Sowing in pots

Activity

Some seeds may need warmer temperatures to germinate. Learn how to sow seeds in pots indoors to achieve this or start crops earlier.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors & Indoors
  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): English, Maths, Science

Learning objectives

  • Sow a range of vegetable and/or flower seeds into plant pots, trays or recycled containers.

Preparation

Choose the seeds to be sown and pick the most suitable sized pots. We suggest 7-9cm pots as the best for sowing seeds. 

Set out the equipment needed, put compost into large accessible trays or trugs. Provide gloves for children if they have eczema, sensitive skin or any cuts on their hands. 

Print out the How to sow large seeds in pot or modules guide, How to sow seeds using a seed sower guide and the Seed sowing glossary to help children understand the terms used on seed packets.

Equipment

  • Small plant pots, module or seed trays, or recycled containers
  • Seeds 
  • Saucers or shallow tubs to put seeds into 
  • Good quality general purpose compost 
  • Dibber (or pencil)
  • Compost sieve
  • Pencils
  • Plant labels or masking tape
  • Gloves if needed
  • Clingfilm, plastic bags or clear propagator covers

Step by step

  1. Introduce the seeds to be sown – read the seed packet to get specific information about your chosen seeds and the sowing depth.
  2. Write labels first, include the date and name of the plant. Alternatively write on masking tape and stick this to the pot.
  3. Crumble the compost with your fingers so there are no large lumps. Fill the container with compost over fill it and tap it gently on the table or work surface 3 times. This removes any large air pockets in the compost. Use the flat of your hand to strike off excess compost and level the surface.
  4. Put seeds in a shallow saucer so they are easy to pick up.
  5. Sow the seeds: For large seeds check the seed packet for seed sowing depth. A simple way to so large seed is to make a hole with your finger or dibber twice the size of the seed, gently push the seed into the hole, then gently cover up the seed. For small seeds sprinkle the seeds on top of the compost, allow space between the seeds. Sieve a thin layer of compost over small seeds.
  6. Water carefully by either placing the pots in a tray of water and allowing the soil to absorb the water or by carefully using a watering can with a rose head. 
  7. Cover with a layer of cling film/ plastic bag/ plastic propagator top to retain moisture and heat.
  8. Put containers in a sheltered place with good light such as a sunny windowsill, greenhouse or cold frame.

Hints & tips

  • Use the hand you write with to sow the seeds. Pick up tiny seeds between your index finger and thumb. 
  • If seeds are very small use a seed sower to help sow them. See our How to sow seeds using a seed sower guide for more information. 
  • Measure large seeds against your finger or label to work out how deep to plant them.
  • Colour in the bottom of the label to show the depth to sow.
  • Rather than using a compost sieve, you can use another pot that has holes in its base as a sieve.
  • Use this activity as part of Spring Seed Sowing and Grow Your Own Lunch class growing topics.

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