Importance of Using the Correct Compost for Best Seed Germination

Many an enthusiastic but inexperienced gardener will be put off from this wonderful hobby when the first seeds they sow do not germinate. In this article I will try to outline some common pitfalls when sowing seeds and how to avoid them.

Start with Easy Seeds

Don’t try to grow plants such as Capsicum chinense peppers, bayleaf or parsely from seed on your first attempt – they are notoriously finicky and even expert gardeners have trouble with these seeds. Instead try something like sunflowers, tomatoes, basic peppers, leeks, sweet peas and aquilegia.

Get Seeds from a Reliable Source

Make sure your seeds are still live and viable. Generally if you buy them from a reliable retailer and they are less than 2 years old and have been kept dry they will be ok. If in doubt you can check by placing them on moist tissue paper in a dark place for a day or two – if they are viable they will show signs of sprouting.

Prepare Your Seeds Before Planting

Some seeds will benefit from soaking in water over night before planting. This is particularly helpful for hard shelled seeds such as sweet peas. Hard shelled seeds also benefit from slightly nicking the shell with a knife before planting. If you do soak your seeds make sure to plant them immediately after taking them out of the water.

Use a Good Potting Compost

Don’t try to skimp by just bunging some garden soil into pots, or using some regular garden compost. Both these techniques risk ruining the seeds – garden soil may contain pests which might damage fragile seeds and seedlings, – regular garden compost will most likely contain too high nutrient content which will result in leggy seedlings. Instead choose a specially formulated seed compost – this will usually not contain any soil, be low in nutrients and have a small granule size to enable the seeds to sprout easily.

Keep Moist but Don’t Overwater

Many a young seedling has been drowned by over zealous watering. As a rule of thumb, the compost should be kept slightly moist to the touch and well drained.

Position in a Warm Sunny Spot

Although seeds germinate in darkness – for most species being buried in compost achieves the required darkness for germination. Sunlight will give your new seedlings their best start. Also warmth will help and speed up the germination process.


Good luck with your seed sowing – and if you fail at first – DON’T give up 🙂