experiments with seeds

I've always wanted to plant seeds and in recent years wanted to figure out how to do it more successfully. Results have been so hit and miss. I need to document and collect data:

1. How long from sowing seeds until flowers are produced?

2. Which compost materials are best for germination?

3. Should the seeds be covered? in opaque or transparent material?

This year's seeds, 2017

Planted some collected seed of my self-seeded aquilegia 5-4-2017. I hadn't tried that before. They do not like root disturbance so I can't move them around the garden at all so thought sowing in a seed tray might help having more plants where I want them. Nothing visible of them yet in the seed tray but here's Scarecrow in the mess my patio sometimes gets.

cat with seed trays

Here are some (I think) which self-seeded in a pots and I replanted them in a seed tray. I'm hoping moving them so young will work as later they definitely do not like disturbance. I say "I think" as I'm not absolutely certain they are aquilegia but will see how they develop.

aquilegia seedlings

some larger more developed ones I put straight into a pot

aquilegia seedlings

Planted scabious Blue Cushion (Mr Fothergills, "enough for 50 plants" packet), end of January/beginning of February, 4 seedlings so far, from an entire tray of pots, not happy so far. If the conditions are ok for some germination, why not for more? makes me question the seed quality.

scabious blue cushion seedlings

as of 6-4-2017 still only 3 seedlings from those scabious, 1 in that pot with 2 seedlings died, I declare those seeds pathetic!

on 17-3-2017 planted:

Greater Knapweed (Mr Fothergills 100-seed packet), 3 seeds per cell x 10 cells

NO germination, I've set the seed tray aside in case *something* happens

Echium Blue Bedder (Mr Fothergills 200-seed packet), 5 seeds per cell x 10 cells, 18 seedlings so far (as of 21-3-2017), pleased with those results

on 21-3-2017 I have good germination of cornflowers and echium, 1 poppy, 1 monkshood (-later- no, that turned out to be a hollyhock that got into the compost), nothing else so far


I've moved the tray outside since the damping-off appeared. I've lost the poppy seedling and a few cornflowers, maybe 1 or 2 vipers bugloss. Still no greater knapweed seedlings.

as of 19-4-2017 about a dozen vipers bugloss (echium) seedlings left and looking good

vipers bugloss seedlings

vipers bugloss seedlings

Cornflower Blue Ball (Mr Fothergills 250-seed packet) 3-5 seeds per cell x 10 cells, 26 seedlings so far (as of 21-3-2017), pleased with those results

as of 19-4-2017 I've lost some of the cornflower seedlings but still have a dozen or so

cornflower seedlings

Seriously Scarlet poppies (Thompson and Morgan, 100-seed packet) tiny seeds sprinkled in 10 cells, 1 seedling so far (as of 21-3-2017), only got 1 plant last year from an entire packet so similar result (pic to follow)

Nasturtium Purple Emperor (Johnsons, 25-seed packet) 2 per cell x 6 cells and some outside in egg box, no germination so far

as of 25-4-2017 about half a dozen small plants (pic to follow)

Meadow Cranesbill (Mr Fothergills 20-seed packet) 2 per cell x 10 cells

as of 25-4-2017 maybe 1 seedling? 2 columns on the left of the tray below, 2 completely different seedlings, 1 or which is probably self-seeded, I don't recognise the one at the bottom and haven't seen a cranesbill seedling before so maybe I have 1 germinated seed? the empty cell was a self-seeder I removed

Monkshood (Mr Fothergills 50-seed packet) 2 per cell x 20 cells, 1 seedling so far - no that turned out to be a hollyhock that got into that seedtray by accident

NO germination, I've set the seed tray aside in case *something* happens, 4 empty columns in the middle in the tray above

Dierama Blackbird (Mr Fothergills 25-seed packet) 2 per cell x 10 cells

as of 25-4-2017 about 6 seedlings I think, they look like grass but in the right seed tray cells, right 2 columns in tray above

on 18-3-2017 added 3 trays of catnip (nepeta cataria)


Disaster strikes! I have damping off. That has to be one of the most disheartening things to happen to the gardener. The seedlings - after germinating and just getting started, whither and die. Inside, in closed damp conditions seems to encourage it. I guess the plastic I put over the seed trays encouraged it, also got some white fungal growth. In recent years I haven't started many seeds indoors because of this but this year I tried again as it's too cold outside for much germination.  My only remedy now is to put the seedlings outside, which I've done (will take pics today and assess the damage). This is an example, my one poppy seedling but it also affected the cornflowers.

damping off

this is what happens to the seedlings, the stems rot

damping-off seedlings

Giant Single Mixed  Hollyhock (Johnsons 50-seed packet) seedlings, every pot has at least 1 seedling

hollyhock seedlings

Double Mixed Hollyhock (Johnsons 50-seed packet) seedlings, at least 10 seedlings, not a disaster

double hollyhock seedlings

Here are my previous years' experiments with seeds, in alphabetical order.

Borage (Jekka's Herbs)

I planted these on 1-4-2016 and I had flowers 18-6-2016, 11 weeks from seeds to flowers. This first pic is from 18-6-2016.


The next day, full view of the borage in the middle of the nasturtium pot.

Ten days later 28-6-2016, lots of flowers on multiple stems.

nasturtiums and borage

I have collected some of the borage seeds but think I need to wait until next Spring to plant them. Seeds in the flower head which readily fall out so I had to be quick to collect them.

borage seeds

empty flower head with the seeds removed

borage seeds

borage seeds

borage seeds


I planted the seeds on 28-1-2017 and got the first germination a week later 4-2-2017. I covered the pots to keep the seeds moist and warmer and uncovering as they germinate.

catnip seedlings

Chicory (Jekka's Herbs)

I planted these 11-5-2016. They are biennial so will bloom next year. These are the remaining 6 plants beginning of August after the slugs ate a number of them in June, 3 in the black plastic pot on the left, 1 in each terracotta pot on the right. They look a bit like dandelions. They do get quite big so 6 will probably be enough plants.


Cornflowers (Mr Fothergill's Cornflower Blue Ball)

I first planted half the packet of the cornflower seeds 4-4-2016. By the end of June I had some flowers but in the past week (as of 8-7-2016) they are making a great display. Seeds to flowers in 12 weeks.


I planted the other half of the packet of seeds on 4-7-2016 and within 48 hours I had germination. I think the extra heat of the recent hot weather really helps. Not sure these will have time to bloom this year but if they don't they should survive the winter and bloom in the spring.

4 days later and quite reasonable number of seedlings

cornflower seedlings

2 days later and the slugs and snails have eaten all trace of those seedlings. I'd include a pic but there's nothing to see, just bare compost. And I thought the slugs and snails were easing slightly! Back to square one. Cornflower seeds are going on the list for 2017.


Foxglove seeds are tiny so difficult to sow thinly. Not thinning seedlings enough is such a newbie mistake I'm embarrassed to even admit to it. I've had such hit and miss success with seeds that I am loathe to discard a seedling which has made it but I had to force myself to do it with these foxglove seedlings. They absolutely had to be thinned if they were ever going to survive and flower. All those in the foreground are going in the compost pile.

I shook out some foxglove seeds from the dried flower stem, they are tiny

foxglove seeds

Lupins (Mr Fothergill's Festival Mixed)

I sowed these seeds 30-3-2016 and this lupin flowered about 18-7-2016. There are a couple more buds on other plants from this sowing in this pot but sadly all the others died or were eaten by slugs. 3 plants out of 30 seeds, sad. Just over 15 weeks from seeds to flowers but perennials often don't flower until the second year so I think that's a good result. My other lupins in flower I sowed last year. One was blue (my preferred colour). I collected seeds from that one and planted them on 23-7-2016.


These are the seed pods from the purple/blue flowers. The seeds need to ripen before they are ready.

lupin seed pods

these seed pods from the pink flowers have opened and dropped their seeds

lupin seed pods

this is my first seedling from the 23-7-2016 sowing of the collected blue lupin seeds on 30-7-2016, very pleased with only a week's wait but this is my only seedling visible, hope more will follow soon

lupin seedling

20-8-2016 a month later. It's been slow-going with those lupin seeds. I have 4 seedlings I put in this pot. After 1 night on the ground and 1 leaf half eaten by a slug I've brought it up onto the table. (update Sept/Oct 2016 the slugs have eaten all the lupins in this pot)

lupin seedlings

Some of these seedlings have only just come up

lupin seedlings

another lupin came up today! I'm up to 8 of these small seedlings. Patience required.

lupin seedlings

a week later and these are the 9 seedlings (pots above planted in the black pots below) I have left in addition to the 4 I think I have left in the grey pot above, I tried to separate some of the double or triple seedlings and ended up breaking 2 so thought - just leave them together! a slug attacked one last night so I'll have to see if it survives

lupin seedlings

6-10-2016 another lupin seed from one of those pots has germinated (very bright green round leaves bottom right) - after 6 weeks

lupin seedlings

10-9-2016 a larger seedling to the left and another surprise new seedling in the middle - and a borage self-seeded to the right

lupin seedlings

6-10-2016 that pot a month later

lupin seedlings

10-9-2016 that lupin in the middle got attacked by slugs and then surprisingly another seed germinated bottom right

a month later and another seedling appeared in the middle (think it's that tiny sprout just coming up in the middle above)

lupin seedlings

a week or so later the pot above with a third seedling sprouting - weeks - no months - after sowing those seeds

lupin seedlings

all the lupin seedlings below, back row has 2 upright borage seedlings and a foxglove in the middle, middle right I think is a prickly sow thistle but leaving it to see how it develops, I hope the lupins seedlings survive the winter, last winter was quite mild, this winter remains to be seen

lupin seedlings


Morning Glory (Mr Fothergill's Grandpa Otts)

I guess I was a little late planting these (impulse purchase on sale at Ocado) and didn't get them sown until 9-5-2016 (soaked the prev 24 hours). First bloom 24-7-2016. 11 weeks from seed to flower.

morning glory

I also previously planted Mr Fothergill's Morning Glory Choice Mixed a month earlier 11-4-2016. No flowers from those yet but I need to look at the plants more carefully to see if there are any buds. I had to move them away from the slugs to the top of the shelves where they started climbing on the honeysuckle so I can't lift the pots down and I can't easily stand on steps as a pot is in the way but I will try to get up there soon.

3-8-2016 still just getting the Grandpa Otts Morning Glory flowers

morning glory  grandpa otts

Granpa Otts in full flower end of August

morning glory grandpa otts

Nasturtiums (Franchi Chelsea Fringe seeds)

I sowed nasturtiums twice this year. The first sowing I forgot to note the date (think May?), the second sowing was on 2-6-2016. These flowered on 18-7-2016 but I think they must be from the first sowing. Going by 1-5-2016 that's about 12 weeks to flower but I could be out on the date by a month. I did feed them as the lupins (currently in bud/flower, not sure which lupins, pic to follow) were in the same pot.

nasturitum flowers

Nasturtium seedlings from a previous year's packet of seeds (Thompson and Morgan Phoenix??)

I haven't grown nasturtiums from seed before so don't know if this is usual but they are two slightly different colours.

nasturtium seedlings

Nepeta (cat nip) collected seed

I love nepeta as do my cats. I have a number of pots of it and recently collected seed from the spent flowers (just swept up the dried flowers that had fallen) and planted it in these 4 pots on 14-7-2016. 2 tiny tiny seedlings 5 days later - very pleased with some germination

nepeta seedlings

10 days later more seedlings

nepeta seedlings

a few days later still and they are growing well

nepeta seedlings

Pansy Black Star


I prepared some of those pre-formed pots (on sale now in the supermarket) with a mixture I like of compost, perlite and vermiculite. There are 75 seeds in the packet so with 25 small pots I can sow 3 seeds in each. Always label the seeds, in this case the seed packet comes with a little plastic label to use. I also write on the packet the date I planted them.

the seeds are small but not tiny so I am able to put 3 in each pot

after planting the seeds I covered them with this plastic cover

and put the tray in the greenhouse, not sure if it will get too hot in there, some seed trays I have in there are uncovered, not sure how that will affect germination, enclosed heat and moisture vs air circulation

3 weeks later, 16 tiny tiny seedlings, out of 75 seeds in the packet. Hopefully more seedlings will appear.

Viola Black Star

Polyanthus (Mr Fothergill's)

according to the seed packet, this is what the polyanthus seedlings look like, at first I wasn't sure as it took so long for seedlings to appear, planted the seeds 15-5-2016, these first 2 pics 2 months later 19-7-2016

a week later the polyanthus seedlings are looking good if very few in number, I see 1 in the black plastic pot above the 2 terracotta pots - not sure how? I had the chicory planted in the pot before I potted up the stray seedlings

polyanthus seedlings

30-7-2016 I potted up the seedlings, 1 to a pot, I have 6 polyanthus seedlings, out of a packet of 100 seeds

polyanthus seedlings

almost a month later and they are looking good, aside from the one top left, it's failing to thrive - no idea why

polyanthus seedlings

2 months later (October 2016) and they are looking quite good, although no sign of the one top left above (but I'm going to double-check it)

polyanthus small plants

March 2017 and the polyanthus are in bloom


I potted 3 of the polyanthus up with a foxglove for a neighbour to bring a little spring cheer; it's in a washing up bowl so it won't dry out too quickly. I like sharing plants with neighbours but carrying watering cans of water to them is tiring.



Pink Fizz (papaver laciniatum pink bicolor from Thomson and Morgan)

I planted half the seeds on 29-3-2016 and had the first flower on 7-7-2016 (the seed capsule at the back after the petals fell off). The flowers are very short-lived, these followed shortly after. Seeds to flowers in 14 weeks.

pink fizz poppies

I planted the other half of the packet of seeds on 4-7-2016, perhaps a bit late for flowers this year. A week later I have about 5 tiny tiny seedlings.

poppy seedlings

Poppy Oriental Royal Wedding, hardly any seedlings but it's only been 3 weeks and the packet says seedlings in 14-28 days so I'll leave them for the moment

poppy royal wedding

Seriously Scarlet (Thompson and Morgan, Papaver somniferum)

my one lone flower from a packet of 100 seeds

seriously scarlet poppy

the flower looks nothing like the seed packet, more like one of the peony flowered ones but I didn't buy any of those so it would be a mix-up at T+M

seriously scarlet poppy

Thompson and Morgan Scabiosa House's Novelty Mix


I did try these earlier in the year but got so few seedlings I got a replacement packet of seeds. As they are hardy perennials it should be fine to plant them now for next year or maybe late in the season flowers for this year? That is one of the questions I hope to answer. I prepared with the same compost/perlite/vermiculite mixture 17 slightly larger preformed pots and put 2 seeds in each, 35 seeds in the packet so a few pots got 3 seeds.

I covered them with cling film, again not sure what difference that will make but will see.

I'm not sure the covering did these any good. I only have a couple of germinated seeds.

3 weeks later and I have 4 seedlings. I also have some of which the birds bit the leaves. Some might recover from that. All the eaten ones are in the pots below on the right.

scabiosa Houses Novelty

Snapdragons Chelsea Fringe Franchi seeds

1-7-2016 seeds sown, 13-8-2016 first flowers, 6 weeks from seed to flower

I was a bit late planting the snapdragon seeds so quickly threw them onto compost in a seed tray. This is an example of what NOT to do. They should have been sown much more thinly and then thinned out. Anyway how to rescue them now. I tried to pot up the seedlings as thinly as possible but they still need thinning out. There's an empty space on the right as I didn't think to take a pic until I had already started to pot them up.

snapdragon seedlings

I'm afraid they've ended up as a bit of a dog's dinner.

I was able to make 3 trays of small pots

snapdragon seedlings

and 3 large pots, I don't know if it's too late for them to bloom this year, we'll see


3 weeks later and the snapdragons are growing very well

snapdragon small plants

the snapdragons have buds so will be in flower soon

snapdragon buds

first snapdragon flower in bloom


Sprouting Broccoli Chelsea Fringe Franchi seeds


Better results with seeds is and always has been a major goal for me with gardening. Some have worked brilliantly and I have the resulting plants blooming in my garden, others have sunk into oblivion. I planted some sprouting broccoli seeds yesterday in different media to evaluate which is the best.

seeds sown in: on the left vermiculite, middle all-purpose compost, right perlite, all 3 say on the packages that they can be used on their own for sowing seeds

all 3 mixed together which I guess is the usual way to use them

10 days later, all media worked well for germination (but perhaps vermiculite was best and perlite worst), I think the compost worked better once they were growing to provide a firm base for the roots

sprouting broccoli seedlings

sprouting broccoli seedlings

Viola Floral Powers

May 2011

I cannot get over these Viola Floral Powers. Although germination was only 50% they are blooming in only 7 to 8 weeks, really incredible.


some of my less successful results with seeds

beginning of July 2016

I had 2 seed trays left of, in theory, dierama, monarda, monkshood, polyanthus, etc., mostly unidentifiable so far, except for the deadnettle top right. Of course, I forgot to photograph the first tray before I started. I also found a slug hiding underneath the egg cartons.

I do know those large ones in the middle are chichory, just needed somewhere to put them away from the slugs.

there is some overlap in these pics, the red-rimmed plant below left is the one top right above

most are tiny, 1 - 2 cm

when I see that they are surviving and growing I will take more detailed pics

a prickly sow thistle, not something I planted! which I have discarded

prickly sow thistle

forget-me-not, also not something I planted, I have them all over the garden and they self-seed a lot and the slugs don't eat them, I'll put this in the ground


buddleja which I discarded

2 weeks later, the penny has finally dropped, verbena bonariensis!

verbena bonariensis

green alkanet?

willow which I discarded

tall on the right sprouting broccoli or oilseed rape, looks like some brassica

nasturtium on the upper left, deadnettle on the upper right, verbascum seedling in the middle?


I also had some Irish wildflower seeds

some of the wildflower seedlings were eaten by the slugs, slime trails still visible



As I reorganize some of my content, not sure where some bits should go, if anywhere. This bit about tomato plants is in that category.

I was repotting my young tomato plants when I noticed how easy these were to lift out as the roots have filled the cell in the seed tray. They are a good size to repot. The ones below were really too small. The roots did not fill the cell and were more difficult to lift out without falling apart and falling over.

young tomato plants

Cat Grass

Getting seeds to germinate and start growing can be challenging, even with something simple like cat grass. I bought a packet of seeds a few weeks ago. I put some in the existing pots of cat grass, which were all dead. After a few days - nothing. Then I remembered the advice of covering the seeds, in this case, just cling-film and about 3 days later I had sprouting seeds. The pot on the left I had bought with cat grass but it all seemed to be dead. All those plants are the recent seeds I planted - why so many and so large compared to the middle pot? I'm guessing the pot still had some fertilizer from their initial planting. The middle one is just my home compost and the one on the right I planted a couple weeks after the first two.

cat grass