Real Men Sow

Sowing in Pots: Ten Tips to Help You on Your Way

This is a republished post from 2013, as part of Real Men Sow Seed Sowing Week. I love the flexibility of sowing in pots. It is great to be able to move your seedlings around according to the protection they require, whether that’s weather or pests.


These days, I pretty much sow everything in a pot first, rather than directly into the ground. I’ve found that germination is much better this way, and sporadic, patchy rows are now a thing of the past.

Today, I was sowing some peas when I remembered a tip about leaving a small gap between the soil and the rim of the pot. This stops the water running off when watering.

Tips like this that help make sowing into pots a great way to start off your veg. Here’s 9 more that I’ve picked up over the past few seasons.

Sow undercover earlier
For an early crop, sow undercover in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill. This will allow you to germinate seeds before you would normally be able to, providing an earlier harvest. Remember to harden off seedlings before planting out, by moving the pots outside for spells until they’re out in the open all the time.

Buy good multi-purpose compost.
Multi-purpose compost can be expensive, but you do get what you pay for. The cheap own brand stuff is normally dry and chunky, which makes germinating fine seeds tricky.

My favourite compost for seed sowing is Durston’s Peat Free Multi-Compost, which is about a fiver a bag.

(for tips on what to look for in a good multipurpose compost, check out my Brief Guide to Multi-Purpose Compost)

Don’t be afraid of sowing more than one seed in a pot.
To help make your compost go further, try sowing more than one seed in a pot. For example, I sow 5 or 6 pea seeds in 5 inch pots (below), and break them up when planting out. I’ve done the same with broad beans, French beans, runners and mangetout, which all have grown on perfectly well.

Keep well watered
Like container plants, pots dry out quickly too, especially if you are using cheaper compost. Make you sure check for dryness regularly, and water whenever the soil is looking parched.

Use a rose fitting on the watering can
Yes, I sloshed several pots of seeds away by pouring water over the soil slapdash stylee, rather than taking a more gentle, measured approach with a rose fitted to the end of my watering can…

Date and mark where and what you sowed
When you’re a ‘yeah, I’ll do that later’ type of guy like me, it’s rather easy to not get around to inserting little seed markers into the pots. I used to be useless at this, but soon realised the importance of knowing exactly when you sowed your different seeds.

Bring your soil inside to warm the soil up first.
Seeds don’t like starting off in cold soil. Bring your compost inside or put it in the greenhouse for a few days before you begin sowing.

Seeds also require a certain number of warm hours to germinate. The heat needs to stay steady, and if you’re struggling to germinate it could be because the temperature at night is too low. Have some horticultural fleece on hand to place over your pots on cold nights.

Try moving the pots close together too. This will also help raise the temperature.

Read the seed packet instructions!
I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to not reading the instructions. Checking to make sure you’re sowing at the right time of year is really important. Sowing too early is often much more detrimental than getting a bit behind.

The seed packets will also contain useful information on how deep you should sow the seed. As a rough guide, many say that the larger the seed, the deeper you can go. Big seeds like beans and peas can go as deep as 4cm, whilst delicate seeds such as carrots and leeks need to be a lot closer to the surface.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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