How should I sow my seeds?

By Ben Heron

If you are a vegetable grower you may be familiar with the rule of thumb: “sow at a depth equal to two or three times its diameter”. Whilst this may be true for some herb species, this is not the case for all. In fact, there are many herb seeds – especially the smaller ones – that will only germinate if they are exposed to some light. This means either being on the surface, or covered with a very thin layer of soil or compost – thin enough to allow some light to reach the seeds.

If you are sowing into a bed where there are likely to be a few weeds, it always makes sense to sow the seeds in straight lines. This helps you discern the difference between your seedling and the weeds. If you are sowing into a tray with weed-free compost it makes more sense to distribute the seeds as evenly as you can over the tray.

Seeds germinating in the greenhouse

If a seed is light-dependent it will say so on the back of your seed pack, so make sure you read the guidelines carefully before sowing. If they are not light-dependent then you can sow in furrows or make little holes as you would with vegetables. But if they do require some exposure to light then sow on the surface, and then press them firmly into soil.

Richo Cech – founder of Strictly Medicinal Seeds in the US and general herb growing guru – tells a great story about how he sowed some seeds (I don’t remember what it was) only for the immaculate seed bed to be trampled on by a dog. A week or two later he came back to find that the only seeds to have germinated were those in the footprints of the dog… a perfect lesson in the importance of firmly pressing or tamping your seeds into the soil!

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