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Seed sowing basics

Growing your own seedlings gives you greater diversity and choice in your garden, as well as contributing to the seed saving community that supports the survival of heirloom plants.



For centuries, people haven’t needed supermarkets or nurseries to supply their seeds and seedlings. Instead they harvested not only fruit and vegetables from their own gardens, but also the seed that produced them. Today, the need to grow our own seedlings and save seeds from our plants is just as important, if not more so. Here’s a few tips to get you started. 

Buying seed

Buying seed is the first step to raising your own seedlings (see suppliers below). Heirloom seeds are too niche for most large commercial seed suppliers, but perfect for smaller producers; Australian boutique mail order suppliers sell numerous wonderful cultivars. Collecting and raising your own seed isn’t rocket science; it’s the cheapest form of propagation possible, the ultimate in self-sufficiency and sustainability… and it’s fun!

Here, the focus is on raising seedlings, but for details of seed saving, see our ‘Essential Guide to Seed Saving’ in Issue 123 (available at

Germination workspace

It is good to have a designated germination area and table. A wire mesh table is ideal but adapt with the resources at hand. Set up in a well-ventilated but not windy spot – this minimises fungal disease and helps thwart pests. Windy spots dry out seed-raising and potting mixes and seedlings too quickly. Full sun is also too hot for container seedlings in summer – dappled shade or filtered light is ideal. In southern Australia, full-sun is fine in winter. 

Balconies may be suitable, too. Easterly aspects suit warm weather, northerly or westerly ones colder conditions. Southerly aspects are okay for germinating seeds but, once seedlings emerge, move into more light.

You can also start seed indoors but, as in southerly aspects, seedlings languish unless your house is exceptionally bright. Seedlings succumb to fungal disease more easily, too. 

What you need

Here are the basics of what you need to start sowing seed and raising seedlings:

  • Containers (such as punnets, flats or egg cartons and household containers with holes added) or you can sow into small pots or module trays as well as small pots made of coir or wood fibre.
  • a growing medium such as seed-raising mix. 
  • water and a watering can or hose with a soft spray rose.
  • sunlight 
  • seeds  
  • a cover for your germinating seed, either a piece of shade cloth or insect exclusion net for hot weather, plus wire hoops and clothes pegs, or a clear plastic bag or cloche to pop over pots or trays if it’s cold. 
Seed and equipment suppliers

For heirloom seeds and seed propagation equipment, try your local garden centre or these online suppliers:


You can read Helen McKerral’s full article in our Autumn 2022 issue (OG 132) available at newsagents and through mymagazines.

OG 132

Helen McKerral

First published: March 2022

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