Seed sowing with Annette McFarlane - video transcript

This page is a video transcript of the Seed sowing with Annette McFarlane video hosted on Brisbane City Council's YouTube channel. This video is 11 minutes and 10 seconds long.

The narrator for this video is Annette.


>> ANNETTE: Hello I'm Annette McFarlane. Thanks for joining me. Today I'm talking about seed sowing.

Seeds are a really economical way to get new plants, because you can often get quite a lot in a small pack and once you learn a few tips and tricks you'll be having great success with germination.

Let’s start with a few basics. You might save your own seed and I'll be talking about that in another session; or you might buy packs of seed from your local retailer. One thing to look at is the use by date on the seeds because often what can happen is we buy seeds (they're very tempting and particularly if you buy them online, we pop them in the box) and suddenly we find them out of date.

Seeds have usually a two year lifespan from when they're packed and the date is always listed somewhere on the packet itself, usually down the bottom, so you can tell when the seeds basically expire. Now that doesn't mean that the seeds won’t grow, it just means that you'll have a much lower rate of germination.

Sometimes things like tomatoes or many of the annual plants that we grow, the flowers that we grow, will still germinate long after the expiry date is up, but some things are very sensitive. Things like onions, parsnips, sweet corn; you'll find that if the seeds go just out of date the germination rate will drop by up to 50% and the longer you leave it the less germination you'll get.

Check the use by date and make sure when you buy seeds that you plan to use them within that season, or at least within the next two years. Always store them in a container in a cool place out of sunlight. I store mine in sealed containers and usually I store them in the bottom of the fridge.

In terms of sowing your seeds, we really have to pay attention to the detail of sowing seeds to begin with. Some seeds are really easy, but if you want to get onto things that are more difficult it is really best to know the basics. For containers, whatever you use should be nice and clean. No need to scrub them. You can use recycle containers. You just have to wash them in warm soapy water or I put mine in just some disinfectant (household disinfectant) and soak them for about 20 minutes. Then I just take them out let me dry.

If you're sowing seed direct into the garden bed that's fine too. It's really just a matter of what you're going to do with the seeds and also what the seeds preference is really. Some seeds like to be sown direct because they don't like to be transplanted and that includes crops like carrots. You can sow peas and beans direct too, because it’s pretty easy - the seeds are large. The same applies with things like sweet corn. But even in that case, if you've got a problem perhaps with mice or rats or other things attacking your garden, if you put your seeds in containers and then transfer them into the garden you've got much better control about the conditions that you put those seeds under.

The other thing to remember is that seeds are seasonal and so the season that the plant grows in and the temperatures that it likes, determine the temperature that that seed likes to actually germinate. For example if you're growing capsicums or even eggplants, they tend to like slightly warmer temperatures for the seed to germinate and so if you try to sow them in the middle of winter or where it's really cold, they just don't come up or they'll come up very, very slowly.

Some seeds really like those cool conditions and they are the things that typically grow through the winter time like cabbages and kale and broccoli. Those types of things like cooler temperatures, so if you try to sow them and get a cop in too early, while the temperatures are still warm, chances are again that those seeds won't come up. Pay attention to the information on the back of the pack or read up; follow my sowing guide on the website, particularly for vegetables to see the best time to put your seeds in.

When I prepare my seeds for sowing, I do a couple of things. With large seeds or seeds that are a bit corky or slow to germinate I often soak them in a mix of seaweed. Here I have seaweed mixed at 20mls per litre and I simply do this at night before I go to bed. I put the seeds into a container (any sort of container will do), put a label in with the name and the variety and then I just simply pour some liquid seaweed into the container [pours liquid seaweed into glass containing seeds] and leave them overnight.

Make sure you do this when you’re going to sow the seeds the next day. Let them soak for about 12 hours, but you don't want to leave them for too much more than that because otherwise your seeds can rot. It's a terrific technique to get beetroot going; spinach; it's also good for flowers like calendula; tomatoes; eggplants; those things that take a while for the seeds to absorb moisture. That’s really the key with getting seed to germinate successfully, because getting moisture into the seed is the thing that initiates germination and encourages your seed to grow.

When it comes to then sowing the seed, I use a particular mix. My preferred mix is the one that we use generally in commercial horticulture and it looks something like this. So you might have seen a mix that has sort of white pieces in it [holds container of peat and perlite mix] and some people think that it's has polystyrene or something in it. It hasn't. This is actually a mix of this coir - so this is coconut fibre. You soak this block in a bucket of water and it becomes a really fine mixture, very good at holding moisture, but it's also very clean mix and that's quite important for your seed sowing.

The white material, (this in this here), this is perlite [holds up a container of white material] - perlite is another rock. It’s a natural material, very, very, light, but it also holds some moisture too. Generally what I use is this combination and in commercial horticulture often that’s the sort of thing that we use.

When it comes to covering the seed, we use another product and that's this one here and this is called vermiculite [holds up container of fawn-coloured material]. Vermiculite again, it's another natural product, very light hold lots of moisture and so that means that you seeds don't dry out quite as quickly.

You can use all sorts of materials for seed sowing. If you're using potting mix, the only thing I would say is make sure you sieve the potting mix so that you’re only getting fine material and not all those big bark chunks. Those chunks tend to inhibit the growth of the seed when the tap root is coming out from the seed and also the big chunks mean that the potting mix dries out to quickly for your seeds to germinate successfully.

You can use sieved compost. Some people use just washed river sand - so just use whatever you got available and what you find successful for you.

If I was sowing these seeds direct into a garden bed, I would put a nice fine tilth to the soil. That is, take some of the soil once I have cultivated the soil up and prepared it and then shake some of that sieved soil over-the-top to prepare my seedbed. Then all I have to do then is pour this mix along (complete with the liquid seaweed) in a line and pop the label in and then I can cover it (because I don't want to seed to dry out) then, I can cover it with either more of the sieved mix; I could cover it with coir; or if you have the vermiculite you can put that on to the garden as well; or you could use sieved compost; or again you could use sand.

If I was sowing these seeds into containers, then all I need to do is to drain out a little of the liquid seaweed. Then I can put some of the seed into the container that I'm using. Sometimes I just use the label itself to spread the seeds over the pot. I filled this one with potting mix. This seed is quite large and chunky and I'm just spreading it out. I have enough here for a couple of pots.

Pop the label in and then I would just sprinkle for little bit of vermiculite over-the-top. When I water that the vermiculite will expand and cover the seed just nicely and I can then use the liquid seaweed to water over the top. Those seeds will be up in three or four days and you end up with something that looks a bit like this [holds up pot of germinated tomato seeds]. These are tomatoes I did about five days ago.

But there are instances where certain seeds don't like to be covered and that particularly applies to really small seed so lettuce seed and begonia seed. This seed is really, really tiny, so it actually doesn't like to be covered with anything at all and that's often a mistake that gardeners make at home when they're trying to get these seeds to germinate, because all you ever see on the television is people making the great big drill in the soil and burying the seeds really deeply.

Remember that small seeds only have a limited amount of energy and so if we want to get them to germinate we just take a small amount of the seed. Here I've have an Asian lettuce.  Lettuce seed will be either white or black depending on the variety. This Asian lettuce is black. We sprinkle a few seeds over the top. There are probably about eight seeds here. I can thin them out later on, but I like to plant my lettuces in bunches.

Pop our label in. I've got whole tray ready. I'm just going to share those with people and I can pop them in my own garden just burying whole pot itself because these are biodegradable paper pots, so they'll decompose in the soil.

When it comes to seed sowing, it's really easy. It's all so addictive and you'll end up probably with more seeds than you'll ever know what to do with and lots of germinated seedlings.

In our next session I'll be showing you how you take it from here [holds up pot of germinated tomato seeds]. Get into seeds you'll have lots to share with family and friends. It's great fun.


Last updated: 29 April 2021