How to Plant Vegetable Seeds | Soil, water & easy tips + Organically

Growing vegetables from seed is a great way to grow healthy, strong plants.  It is the cheap and easy way to grow great vegetables at home. You can sow seed straight into your garden or plant in trays. You can even plant vegetable seeds in pots to grow in a small urban garden.

The other great thing about learning to grow vegetables from seed is that you will have a huge range to choose from.  Garden centers usually only stock a few, common varieties of vegetables grown as seedlings but you can get almost any vegetable to grow a home by seed. Growing from seed is also much cheaper than buying seedlings.  In 1 packet you can get hundreds of seeds compared to only 6-8 seedlings in a punnet for the same price.

What are the easiest vegetables to grow from seed?

I always start my new garden with some easy to grow seeds.  Even if you are an experienced gardener, growing reliable, easy crops are a good way to quickly fill space in your vegie patch.

When I first moved to my townhouse, I was keen to add some new soil to my raised garden beds and get some seeds in.  I always grab a packet of mixed lettuce and bok choy to get some green in my garden and to protect the soil.  Check out my 6 favorite vegetables to grow from seed.

  • Radish – this is by far the fastest, most reliable and easiest vegetable to grow from seed.  They will sprout in a few days and be ready to pick in 3-4 weeks.  If picked young they won’t be too peppery and can be sliced and added to salad.
  • Mixed lettuce – The second favorite vegetable I will always plant from seed is mixed lettuce.  These mixes are usually a combination of a common lettuce varieties, that grow leafy, rather than in a single head. These are great as you can pick leaves as you need them and the plant will continue to grow.
  • Bok Choy – I have always found this to be a reliable grower and love adding this to my stir fries or curry dishes.  They sprout in about a week and will be ready to pick in about 6 weeks.  It is a great idea to sow small patches a few weeks apart. That way you will have bok choy to harvest each week.
  • Snow or sugar snap peas – I love growing peas. They are reliable and are quick to sprout.  They are great to plant with kids as they are a large seed that is easy to see.  I plant these around 2 inches apart about the depth of my knuckle.  I then water them in gently and don’t water again until I see the sprout popping though the ground.  If you water too much, the seed can rot in the ground.
  • Green beans – long green beans are a great plant to grow from seed. They don’t like to be transplanted as a seedling so are the perfect choice to grow straight in your garden bed.  They produce well, so you will have plenty of beans to go around and share with family and friends.
  • Carrots – these are a family favorite and should be grown from seed straight in your garden.  If you try to transplant them it can disturb the root and you may get bendy, odd shaped carrots.  They are much more reliable when they are planted from seed straight into the garden.  You won’t disturb the root and it will help it to grow a healthy long carrot.  The most important tip to is to prepare your soil well before planting your carrot seed.  Dig it over thoroughly and make sure there aren’t any large rocks or soil chunks in the way.  This will send your carrots growing in weird direction or they may end up short and stumpy.

How to grow seeds in punnets or trays – 5 Easy steps

Some seeds grow best if sown in punnets or trays first and then planted out.  I find that growing tomatoes, eggplant, and capsicum in a seed tray first is best.  You can then choose the strongest plants and move them into your garden when they have grown up a bit. Let’s go through the steps to growing seeds in trays or punnets (the easy way).

What you will need

  • Seed tray, punnet or small biodegradable pots
  • Seed raising mix
  • Seeds
  • Small stick or popstick
  • Gentle sprayer, or attachment to your hose
Vegetable and flower seeds I am sprouting in coconut coir
Step 1Find a tray or seed punnet.  You can also use biodegradable pots to plant your seed.  
Step 2Fill the seed punnet with seed raising mix. Flatten the soil but do not press this down too hard. Keep it loose and leave around 1cm or 1/3 inch space at the top of the punnet.  
Step 3Sprinkle your seeds on top of the soil.  If these are small seeds then sprinkle them evenly across the top. If the seed is bigger you can place them with around 1 inch space between them. You can also use seed tape to make it even easier.
Step 4Sprinkle a fine layer of seed raising mix on top of the seeds.  Only cover the seeds 1-2x the width of the seed.  I usually aim for a light sprinkle of soil and gently pat it down. If the seeds are larger, then use a popstick to make a small hole and drop the seed in.  
Step 5Water them in gently with a spray bottle or the mist spray setting on your hose spray nozzle.  

That it is, you will need to place the seeds in a shady spot in your garden and keep them moist.  The main reason any seed will fail is that they are left to dry out.  The most important thing when growing seeds is to make sure they are kept moist until they sprout.

As the seed grows it will generally grow 2 leaves first and then it second set of leaves.  As the second set of leaves come through you can gradually move your seeds into the sun. This is called ‘hardening off’ an will help your plants get ready to spend their life in your garden bed.  Once they have grown their second set of leaves, or are around 3-5 inches tall, you can plant them out into their space in the garden. Remember to still keep the water up to them after you move them into your garden. 

Do I need to use seed raising mix?

Using seed raising mix is a good way to start your seeds and you can even buy organic.  It is essentially a fine potting soil that may have a small amount of vermiculite in it. This helps to hold moisture and will keep your seeds damp as they are sprouting.  You can even use seed raising mix to place on top of seeds that you have planted out in your garden.  This will help more seeds to sprout successfully because it will help to stop them from drying out.

You can also sprout your seeds in coconut coir.  This is the outside husks of coconuts which comes compressed in bricks or nugget sized and you just add water.  I have been growing my seeds in pure coconut coir and they have been sprouting well in biodegradable pots.  Check out my article here for more on sprouting seeds in coconut coir.

For a simple seed raising mix you can make at home mix 1 part coconut coir, 1 part vermiculite and 1 part organic compost together.  This will be the perfect mix to sprout your vegetable seeds with success.

How to grow vegetable seeds straight in your garden – 5 Easy Steps

If you want to grow your seeds straight into your garden, here is a simple step by step guide.

What you will need

  • Seeds
  • Seed raising mix
  • Gentle sprayer, or attachment to your hose
  • Organic compost, organic pelletized chicken manure or aged cow manure
Step 1Prepare your garden soil by removing any weeds, digging over the garden bed and add some organic compost or cow manure. I also like to add a small handful of pelletized chicken manure.  This is a gentle organic fertilizer that will slowly release nutrients over time.  It won’t upset your seed growth but will provide your small plants with some nutrients to get them growing well from the beginning.
Step 2Make a small furrow or line in the soil in a long row.  You can use a stick to make the row.  Make it a shallow row if it a small seed.  Make it only twice as deep as the seed is wide.  
Step 3Sprinkle the seeds into the row.  If the seeds are tiny, you can mix them with some sand (just sandpit sand will do) and sprinkle the mix in.  If the seeds are bigger, like peas, you can place these with a 2-inch gap with your finger.   
Step 4Cover the seeds with seed raising mix if you have it.  You can also lightly cover the seeds with garden soil.  Gently rake or spread the soil over the top of your seeds with your hand.
Step 5Gently water the seeds in.  Use the gentle sprayer fitting on your hose and remember to keep the seeds damp until they sprout. Small seeds will need to be watered each day, or even morning and night if the weather is warm. Larger seeds like peas won’t need to be watered until you see them sprout through ground.

Do I need to soak my seeds before planting?

Sometimes soaking your seeds before planting will help to get them to grow quicker and more successfully.  The only seeds that I always soak before planting are beetroot seeds.  They have a hard outer husk which will take a while to grow if you place them straight in the ground.  Like all root vegetables, they grow best if planted straight into your garden.

I like to soak my beetroot seeds in water overnight. Letting them soak for at least 30 minutes is a good start if you don’t have time to soak them overnight.  You will find that they sprout quicker and more seeds will successfully sprout with this soaking method.

What are heirloom vegetable seeds?

Heirloom vegetables are traditional varieties of vegetables.  They have been grown for many generations and came about by natural selection.. Gardeners over many generations have mixed and selected the best of their crops to save seed from.  These are some of the most interesting vegetables you can grown and I have had so much fun over the years trying out new varieties that you will never find in the supermarket. 

Heirloom tomatoes can be some of the most interesting to grow with different shapes and colors to try.  The best thing about heirloom vegetables is that you can save the seed and grow them again the next year.  Some hybrid vegetables bought as seedlings won’t produce seed that will grow. They are made to grow once and to be bought again. If you want to save seed then heirloom vegetables are your best choice. They are usually also organic but check the pack just be sure.

How far down do you plant vegetable seeds?

A simple way to remember is to plant seeds twice as deep as they are wide.  Lots of seeds are tiny so you will find it hard to work out.  Small seeds can be broadly sprinkled on the top of the soil and then sprinkled with seed raising mix.  Larger seeds like pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber and peas are easier to see but I simply place them in the soil up to my first knuckle.  This is a bit deeper than they are wide, but they always grow with success using this method.

Are there vegetables I shouldn’t grow from seed?

You can grow any vegetable from seed but there are some that are better grown from an established plant. Rhubarb is a good example of this.  It is easier to buy a rhubarb ‘crown’ which is part of a divided rhubarb plant.  They will take a while to establish but it will grow for years and you can divide it later and share it with friends.

Asparagus is another vegetable that is easy to grow from a crown.  You can technically grown then from seed but most gardeners will plant crowns as they are more reliable and faster to establish.

Do I need to fertilize my seeds?

When you first plant your seeds into a seed tray or punnet you will not need to fertilize them at the start.  Their seed pod will contain all the nutrients they need to sprout.  Once they have grown their second set of leaves you will need to give them some extra food to keep them growing. There are some simple ways to do this.

  1. Organic liquid fertilizer
  2. Organic pellet fertilizer – Dug into the soil before planting or added after the second set of leaves have grown
  3. Mix in aged cow manure or organic compost

Green, leafy vegetables will like a nitrogen rich fertilizer.  I like to add some liquid organic fish emulsion to mine each month when they are growing.  I will make sure I give them a good wash before eating them make sure there is no fertilizer on the leaves.  I also suggest not to fertilize the plants on their leaves a week before you want to pick them

How to grow vegetable seeds in pots

Growing vegetable seeds in pots is simple and easy. Start with the pot size that the plant will grow into. 

Step 1Fill the pot with potting soil or your home-made mix of 1 part coconut coir, 1 part vermiculite and 1-part organic compost.  
Step 2Choose a seed that will grow well when planted straight into the soil. I would plant snow peas, sweet peas, pumpkin, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, radish, or beetroot. 
Step 3Cover the seed with seed raising mix or more of the potting soil. Either will work fine.  
Step 4Water in gently and keep in a shady spot to establish.  

When growing vegetables from seed in pots is that a pot is likely to dry out quicker than your garden bed as the plant grows.  You may need to water it everyday if you are in a dry area or even twice per day if the weather is warm. If you can, I would move the pot into a shady area if the weather get extremely hot. That is the benefit of growing vegetables in pots.

Happy growing.