How to plant seeds in a flower pot

How to plant seeds in a flower pot

Planting seeds in pots

Planting seeds in pots

There are 3 main ways of sowing seeds:

  1. Sowing directly into the soil where they will grow.
  2. Sowing them into modules
  3. Sowing them into flowerpots. (or other containers) 

Here we are going to talk about sowing seeds in plant pots, flower pots or containers.

Here are some of the advantages of using pots:

 1. No weeds: You can be certain that the only seeds in the soil are the ones that you want to grow so there is no weeding or competition from weeds. 

2. Portability: Pots are portable and they can be moved around. For example moved into warmer or sunnier places or moved away from the cold if necessary. It is good for young seedlings  to have some air movement to strengthen the stems and also to have some direct sunlight. Plants tend to lean over to face where the light is coming from so you can move them around if light is coming from a narrow source.

3. Preparation: The purpose of growing seeds in pots is to raise small vigorous healthy plants.  When they are eventually planted into their final growing place as healthy robust plants all weeds can be destroyed at the moment of planting. If a mulch is applied immediately after planting our plants will have no competition and very little weeding will be necessary.

Which seeds are not suited to being sown in a flowerpot? 

I don’t plant very big seeds such as broad beans in pots. Some plants hate being transplanted so it is best to sow them where they will grow. Examples of these are root crops such as  carrots and parsnips. However if seedlings are handled very carefully they can be planted in pots. Radishes germinate very quickly and are very vigorous so it is best to plant them in the field. 

What type of soil should be used in the pot? 

The most important part of the soil in the pot is the first 3 cm. I fill up the flower pot with any old garden soil to within about 10cm from the top of the pot. Then I use some commercial potting compost soil from a  garden center to within 1.5cm from the top.  The soil right at the top should be fairly fine without any big lumps and it must be totally sterile. You can make your own seed compost for this purpose by putting some soil in a microwave or heating it up in a pan and then passing it through a sieve.  I tend to buy specialized seed compost from the garden center if they have any.

How to sow the seed? 

The most important factor is the depth that you put the seed. Very small seeds tend to  to be left on the surface and bigger seeds are planted deeper.   It often tells you on a seed packet the depth they should be planted. Some seeds need light to germinate whereas others will germinate in the dark.  Many people say that you should sow the seeds on the surface then cover them with other soil to the recommended depth. I tend to put the seeds on the surface and then mix them in with the end of a pencil so that most of them are more or less the correct depth. 

How long does germination take? 

Normally between 7 days and 3 weeks. The time is very dependent on temperature. Plants that need high temperatures to grow like pepper and aubergines like a high temperature say 20C. Cold tolerant plants such as cabbages will germinate at 8C.  The rate of germination depends on how old the seeds are.  In time the germination rate of a batch of seeds goes down until eventually they are all sterile. Below is a viability chart for common seeds.

  • 1 year: onions, parsnips, parsley, salsify, and spinach
  • 2 years: sweetcorn, peas, beans, chives, okra, dandelion
  • 3 years: carrots, leeks, asparagus, turnips
  • 4 years: peppers, chard, pumpkins, squash, watermelons, basil, artichokes
  • 5 years: most brassicas, beets, tomatoes, aubergine, cucumbers, celery, celeriac, lettuce, endive, chicory

What are common mistakes when planting seeds?
If you look at the pictures of novice gardeners on facebook, the biggest mistake is letting the seedlings go leggy.  Being leggy means having a very long thin stem. This is caused by having insufficient light and maybe being too warm.  A 10cm long seedling with a tiny thin stem and 2 small leaves at the top will most likely die very soon.  As soon as  seeds germinate they need lots of light and if they have been put in a high temperature to germinate they should be put in a cooler place. Seedlings grow stronger if they have some air movement which will make them sway around and strengthen the stems.  People growing plants inside in artificial lights use rotating fans.

The most common problem with seedlings is damping off. This is when the seedlings start to die and rot for no particular reason.  It is caused by  fungus or mould that thrives in cool, wet conditions.   If you have this problem, use sterilized pots or trays with good drainage and use clean new potting soil to prevent damping off. Pots can be sterilized with bleach and soil can be heated in a microwave  or a pot. To get complete sterilization,  you should heat the soil to between 80 and 90C for 30 minutes.  By the way, heated soil smells terrible. 

What to do with the seedlings? 
You have to wait until the seedlings are big enough to be transplanted. Generally speaking, seedlings should be more than 3 centimetres high. Seedlings can be either planted into small pots or modules or planted into the ground. 

Inverna Winter lettuce

Inverna Winter lettuce

The image above is of winter lettuce. It has actually been in the pot for some time. I have already potted up many seedlings from this pot into modules. These seedlings are big enough to be planted into the ground or into little pots. I would normally transplant the seedlings when they are smaller than they are in the photo.  In the background of the photo, you can see plastic modules. Seedlings can be planted into modules to let them get established.

Labels
Don’t forget to label your pots very clearly. You will need a permanent marker. Garden centres sell labels with a special pencil which will not become illegible.  In the past I have made home made  labels out of recycled  plastic bottles.  

How to transplant seedlings?
The only tools I use for this job is my index finger or if the seedlings are small I use a pencil. First I plunge my finger or a knife into the pot  to bring up a clump of seedlings. Then a seedling is pulled away from the clump. I only touch the seedling by the end of one of the leaves.  A hole is made in the place where the seedling is to be planted with a pencil or a finger and the root is lowered in. Afterwards, the soil is very gently  firmed down, then the seedling is watered in with some water from a cup or given a squirt from a spray. The seedling should not be lying down on the soil. The leaves should be in the air. They will take 2 or 3 days to get established. Some of them may die. In that case, just transplant another one from the mother pot.  This is a very pleasant activity on a sunny day. Make sure you listen to music while doing this activity. I find reggae is very suitable. 

Luke Jayne and Ditte transplanting seedlings

Other Comments
The soil that seeds are planted in does not  need any fertilizer. Once the seedlings have been transplanted, they benefit from some nutrients. They seem to like dilute shit tea. Just put some manure in a  bucket of water to soak for a while.  Dilute it with some water and pour over the plants. 

Maravilla Lettuce

Maravilla Lettuce

The image above shows the final product. These lettuce have been recently transplanted from modules. They will quickly expand and completely cover the soil. No weeds will be able to grow. 

Dried aubergines: spiced aubergines

dried aubergines

Dried aubergines have a firm consistency when cooked. I’m still not sure whether this is a good thing or if they need to be cooked for longer. For this recipe, I soaked the dried aubergines overnight in cold water but next time, I will try putting them in boiling water to see if they soften up more. For more information about cooking with dried vegetables, see this page. Information about how to make your own solar drier can be found here.

SPICED AUBERGINES

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups dried aubergines, soaked in boiling water overnight
  • 1 onion, roughly
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

METHOD

  1. On a fairly high flame, heat the oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the onion and fry until soft.
  4. Drain the aubergine and add to the pan.
  5. Toss well and continuing frying, adding the remaining spices and seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  7. Cover and continue frying until the aubergines are soft
  8. Serve.

Dried courgettes: courgette and potato with tomato sauce

I’m on a quest to find and try out tasty recipes to cook with the vegetables we dried throughout the summer (more info). All the recipes I like will be put up on the blog.

DRIED COURGETTE, POTATO AND HAM IN A TOMATO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups dried courgettes, put into boiling water to soak in the morning
  • 100g chopped ham
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thick tomato sauce
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
  • splash extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • salt and pepper

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and gently fry for a minute or so to soften.
  3. Add the ham and fry for another couple of minutes.
  4. Drain the soaked courgettes and add to the pan, together with the potato, tomato sauce, stock cube and a cup of water.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
  6. Cover and cook gently for 30 minutes or so until the potatoes are soft, adding more water as necessary.

See these pages for more information about dried vegetables and how to make the solar drier.

Using dried vegetables

Solar Drier

View of the Solar Drier

The year 2020 has been a challenge for everyone everywhere. We escaped to the cortijo on 13th March 2020, just before the first COVID lockdowns were introduced in Spain, and we’ve been here ever since. For the first time in 10 years, we haven’t had volunteers to help us and there’s just been the two of us. We’ve continued to plant and grow things and had a good year in terms of vegetables and fruit, but this year we wanted to see if we could be more self-sufficient throughout the winter months. And so we started drying things. At first, we used the electric dryer but then John developed a much more efficient solar drier and chopped or sliced aubergines, butternut squashes, green peppers, tomatoes, courgettes, etc. would dry in 24 hours. There is more information about the solar drier on this page.

Dried Food

Dried Food

My mission at the moment is to find tasty and delicious recipes to make with the dried vegetables. I’ll include the successful recipes in blog posts below.

COURGETTES

Courgettes seem to work best in dishes if they are placed in boiling water for 2-3 hours beforehand. They can then be incorporated into a recipe and cooked for around 30-40 minutes so that they are soft.

Here are some recipes using dried courgettes:

dried courgette and tomatoDried courgette, potato and ham in a tomato sauce 

 

Stupice Tomatoes

Stupice Tomatoes

Stupice Tomato

Stupice Tomato

Stupice are one of my favourite tomatoes and possible the most favourite.  I originally bought the seeds several years ago when I was trying to find cold resistant heirloom varieties. I bought several packets of cold tolerant seeds such as “First in the Field” “Arctic” etc but Stupice were the ones that I most liked. There are several reasons why I am a stupice tomato aficionado which I will list below.

Taste: The taste is perfect with just the right contrast  of sweet and acid flavours.

Size:
They are gold ball sized which means that they don’t take ages to pick and process like cherry tomatoes. 

Productivity: They are very prolific and produce vines of several tomatoes.

More Information: Stupice tomatoes originally came from the Czech Republic. I pronounce Stupice as “STEW PIS” but it should be “STU PEACH KA” or “STOO PEET SAY”. Stupice is  naturally disease resistant and tends to suffer less from blight than other tomatoes planted next to it.  It is compact indeterminate (vine) type with potato leaves. The golf ball sized tomatoes  grow in clusters.  They matures in 60-65 days.  They are said to be cold tolerant. 

Bowl of Stupice Tomatoes

Bowl of Stupice Tomatoes

One of the best ways to use these tomatoes is to make a tomato salad. Just cut them into chunks. Add a sprinkle of salt and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Wait 20 minutes for the salt to pull out some of the juices and you have a dish fit for heaven. 

You can buy stupice tomatoes here