Why Not . . . Sow Your Own Seeds? 12 Simple Steps for Success

Apr 02, 2020

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”. –Cicero

Growth, desired and intended and hoped for growth is an awe-inspiring thing to witness. Whether in ourselves, others and yes, even in the seeds we hope will sprout into the plant that will be placed in our yard and/or garden, observing growth is a priceless gift in many ways as it brings forth a powerful infusion of belief in the can-do spirit.

For the first time, I sowed my own seeds.

Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That’s the fun of them. You’re always learning”. –Helen Mirren

Why it took me so long to save myself money and plant my own herb garden, I can only explain with, well, nope, I just do not know. But I am now forever a convert, and look forward to sowing my herbs each year moving forward along with many other plants as well.

Granted, my young seedlings are in their early days still, and careful attention I still need to give to make sure they make it to the outdoors and the garden, but seeing their green sprout emerge from the soil was truly a wondrous and joyful sight to see.

Today I’d like to share with you the simple steps of sowing your own seeds indoors so that you too can have your own garden ready to come when the last frost finally occurs. And if you are going to keep your plants indoors, this will be a simple tutorial on how to make them grow with ease.

1.Choose and order/purchase the seeds you want to plant

It all began in Normandy.

Susan Hermann-Loomis taught us how to make a sorrel-cream sauce, and the burst of lemon flavor which the sorrel provided caught my attention immediately. What was this herb? I primarily inquired because we had put no citrus anything in the sauce, yet it was so bright and lemon-flavored. Sure enough, the herb that I had not until that moment heard of was sorrel, and it was bringing the citrusy deliciousness all on its own.

Part of the reason I had never heard of it before was that I had never seen it before at nurseries. So what did I do as soon as I arrived back in the states? I ordered my first seed back full of sorrel seeds. I was planning ahead, but I didn’t want to forget so that I might have them for next year’s planting.

I share this story because you want to plant what you want to enjoy using and seeing in your yard and garden, and as there are a handful of French herbs I cannot find here in Bend, I was determined to not let that deter my ability to have them at-the-ready. I look forward to trying vegetables, flowers and even perennials in future years, but for now, I am just tickled to have started to grow my own French herb garden directly from seed.

My mother, who has been an avid gardener all of her adult life and probably longer, is my American Monty Don. Having seen her create the most magnificent landscape on my parents’ property, I can attest I now more fully appreciate her not wanting to leave her home for too long in the summer if she is fearful her plants won’t be watered well while she is away. With that said, I seek out her recommendations on everything gardening, and she directed to Johnny’s Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds for my seed needs here in the states, as well as RH Shumway.

~the three from Johnny’s that are hard to see are Sorrel, Winter Savory and Summer Savory~

2. Gather up the necessary supplies

For fewer than $50 you can have your seeds, your soil and your trays and be ready to plant more than 300 seeds that will save you an abundance of money if you had purchased these plants when they were grown. Below is a quick shopping list for the necessary supplies for starting your seeds (each seed packet will let you know how early to begin planting based on the last frost in your area):

  • 72-cell Plug Flat (recommended size by Floret’s Flowers, but you can also use containers without dividers similar to Monty Don)
  • Seedling Trays (placed underneath the Plug Flat to keep your table clean)
  • Clear Domes for germination (this prevents the soil from drying out too quickly and also helps regulate the temperature when you are using a heating pad or grow lights.
  • Seedling/Germination Mix (whether you order it online from Johnny’s as I did or are picking it up at your local nursery, just making sure you are not picking up standard potting mix. Monty Don recommends mix that does not have peat in it.)
  • Pot Labels (whether wooden or otherwise, choose a way to easily label what you have planted)

3. Fill the plugs with soil – compact the soil so that you eliminate any air pockets.

~no seeds yet, just oil, compacted~

4. Place the seeds on the soil.

Read the instructions carefully for each seed packet as they are each slightly different regarding their germination period (the time it takes for the seed to sprout), the amount of soil to place the seed in or below, etc.)

Notice below how different the Chevril versus the Basil instructions are for the amount of soil to place on top of the seeds. As well, the germination period is different too.


5. Label each row

While likely, you will be able to visually see the difference of each plant once they mature, it is important that you know which is what during the process so you will know when to expect them to grow based on their germination period, etc..


6. Cover the seeds with the required amount of soil (do not compact it as you do not want to lose or suppress the seeds further than necessary)

You can somewhat tell that the seeds on the far rigth were to be sown on the surface as no additional soil was added, while some seeds on the left needs some soil and a few in the middle needed a 1/4″ of soil.


7. Water gently, but well.

There are two different ways you can water, and the second was brought to my attention by my mother, and I had shifted to it moving forward (I explain why in the bullet points).

  1. Water with a watering can or spritzer onto the surface.
    • you will have to water more frequently as you do not want the soil to dry out (but do not over-saturate either).
  2. Fill the seedling trays (which the plugs sit in) with water.
    • you will need to water less often
    • the roots will have to search for the water which will drawn them down and strengthen them in the long-run
    • Don’t leave the pugs in the tray longer than is necessary for the soil to absorb the water – the soil will look moist or darken as it is damp. Once they have absorbed the water, remove the tray until the next watering session.

8. Cover with a clear dome

There are a couple of different sizes (heights) for clear domes. I chose the less expensive standard size, and it worked fine. It depends upon which plants you are growing. Once the plants have germinated, you can remove the dome.

It is imperative that the seeds remain watered throughout germination as water is what tells the seed to begin growing and sprouting.


9. Place somewhere the temperature will remain steadily between 60-70 degree Fahrenheit (15-21 degrees Celsius).

As you can see in the video below, I placed mine in a window that is South facing. I also found an old heating pad and placed my tray on top of that. I made sure to shut the blinds at night, so the cold air from the window did not decrease the temperature. You can also use growing lights which will keep the temperatures where you need them or place them in a greenhouse and do any one of the above mentioned ideas. Johnny’s Seeds offers all of these tools if you need them. (seedling heat mats and growth lights and carts)


10. Once the seeds have sprouted, remove the dome and the trays and continue to check the seeds daily, watering when the soil becomes too dry.

As you can see my soil is staying very moist. I just spritz them today, but realized I should have removed the tray of water sooner. The one row that has not sprouted makes me think this may have caused them to be too watered. However, it hasn’t been 14 full days yet, and one has sprouted, so I am going to wait and see.


11. Feed your young seedlings

Floret’s Flowers recommendas feeding with a small amount of liquid seaweed and fish emulsion (there are many brands, I linked one here), doing so each week combined with water.

12. Repot when seedlings outgrown their plug space.

Depending upon the temperatures outside, if your last frost occurs late in the year, you will likely have to repot into a slightly larger pot to give the seedlings space to grow.

If your weather is warm enough and the last frost has passed, begin to harden your plants by placing them outside for a few hours each day that is sheltered, but still outside. Increase the amount of time each day and slowly over 1-2 weeks, they will be ready to be successfully transplanted into the garden.


That’s it!

I have learned so much simply by asking questions from my mother, seeing Monty Don plant his many seedlings on Gardener’s World (I have been enjoying watching past seasons whilst watching a new episode each Friday evening as the latest season unfolds – Amazon Prime offers access to BritBox), and watching Floret’s videos/posts that she has shared as well as what she detailed in her first book.

Another book I HIGHLY recommend and am reading in detail at the moment – calming for my mind as well – is Monty Don’s Down to Earth. He shares everything you would ever need to know about gardening, from the tools you will need, to the tasks for each season and much more.

More than anything, watching something grow that you planted on your own is quite exhilarating and truly does infuse one with hope and belief in the future. It may be a small thing that we can control, but it is nourishing and fulfilling in its own significant way. And even better, come summer, you will have a garden and yard full of plants that you paid only a few pennies for rather than many dollars. Saving your budget, boosting your positive energy, elevating the flavor as well as delighting your aesthetic eye, now that is a combination worth giving a try.

~View more TSLL’s Garden posts here.






15 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Sow Your Own Seeds? 12 Simple Steps for Success

  1. I love growing my herbs, but have never felt brave enough to try again from seed after I got it all wrong one time years ago–all leggy and very poorly planned as far as planting dates etc. I’ve all ready got some transplants going, but you have inspired me to give the seed packets a go again. And we all have some time on our hands now, eh, so why not? Thankfully, we have quite a long growing season here, so starting seeds now should be all right. And I think I must get the Monty Don book. Isn’t he lovely?

  2. I needed this inspiration today, Shannon. Thank you!

    Rain is pouring down but I have a seed delivery coming today. Herbs and salad greens are my things to grow from seeds as I cook as much as I can outside in the warmer months. I am currently trying out microgreens but have to do this in my kitchen window with some plant lights here in the Norwegian climate. Have you ever tried microgreens? They are so nutritious and delicate in salads and on soups and sandwiches so I hope it will be a successful project.

    Wishing you many hours of joyful gardening in the upcoming months!

  3. Do you know about Margaret Roach and A Way to Garden? Her website and podcast (and newly released and updated book) are all excellent resources!

  4. There are flower seedlings in my basement windowsills, and Monty’s April post inspired me to try lettuce in pots again. Lettuce is hard to get with grocery delivery. I ordered two packets of seeds yesterday, and will try to prepare the pots this weekend. I am loving being able to watch Gardeners World for the first time!!

    Do you know what the difference is between his books Down to Earth and The Complete Gardener? I would like to get one but I’m not sure how much they overlap. Your posts and GW have been such a bright spot in my days at home! Can’t wait til it’s a little warmer to go outside and restore my flower garden from the winter. 🙂

    1. Debby, Thank you for sharing. I don’t have an answer to the difference between the books. Perhaps a fellow reader can share. I absolutely love Down to Earth, as I appreciate the month by month approach to what to do in the garden. It sounds like, based on reading A Complete Gardener’s synopsis, that would be a good book to start with and then follow up with Down to Earth. In fact, I may have to check out A Complete Gardener from the library to fill in some gaps. 🙂 And isn’t A Gardener’s World wonderful?! I too so enjoy the show, and am learning so much! Wishing you happy growing with your lettuce. Thank you for stopping by Debby.

  5. Thank you so much for the inspiration Shannon! I’ve been wanting (but hesitant) to start a French potager in our tiny backyard. It’s half sun and lots of shade, so I’ve been hesitant. But I purchased “Grow Fruits and Vegetables in Pots” from one of your previous blog recommendations, and now this post inspires me to maybe just start small with the herb garden. 🙂

    1. Allison, So happy to hear you are going to give having a potager a try! Putting them in pots will work wonderfully, and then you can put them in the sun as much as they need. Have fun!

  6. Wow Shannon your seedlings are doing great. There is so much joy nursing the seeds and watch them germinate and then the harvest . So much more economical than buying the seedlings from the garden centre. There is something so satisfying to eat something you’ve grown from seed. You have a better chance of healthier plants from the seeds as the ga5den centres propagate so many sometimes quality is not consistent for all. If some of your seedlings do not mature don’t worry even experienced gardeners like myself hit bad luck sometimes. It’s a learning curve of trial and error. Something that will happily grow one year might not the next. Here in France we grow flowers amongst our vegetables. Sow some marigolds and nasturtiums amongst your vegetables. Help to keep the pests away and ate edible.You’re in for a long adventure. Have fun.?

    1. Thank you Kameela for all of your words of advise and experience. I am trying to ring some marigolds into the garden this year and nasturtiums are next in my list. Channeling my inner Monet the gardener with those. 🙂

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