Seed Raising

There is nothing like the satisfaction of raising your own plants from seed or establishing new plants from cuttings.

Seed raising is cost effective and gives the grower a variety of plants which are not always available at the garden centre when you want them. Choose varieties to suit your area and the season.

Raising seed is easy if you follow our handy tips:

Sowing Directly Into the Soil

This method is used for root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, as well as peas and beans. Other large seeds such as pumpkin, zucchini and sweet corn are also often sown direct in the soil where they are to grow.

  • Sowing seed directly into the soil can be difficult in old diseased soil or clay soil where drainage is not good. 
  • For a good start ensure the soil has lots of compost added and is free draining. Another good idea is to create a shallow furrow about 30mm deep in the row where the seed is to be sown. Fill this furrow with seed raising mix.
  • Sow the seeds at the spacing advised on the seed packet, and cover. Firm the surface gently to ensure seed to soil contact which also minimises drying out.
  • Early in the season in colder districts it is common to cover with a cloche. 

For more detail on seed raising, refer to the Yates Garden Guide.

Troubleshooting if Seeds Don’t Germinate


  • Too wet—prevents oxygen getting to the seed, and increases fungal rots
  • Too dry— seeds parts germinate and then die. 
  • Too cold—most seeds need moderate to warm temperature to germinate.
  • Too hot—direct hot summer sun will kill germinating seeds
  • Planting too deep—is usually too cold and wet as well.
  • Planting too shallow—seeds are likely to dry out.
  • Seed mix and/or soil to loose—insufficient moisture supply to the seed.
  • Seed mix too firm—creates water-logging and stops oxygen getting to the seed.
  • Presence of soil fungus diseases— in old gardens or dirty containers.
  • Slugs and snails—will commonly attack seedlings as they germinate.
  • Birds/cats/dogs
  • Fertiliser burn—don’t apply fertiliser close to seeds.
The seed

We recommend iCan superior seeds as your first choice as they have been specially selected as the very best performers for the home gardener.

Always use fresh seed, some seeds have a short life once the foil sachet packet is opened. It is preferable that seeds be used the same season the packet is opened. The seed in unopened foil sachets should remain viable for some years if kept in a cool dry place. A sealed glass jar in a cupboard is best.

Sowing Seed

A few species such as carrots, parsnips, turnips and peas and beans, are best sown directly in the soil. Others are best sown in a tray to germinate and then transplanted out into the soil as young plants.

Raising young plants in punnets or small pots also saves time allowing better use of garden space.

Raising Seed in Trays, Punnets or Pots

Use a quality seed raising mix such as Yates Black Magic. If re-using old trays punnets or pots, ensure they have been washed thoroughly to remove all traces of soil which could be harbouring soil fungus diseases that attack germinating seeds.

  • Fill the containers with seed raising mix. 
  • Water, and allow to drain for 30 minutes or so. 
  • Some gardeners prefer to sow 2 –3 seeds in each cell of the punnet or pot, and then to thin out to 1 per cell / pot after germination. Other gardeners prefer to sow a number of seeds and when they have germinated and have 1 true leaf (the next one to appear after the 2 seed leaves), they are carefully ‘pricked out’ into punnets, pots, or spaced out in a tray. 
  • With either technique, sow the seed to a depth of 2-3 times its thickness, or place on the surface and cover 2-3 times its thickness with seed raising mix. 
  • It is important that the mix in the sown punnets or trays, remains damp but not wet, until germination is complete, which takes from 1—3 weeks for most species. This is best achieved by placing in a small glass or polythene covered cloche, or by covering with a sheet of glass. A sheet of newspaper in addition will also help. 
  • Place in a warm sunny place in winter/early spring or in a shady place in summer. As soon as germination is complete, remove glass or cover and allow ventilation. Keep moist but not wet, and ensure the young plants have good light. 
  • After another 2—3 weeks the young seedlings will be ready for transplanting into the garden.