Direct seed sowing


Use this method to sow seeds in the soil or in raised beds, containers or a polytunnel . Follow the instructions on the seed packet for the correct time of year and specific instructions.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors
  • School term: Early Autumn, Late Spring, Early Summer, Late Summer
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Maths, Science

Learning objectives

  • Develop seed sowing techniques for sowing seeds directly into the ground
  • Explore how to make a drill and sow seeds at the correct spacing
  • Learn how to write a label to mark planting rows

Essential background information


  • Ensure the area is weed free.
  • Rake the soil gently so it is fine and crumbly and is reasonably level.
  • Use gardening gloves.


  • Trowel
  • Hand rake
  • Dibber
  • Measuring stick
  • Kneelers 
  • Gardening gloves
  • Watering can
  • Labels and waterproof pen or pencil
  • Sticks or straws (to mark rows)
  • Seeds 

Step by step

  1. Read the seed sowing instructions on the seed packet to work out the sowing distances. 
  2. Make a channel in the soil by placing the spacing stick on the soil and making a narrow channel (known as a 'drill') by running the tip of a trowel, or dibber against the side of the spacing stick. The seed packet will tell you how deep it needs to be.
  3. Water the drill very carefully, using a watering can with a fine rose, before sowing the seed.
  4. Open the seed packet carefully and place seeds into an easy to access container such as a shallow plastic saucer, or tub. If they are small seeds, use your index finger and thumb to pinch a small amount of seed and sprinkle very sparingly just above and along the drill. Large seeds can be sown along the channel, using the spacing stick to measure the distance between each seed.
  5. Cover the seeds by carefully raking the soil back over the channel, using a rake or the back of a trowel.
  6. Remember to label the row stating the name of the plant and the date.

Hints & tips

  • With small seeds, empty the packet into a small pot and mix with sand so seeds are visible in the drill.  
  • Avoid sowing seeds on windy days.
  • Large seeds can also be sown individually using a dibber to create a hole for the seed. This is known as station sowing.
  • String can be used as a marker to make a straight drill if you don't have access to a measuring stick.
  • Thin out seedlings if needed - thinning out is the removal of seedlings that are growing too close together so that the plants do not compete with each other for water, nutrients and light.