Seeds in tray
This is a simple summary of how to sow seeds so that you can grow herbs, veg and flowers at home.

Sowing seeds in trays is a great activity to do indoors, in your garden and with children too. Follow our handy how-to guide to get started.

If you have a disability, you can find out some of the tools and tips to help with this process over on our Carry on Gardening website

Here are some ideas for plants you can grow in your home or garden (time of writing is April - some seeds and plants will be best sown at other times of the year):

To eat:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers and chillis
  • Courgettes
  • French Beans (some varieties need to climb on wigwams or other supports, others compact varieties don’t require support so bear in mind if your plants will stay indoors)


  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Mint


  • Scented geranium
  • Sunflowers
  • Cornflowers
  • Marigolds
  • Begonias
  • Packets of seeds
  • Small seed trays with drainage holes
  • Something to place the seed tray on, like a plastic gravel tray
  • Multi-purpose compost
  • Water

And optionally:

  • Perlite to improve the drainage of the compost
  • 30cm ruler
  • Sieve/colander

Always read the labels of seed packets or use a gardening reference book to ensure you sow seed in the way that variety likes to start life., Some require placing in a propagator (you can use a sandwich bag with lollypop stills or broken clothes pegs to keep the plastic off the soil), some like light and heat others don’t and the seed packet and books can help make sure you provide the right conditions to have the best chance of success.

Step 1: Equipment

Get together all the necessary equipment outlined above, and find a suitable space in your home or garden to get started.

Seed trays

Step 2: Prepare your compost

Get your hands into the compost and mix it around, removing any larger clumps that won't break down. This will help get air and water into the compost to help the plant grow.

(Optional: Mix perlite or sharp horticultural sand with your compost to improve drainage)

Breaking up compost by hand

Step 3: Fill the seed tray

Start by slightly overfilling the seed tray with compost. You can then level it off with your hands, or with a ruler if you have one.

In the end, you want the level of the soil to be a few mm beneath the edge of the seed tray as this will prevent water running off from the top, possibly taking the seeds with it! Additionally, it will leave the seeds breaking the surface where light levels are good meaning seedlings won't grow tall and ‘leggy’ and therefore weak and prone to snapping or becoming diseased.

Fill trays nearly to top of tray

Step 4: Create holes in the compost for the seeds to be placed into

Use a pencil or a stick to create a hole. Different seeds need to be put into the compost at different depths. You can check your seed packet for this information.

Note: Some seeds don't require you to create a hole, but instead suggest to sprinkle seeds on top and cover with a small amount of additional compost or none at all. Check the packet for more information.

Create holes for seed

Step 5: Place the seeds in the hole

Different seed packets will suggest a different amount to place.

Dropping seeds in

Step 6: Cover the hole with additional compost

Sprinkle enough compost over the seeds to cover them and pat down the soil a little.

This compost needs to be the finest texture to allow seeds a chance to use their limited store of energy to pierce through. If you have a seed sowing sieve or an old kitchen sieve that can be helpful to use. As a general rule the smaller the seed the finer the texture needed.

Cover seeds with compost 1

Step 7: Label your plants

Labelling your plants is a good way to remind yourself what you planted and when.

Labelling plants

Step 8: Give them a drink!

Water them enough to moisten the compost without making it soggy, preferably with a watering can with a rose on the end.

If you don't have one of these, watering a tray that the seed trays can sit in or watering the compost before adding your seeds is the best way to ensure they don't get washed away or too deep into the compost before their big moment!

A pair of watering cans

To support the seeds to germinate and the seedlings to thrive always follow instructions from seed packets or reference books. But in general:

  • Keep seeds compost moist, using an indoor water spray or fine rose of a watering can.
  • Keep away from strong light, although the light is important to germination too strong and the compost will dry without you noticing.
  • Keep away from draughts, draughts will dry compost and then harm tender seedlings

You've done it! The next stage for your seeds will be 'pricking out' and planting them into bigger pots as they grow out of their seed trays. This could be fairly soon depending on how happy they are!

If you haven't got the next size pots, now is a good time to source them.

Share your progress with us!

We'd love to see what you're growing and where and if you're getting creative with the space you've got. Share your photos with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #ThriveGardeningClub

Tips for sowing seeds for people with a health condition or disability.

Carry On Gardening website
E Ru Lg61 Wk A Am8 MH