Soaking Seeds, Seed Sowing, and Propagation

Just three weeks ago, it seemed like there was plenty of time before things became busy in the garden, but this week I realised that not only did I need to get some more seeds sown, but also that the busy time was just around the corner. So I’ve been sowing more seeds, soaking some seeds, and germinating them on kitchen towel, and dividing perennial plants, and moving them. Hopefully this post will give you some ideas of what you could be planting now, and if you can think of something that I’ve forgotten, please comment, and let me know.

Seed Sowing

I have had stuff in and out of the propagators for a while now. Last year I ran out of space, for seed trays,especially protected space, but this year I have been allowed to use some indoor space. (Part of my wife’s growing interest in plants). This has taken the pressure off a little. Whilst the house is cooler than most, most growing plants do not need temperatures as high as they do for germination. So my greenhouse peppers and chillis are happily growing on in the windowsill, leaving room in the propagators for greenhouse tomatoes, aubergines, and a whole range of flowering plants. I also have  three different  batches of Echinacea (coneflower), some bergamot, beeplant, leeks, onions, and lettuce growing in a porch. There is more of the cold tolerant stuff out in the greenhouse, but space is again becoming an issue.

Seed Soaking

I have peas, broad (fava) beans, and french beans, germinating on wet paper in the kitchen.

Seed Soaking

Seeds Soaking

Please note that other brands of coffee are available 🙂

Soaking Seeds 2

Bad Seeds

This picture shows something that really bugs me. Here in the UK, seeds are expensive, and packet sizes are small. There are some exceptions to this, but if you buy from a garden centre, you don’t get much for your money. These were part of a packet of 50 broad bean seeds. Two of the seeds were in pieces in the packet, these in the picture have holes in, and are likely to have been damaged by a bug, and three of the seeds soaking are split. Already, more than 20% of the seeds are never going to germinate, and so even if all of the remaining ones do, it’s pretty poor.

I have had problems with mould when I have been soaking seeds for long periods, and I hope to avoid that this year. The seeds have been soaked for twelve hours, with at least three changes of water, and have now been put into containers with damp kitchen towel in the bottom. In the past I have transferred the germinated seedlings into modules to grow on, before planting out. This is Ok for the broad, and french beans, but if I leave the peas too long, they tangle up. This year I’m going to put most of the peas out into beds as soon as they germinate, and cover them with a very fine meshed wire, to keep the mice/voles off of them. It will reduce work, if it goes well.

The French beans may need a warmer temperature than they are getting in the kitchen, and I may need to put them out into a propagator. These early ones are to grow in the greenhouse for an early crop. Again, I’m trying to avoid having plants ready too early, and taking up space in trays. By now, I normally have most of my tender stuff germinated, and there is still twelve weeks to go before our last frost date. Having made the same mistake each year, I’ve finally been able to hold myself back. It does mean that there is more room for flowers though…..

Vegetable Beds

Out in the vegetable garden, most of the work is ahead of schedule, with only a small area still to be weeded. I had to remove the covering of straw, from part of a bed, in order to let it warm up, before planting out onions. I gave a brief description of my Autumn vegetable bed preparation, back in an earlier post on vegetable growing systems. It described how I cover the beds with straw, to help create a beneficial environment for the soil microbes, worms,and other soil life. However, the straw also keeps the warmth out, so I pulled the straw down onto the paths.

raised beds

Bed with straw cover

The picture above shows the raised bed with it’s straw cover, with  (deep) straw covered paths on either side. The one below shows the same bed with most of the straw off.

raised bed 2

raised bed uncovered

Having removed the straw, I added another thin layer of  charcoal (biochar) to the surface of the bed, as I figured that black absorbs more heat, and so should help to heat the surface up. I crush the charcoal that is mixed with the ash from our wood burner, having removed the ash using a riddle. I could probably do it quicker by tipping it into a tub of water, and removing the charcoal, which floats, and leaving the ash, which dissolves in the water. However I don’t have a use for the resulting lye, so the ash, plus the really small particles of charcoal that fall through the sieve, get added to the compost heap, whenever I add any manure/dog poop.



The picture above shows my charcoal being added, and you can see the difference in colour between the charcoal, and the residual compost on the surface of the raised bed. The one below is a close up of the charcoal. The biochar appears slightly grey, and this is down to some of the wood ash clinging to the pieces.

biochar close up

Biochar close up

I used to crush it all down to a fine powder, using the high tech method of hitting it with a club hammer, having read that it was best applied fine, but more recently I read another article suggesting that it is better to apply it slightly coarse. I now compromise. I crush the larger chunks, and leave those less than 1/3rd on an inch intact. They are the lumps in the picture above.

raised bed 3

raised bed finished

The picture above is the finished bed. The bed to the left is full of Autumn planted onion, and garlic.

Whilst I was moving about in the garden, I noticed that some of my asparagus was starting to show above ground, more down to a lack of compost, than advanced growth. As I was out of good quality, finished compost, I added a couple of handfuls of potting compost on top of the individual crowns, and I will fill in the gaps with some of my ‘rough’ compost. The rhubarb is well advanced, and we’ll be eating it soon. It’s such an easy crop to grow, and all I do is give it a deep layer of compost each Autumn, and it rewards me with more rhubarb than we could ever eat.


As well as work in the vegetable area, I have been propagating flowering plants. In 2007 I planted some tree paeonie seeds, collected from my own tree, in one of the vegetable beds. There were no seedling the following year, so I planted the bed up with wild rocket (perennial). In 2009 a whole batch of tree paeonie seedlings appeared in the bed. I then discovered that tree paeonie seed only develops roots in its first year, and the shoots appear the following year.  It takes about seven years before it flowers, and is obviously self- fertile, as I only have one tree, which my bees love. I have already potted on a batch of the seedlings, and yesterday I dug up the rest, and put them into pots. Only three years to go before they flower. Having stopped collecting the seed, I now have a gap, between 2007, and the the seed planted last Autumn.These are possibly to sell, or to give as gifts, but I’ll wait until I see how the current batch flower. Just to see if they are all yellow, or if there is some variety in colour, or form.

Today I was dividing herbaceous perennials. These were bee plants, bought last year, and left in pots over the Winter. The Eupatorium was planted straight out into the garden, but I split some Helianthus right down, getting eight pieces from one pot. If they all grow on, that will be really good value. I have one more to do,  tomorrow, and I put a third plant out into the garden, having divided it into three decent sized pieces. The area that they are going into will be primarily bee plants , my nectary, and I’m out looking for more late-flowering plants, at the weekend. Of course, the seedlings in my trays will also go out later in the year, and I’m looking forward to masses of flowers from them.

So that’s what’s going on in my garden, what are you doing in yours?

Take Care


4 thoughts on “Soaking Seeds, Seed Sowing, and Propagation

  1. Shaz


    I am so looking forward to visiting your garden (LSSSC)

    I to have been germinating and agree about seed quality in shops its appalling , i am trying to germinate some sweetcorn as last year i planted direct with a very poor germination rate 16/100 !!!

    I have been reading your forest gardening posts with interest and am going to buy a book and read up more

    only thing actively growing here is the rhubarb……

    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Sharon
      There is a post on the site about germinating sweetcorn. I soak it, then keep it moist on paper, then put it in a module, on the surface, leaving space above the seed. Once the shoot lengthens, I top the module/cell up with compost, to stop it rocking in the wind,and plant out after the las frost date.
      Hope that helps.
      My germination rate last year for sweetcorn, was only 50%. I mentioned it to the company, Real Seeds, and they sent me an extra packet this year.
      See you soon


  2. Catofstripes

    I have stopped soaking pea and bean seeds completely after reading some research somewhere or other (sorry, minds a blank, google might help). The theory is that the rapid hydration s more harmful than the slightly longer germination time. You can plant dry seeds directly or into pots of compost.

    Love your blog, thanks for writing

    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Cat(?)

      I’ve only had a problem with rotting/mould if I leave the beans/peas too wet. The only way to be sure would be to run a side by side comparison, which is not on the agenda for this year.
      One of the main problems that I have with any of the larger seeds are voles. They climb up the racks, and eat the seedlings. Same if I plant direct. By germinating them first, and planting out with some growth, I avoid that problem. Perhaps, in true Permaculture fashion, I should be breeding/harvesting voles. I’m sure that somebody would be interested in live meat for their snakes/raptors.
      Thanks for checking in and reading.
      All of the best



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