Growing summer bedding plants from seed is both fun and cost-effective, especially if you have several pots to fill.
When to start: Early spring.
At their best: Summer.
Time to complete: A few hours over several weeks.
You will need: Packets of seeds, seed soil, clean seed trays, modular seed trays, selection of pots, broken clay pot pieces, slow-release fertilizer, all-purpose soil, watering can with rose.
Sow seeds indoors in seed trays, but check the packets first for any specific instructions.
Fill seed trays
Using seed soil, fill some clean seed trays to within 1 in (2 cm) of the top. Gently press another seed tray on top to level out and firm the surface.
Water the soil with a can fitted with a fine rose and allow to drain. Pour some seeds into your hand and carefully space them out on the soil surface. Sprinkle some sieved soil over the seeds, but check the packet first to see what depth the seeds require.
Cover and keep moist
Label the seed tray, and put the lid, or a clear plastic bag, over the top. Place in a light spot, and check the packet to see what temperature the seeds need. Keep moist, and remove the lid or plastic bag as soon as seedlings emerge.
Large seeds, such as nasturtiums (Tropaeolum), can be planted in small 3 in (8 cm) pots, and will not need to be potted on.
Fill pots with soil
Fill pots with seed soil and press it down gently with your fingers, or the bottom of another clean pot. Use a blunt pencil or dibber to make three holes, 1 in (2 cm) deep.
Drop one seed into each hole and press the soil down lightly. Label and water the pots, then place in a clear plastic bag until the seedlings start to emerge.
Pot on seedlings
Check your seedlings daily and keep them well watered. The most effective way to do this is to place the seed trays in a larger container (with no drainage holes), half-filled with water. Leave them until the water has seeped into the soil and the surface is damp, then remove the seed trays. When the seedlings have a few leaves, pot them on as shown here.
Remove seedlings from tray
Half-fill modular trays with good quality all-purpose soil. Holding the seedlings gently by their first leaves, use a pencil or dibber to gently tease their roots from the seed soil.
Plant in modules
Place a seedling in the middle of each cell of the modular tray, and fill around the roots and lower stems with more soil. Firm the soil using your fingertips to secure the seedlings.
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 for each seedling, and water carefully. Keep the seedlings in a bright place and at the right temperature. A few weeks before the last frost is forecast, set them outside during the day, bringing them in at night, to harden them off.