It is the start of February and gardeners everywhere are anxious to get sowing. Whether your interest lies with vegetable or the flower garden, sowing seeds is at once one of the most gratifying and cost effective things to do in the garden. It can be a complicated process for new gardeners, so in this article I am going to break it down into manageable sections, starting with ‘when to sow’.

Sowing seeds too soon serves no purpose other than resulting in extra work and weak plants. The rule of thumb in Ireland is to plant and sow outside from the 5th of May onwards, though you can get away with starting a week or two earlier here in Kerry and Cork. Keep this date in mind, and you won’t go wrong. Most seeds take 4-6 weeks from sowing to planting outdoors, so I would never recommend sowing indoors until the middle of February at the very earliest. March is really the month to be ready for your seeds.

There are a few basic things you will need, depending on where you are starting off the plants. If you have a polytunnel or greenhouse at your disposal, great! Seed trays are a definitely required, and halfseed trays are ideal for sowing smaller amounts and keeping the different varieties apart. We stock the ‘Visiroot’ trays which are semi transparent – perfect for following the development of the plant. They are brilliant for kids, as it is educational, but, better than that, it holds their attention! Worth mentioning is that these trays are also made from recycled plastic. Modular inserts are perfect for larger seedlings, such as Dahlias, Marigolds and Sweet Pea, and vegetables such as beetroot, cabbage and kale. They are also for tomatoes, as the seedling can grow undisturbed until it is ready to be planted in its final container or outside. Larger seeds, such as peas, broadbeans, sweetcorn and beans can be sown directly into Fibre pots, or fibre pot strips, which can be put directly into the soil when ready to be planted outside, as the pot will decompose into the soil. These fibre pots are also ideal for younger children sowing , for example, sunflower seeds, as they will not need to handle the delicate stems when repotting!) A heated Propagation Mat is perfect for raising the ambient temperature of the seed tray area by between 5-15°, which is perfect for a cooler area such as a garage or unheated greenhouse.

The compost we recommend is Westland Seed and cutting compost, a very fine high grade compost, formulated to ensure a high rate of germination. Alternatively, you can mix your own compost with one part sharp sand and one part perlite, ensuring good drainage. Always sieve your compost, as seeds will not germinate on hard lumps of material. Fill your seed tray/modular tray to about one centimetre below the top. Firm down gently, using something flat, I use the same size tray which I press down gently. Water thoroughly. Create a small, shallow drill with a dibber, or stick, and lightly scatter the seeds along the drill. It can help to mix very small seeds with some dry sand. Cover over with compost, or vermiculite, and give a very light watering. Cover with the propagator lid, or a sheet of clear plastic, until the seeds germinate. Do read the back of the packets of seeds, as many have different sowing requirements. Finally, and most importantly, label your trays! I always date them too, as sowing little and repeatedly ensures continuous crops.

You will find all the supplies you'll need for growing your own seeds and cuttings here -