Growing from seed for beginners

Sustainable City Our Wellbeing


Posted on 02 Apr 2020

Growing from seed may seem a little daunting at first but it’s well worth the effort and a great hobby you can hone for years to come. 

It’s great for the environment, good for your diet and the perfect way to reduce your grocery bill. We’ve combined some of our own seed growing tips with a guide from the Diggers Club to help you get the most success from your seed sprouting endeavours.

What you need to know if you're new to gardening

Growing from seed can take time. Some seeds will grow produce within weeks, like spinach, and some will take years, like citrus or avocado trees. Be sure to research the seeds you’re planting so you know what to expect and what they expect of you – some like a daily watering.

Some varieties can grow a lot of produce. The yield of some plants may surprise you, some zucchini varieties can grow 25 zucchinis per plant. You won’t want to accidentally sow 10 seeds and end up with 250 zucchinis (unless you really love them).

Zucchini plant

Plan your planting space ahead. Some plants need a lot of space and it’s important to think beyond just the space you will need to sow the seeds. Check the seed packet or a site like the Diggers Club to find out how much space to allow. If you only have a small space to grow, you’ll need to focus on more compact plants like Kale instead of sprawling plants like some pumpkin varieties which can need up to a two metres squared each.

Sow in the right season. You might be accustomed to seeing tomatoes in the shops year-round but most produce only grows in Adelaide in select seasons. Find out what seeds can be sown when by checking a local guide online. A few ideas of seeds to sow for Autumn: broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, lettuce and carrots.

Persevere! Seeds have an average germination rate, meaning not all of them will grow. Some spinach has an 80% germination rate so 2 of 10 seeds won’t make it. Plant extra just in case. If you don’t succeed in your first attempt, don’t give up. Ask questions to your community and experts and try, try again. You may find more success with seeds from different sources so be sure to ask around.

How to grow from seed

Now that you’ve selected your seed with love and painstaking consideration to how much you will really water them, it’s time to sow. Sowing a seed in the right way will ensure it has the best chance of growing.

Sowing in punnets

Some seeds prefer to be swaddled until they’ve grown into strong enough seedlings to survive in the wild world of your veggie patch.

  • Asparagus
  • Capsicum
  • Chilli
  • Eggplant
  • Spring onion
  • Tomato
  1. Fill your punnet or pot to the brim with seed raising mix.
  2. Firmly press down the surface and water well.
  3. Sow seeds carefully, then cover with a fine layer of seed raising mix.
  4. Water again. Place in a well-lit position and water regularly.
  5. Carefully remove seedlings after 2 to 4 weeks and transplant a smaller number into another punnet so they have more room to grow (4 to 8 plants per punnet).
  6. Transplant into the garden when they have grown their second set of leaves. Protect from snails and slugs.
Sowing in soil

Many varieties do much better if you sow directly into the soil from seed rather than transplanting a seedling from a punnet into the soil.

    • Beans
    • Beetroot
    • Carrot
    • Coriander
    • Corn
    • Cucumber
    • Melons
    • Parsnip
    • Peas
    • Pumpkin
    • Radish
    • Silverbeet
    • Spinach
    • Squash
    • Zucchini
    1. Prepare the soil by raking and adding compost and decomposed manure.
    2. Create a channel or row. Sow seed twice as deep as the seed is wide.
    3. Cover with soil and water in well. Keep the soil moist to the touch until seedlings emerge.
    4. Protect young seedlings from pests such as slugs and snails. Thin if necessary and water and fertilise as required.

    Where to get seeds and supplies

    Be savvy and collect free seeds from your food. Save the seeds from your veggies and fruits. Each of those pesky capsicum seeds be treated to grow a whole new plant.

    Reuse reduce recycle. If you have seeds that can’t be directly sown into the ground, you’ll need punnets. If don’t have any punnets handy, you can use recycled materials like egg cartons, coffee cups and milk cartons.

    Seedlings in egg carton

    Support your local nursery and get to know the staff. The people looking after your local nursery are usually a wealth of knowledge. In the Adelaide city, the Diggers Club are located in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens with a huge range of supplies. Diggers Club are not an exclusive club - they welcome everyone to visit and shop but you can also become a member and gain perks. Their brick and mortar store is closed right now but their online store is an excellent resource and stocks a myriad of seeds.

    Get friendly with your community garden. Many neighbourhoods have a community garden where they share produce and knowledge. In the city there are three community gardens that welcome new members year-round.

    Turbocharge your garden with Adelaide Park Lands mulch and compost. The City of Adelaide‘s green waste recycling and mulch centre remains open to residents and the public to purchase quality mulch and compost and for the disposal of organic material. 

    Enjoy

    There’s nothing quite as satisfying than digging in to a meal that you’ve grown yourself.


    Thanks to the Diggers Club for sharing their expertise and some of the photographs in this article. Visit their website for other great resources.

    Article by

    Georgie Smith

    Georgie Smith

    Maker and curator of things

    Georgie has been BFFs with Adelaide her whole life. They’ve shared many special moments: over cheese platters at art exhibitions, cycling through the park lands and immersed in sequin-clad theatre shows.