How to sow seeds

  • In this webisode we’re sowing tomato and chilli or pepper seeds, but the principles apply to any seed sowing.
  • If we sow our tomato and chilli seeds now they’ll be ready to plant out from Labour Weekend onwards. You don’t want to plant these seedlings out before Labour Weekend because the soil temperature is not warm enough and the plants will struggle.
  • Equipment you need for sowing seeds is:
    – seed sowing trays with good drainage holes in the bottom (make sure you sterilise these containers in a bleach solution each time you sow a new crop)
    – labels and a marker pen
    – something to make rows with, for example a piece of dowel or angle iron
    – newspaper
    – organic compost
    – garden sieve
  • Rob prefers to make his own seed-raising mix by sieving organic compost. It’s cheaper and better quality than most seed-raising mixes available. We recommend you use a commercial organic compost because it’s sterilised and won’t contain any weed seed.
  • Add a spoonful or two of fertiliser. We like Natures Organic Fertiliser because it has more phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) than nitrogen (N) in it, so is good for root growth.
  • Lay newspaper in the bottom of the tray. This is to prevent the seed-raising mix from falling through the tray and helps retain moisture.
  • Fill the tray to the top as it will reduce in height when watered. Tap the tray against your bench to settle the mix.
  • In a regular seed-sowing tray you can make 4-6 rows. Use a piece of dowel or angle iron to make neat indents.
  • Next, write labels for the seeds you’re sowing and put the date on the back. The reason for this is, if the seeds don’t germinate within a week or two you know they’re not viable.
  • Today we’re sowing reliable old-fashioned tomato varieties: Beefsteak, Money Maker, Russian Red and Red Cherry. The chilli seed varieties we’re sowing are: Bird’s Eye and Black Olive.
  • The tomato seeds we’re using are the ones we saved from last year’s crop. We’ve had them in the fridge all that time to help keep them fresh and dormant. When you take them out of the fridge it breaks the dormancy and they’re more likely to germinate well because of the relatively warm temperature they experience.
  • Using your own seeds means they have acclimatised to your conditions and grow into stronger plants year after year. If you don’t save your own seeds, buy from local seed savers like Running Brook Seeds.
  • Sprinkle seeds evenly into the rows. Tomato seeds are hairy, so will lock together. It’s best if they’re separated from each other at this stage as that ensures less root disturbance when you’re pricking them out for transplanting. Use the end of one of the labels to separate them.
  • Then sprinkle a couple of handfuls of the seed-raising mix over the seeds in the rows.
  • It’s best not to water the tray from above as that can dislodge the seeds and compact the soil, making it harder for the seeds to push through.
  • Instead we fill a tub with water to about ¾ the height of the tray and add a capful or two of liquid seaweed to the bath. Seaweed helps prevent any damping off, which is when young seedlings die off due to a fungal infection encouraged by damp conditions.
  • Leave seed tray in the bath for about 15 minutes or until it’s fully moist, then take out and leave in a light, warm position. Seeds should germinate in one to two weeks.


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