One of the most satisfying garden pursuits has to be raising a vegetable from a seed right through to picking the finished product from your garden. The most rewarding vegetables in this regard tend to be the larger seeded types that can be sown directly into their final position in the garden. This is especially good for children starting out in gardening. They are less fiddly than smaller seeds, which are more likey to get buried too deeply to germinate. Five of the best are as follows:

Pumpkin (spring and summer)
Sweet corn (spring and summer)
Melons (spring and summer)
Peas (autumn, winter, spring)
Beans (spring and summer)
Simply prepare the soil by digging in a 5cm layer of well-rotted manure or compost and sow 2 or 3 seeds in each hole. For peas, water once and then leave till the green shoots pop out from the soil. Too much water till then will rot the seed. For the others, water when sowing and then keep the soil moist but not wet. When they come up thin out the seedlings to leave only the healthiest plant in each hole. Mulch around the plant and in the case of peas a climbing support needs to be provided.

Once you have successfully grown larger seeds, you can branch out to all the different vegetables. Growing your own vegies from seed is a lot cheaper than buying seedlings and plants, and is very satisfying once you get the hang of what they need. The following are good general guidelines-

  • seed generally germinates best if it is relatively fresh. Packets of seed that are a few years old will have reduced germination rates, so check the use by date. If saving your own seed, write the date that you harvested it on the packet
  • use a good open soil for seed germination. Buy seed raising mix, or use a mix of compost and perlite or coarse river sand. The best germination comes from the right balance of moisture and air
  • the general rule is to cover the seed with a similar depth of soil to the seed size. Very small seeds like carrots need just a light dust of soil to cover. Seedlings can die before they reach the surface if planted too deeply. Vermiculite is an excellent product to cover seed, as it retains moisture but still lets in air
  • keep the soil moist but not wet. Too much or too little moisture can kill newly developing roots
  • sow at the right time of year- follow the recommendations on the packet
    once germinated, the new seedling will need enough light to grow. But beware of summer sun on tender new growth, which can burn
  • a seed has a small reserve of food for the new plant, but once it has a couple of sets of new leaves, it will need some plant food. Be very careful here, as full strength fertiliser can burn or kill new plants. Dilute liquid feed or worm wee with extra water until the plants are large enough to take full strength
  • snails and slugs just love the first tender shoots of new plants, and can wipe out a crop of seedlings overnight. Sprinkle a small amount of iron based snail bait around your seed when you plant them.

Saving your own seed is a great money saving practice, and helps to preserve a greater range of genetic diversity in our vegetables. Leave your tastiest and most productive plants to set some seed at the end of the harvest period. Don’t harvest from plants that bolt too quickly to seed, as that undesirable trait will be passed on. Pick and dry your best, and save the seed in paper envelopes or small jars. Open jars from time to time to make sure the seed doesn’t get mouldy. As mentioned above, write the date of harvest on the packet to ensure you plant fresh seed in the future.