exclusion and scarification (scratching or nicking the seed coat), so check seed packets for specific instructions. Fill the container with compost, level, firm gently and water well. Sow seeds thinly. Very small seeds can be mixed with fine sand before sowing to obtain more even distribution. Sift a fine layer of compost or vermiculite over the seeds. Label, lightly water again and either cover with clear polythene and maintain a temperature of 18ºC or place in a heated propagator.

Place a piece of glass or clear plastic sheeting over the tray to maintain even humidity. Photograph copyright Dorling Kindersley Aftercare

Check daily for emergence. Once seedlings emerge increase ventilation and remove covers. Keep the compost just moist and, unless sown individually, prick out seedlings at the first true leaf stage. Gradually harden-off plants before placing them outside.