Where should I sow my herb seeds?

By Ben Heron

Many seeds can either be sown indoors in early spring or directly outdoors once the soil has warmed up (read our article on ‘when to sow your seeds‘). If you are new to gardening, it is worth pointing out that ‘sowing indoors’ generally refers to sowing in a greenhouse or polytunnel, not in your house. You can sow seed in your house, but bear in mind that some herb seeds require light to germinate and all seedlings require light to grow, so only grow in your house if you have a suitable window ledge, conservatory or somewhere similar. Choosing where to sow your seeds is not just about timing and temperature though. Here we look at a number of other pros and cons that may help you choose where to sow.

The main advantage of sowing direct (i.e. directly into the bed that the plants will grow in) is that the seedlings can establish themselves without the shock of being transplanted and having their roots disturbed, normally resulting in a much healthier plant. Certain species, such as California poppy, really don’t like to be moved and any head start you might get from sowing early is normally negated by subsequent poor growth.

The other advantage of course is that pricking out and potting up seedlings can be a time-consuming process. Where possible it makes much more sense to sow the seed in your herb bed and let nature take care of itself.

However, there are some disadvantages of direct sowing to be aware of; some herb seedlings grow very slowly and if you sow them direct they are likely to become swamped by weeds. When the plants are so small it can be hard to remove the weeds without uprooting the little seedlings. For this reason, we recommend sowing slow-growing seedlings in pots or trays in a weed-free seed compost.

The other disadvantage of sowing seeds direct is that they are at the mercy of the weather and can easily be killed by late frosts. Sowing seeds in trays allows you to keep the seedlings in a warm, sheltered place until the risk of frost has passed. If it is a plant that doesn’t like to have its roots exposed, you can minimise disturbance by sowing the seed into a plug tray (read more on this in what should I sow my seeds into).

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