Sowing seeds

  • Always sow seeds in a good quality seed-raising mix. This will assist with strike rate and grow healthy seedlings.
  • It’s cheaper to buy potting mix and sieve it than buy seed-raising mix. For this you’ll need to purchase a garden-quality sieve. If you’re only sowing a small amount however, seed-raising mix is a good option.
  • Rob sows seeds in a tray which is 340mm x 285mm in dimension. He can produce 300-400 seedlings in this tray. Either sow a variety of different veges in this tray, or choose a punnet instead which can germinate 30-40 seedlings. Make sure the trays have drainage holes.
  • Line the big tray with newspaper to stop the soil from spilling out.
  • Tomato seeds take around 2 weeks to germinate (depending on how warm your spot is) and another 3-4 weeks growing in the tray until they’re ready to be planted out into the garden.
  • Tomato plants shouldn’t be planted out till Labour Weekend (8-9 weeks before Christmas) at the earliest. Not until the ground is warm to the touch should they be planted. Tomato plants can go into the ground all the way up to Christmas.
  • Fill the tray to the top with seed-raising mix. Make rows by pressing down with either a piece of angle iron or dowel. Label the rows with the name of the seed you plan to sow – adding the date is useful. Then sprinkle seed into the rows.
  • Seed size varies hugely. If the seed is fine you need only sprinkle a fine layer or a dusting of soil over the top. In the case of our basil seeds which are tiny, we sieve the seed-raising mix again with a finer sieve, thereby making the depth of the seed shallow. The bigger seeds like beetroot can have a reasonable sprinkling of seed-raising mix on them (so they’re effectively sown deeper in the soil).
  • Rob uses vermiculite to cover the medium-sized tomato seeds. Vermiculite is an hydrated magnesium aluminium silicate which breathes and keeps the soil moist, all of which enhances germination.
  • Then we water the seeds which compacts the soil down. There’s no need to press the seeds down in the tray with your hands.
  • Rob adds liquid seaweed to the water to avoid ‘damping off’, a fungal disease which rots seedlings off at ground level and happens most often in early spring (when temperatures are still cool).
  • Place seed trays in a spot that’s protected from rain (which will compact the soil too much), and gets good enough light to keep the tray warm and help the seeds germinate.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes