A plan of action to gather essentials gives best results

Seed sowing time approaches.
Seed sowing time approaches.

Seed sowing demands a plan of action.

It begins with clean trays, pots and pans. If they still hold traces of compost from previous use there’s every chance of disease carrying over.

An adequate supply of appropriate compost, large bag of vermiculite, fine sand, sieve, tamper, labels, pen and a suitable environment for germination should all be in place. My choice for the latter is an unheated, dome-topped propagating case.

I use both hands to scoop compost from a mound on the potting bench into a seed tray and level it out. A flat piece of wood with handle attached is used with moderate pressure to create a firm surface just below the rim.

The compost is thoroughly moistened via capillarity by standing the tray for a short while in shallow container of water, then allowing excess to drain off.

Seed sowing follows and there’s a once-over with the watering can and fine rose attachment before the tray is consigned to germination mode.

Read any information on the seed packet as a reminder of the sowing time, depth, spacing, temperature, etc, then examine the contents. If there appears to be an excess, remember, you can keep some in a cool dry place for


The majority of seeds germinate away from direct light so we cover them at varying depths according to their size.

If compost is used for this final covering it can coagulate on the surface and seedlings emerge with a cap. I’ve always used vermiculite to avoid this. It is lightweight, parts easily as young shoots thrust skyward, and also retains moisture and air.

If the seeds are almost microscopic, add fine sand to the packet, shake it up and broadcast the contents over the compost surface for even distribution. Begonia and petunia seeds are an example of this and both require light for germination.

You also need a batting order for seed sowing.

Onions and lettuce are the opening pair for me — begonias, petunias and geraniums are first, second and third wicket down. Peas and broad beans sown in pots are middle order, with runners, sweet corn and courgettes the tail-enders.

Let’s hope that in keeping with the English cricket team they make a good start to the year!