You will need: Seeds, a wide ruler for levelling, a wide piece of wood for tamping, seed trays or small pots and sowing soil.
You should generally only use specialist seed compost, as this is low in nutrients and will therefore ensure that your seedlings are not sluggish – they will be forced to grow lots of roots to source the nutrients they need. The resulting root mass will ensure that the seedlings grow into strong plants in the right soil. You will not need the seed compost if sowing directly into the earth outside.
You should observe the appropriate hygiene practices when sowing your seeds and should clean old seed trays with hot water, since young plants are very sensitive. Fungi can damage and even kill seedlings. Summer flowers in particular can be sown directly into beds from November onwards, eliminating the need to start them off in trays on your window sill. For root vegetables such as carrots, direct sowing is the only option, while other vegetables that need warmth to germinate must be started indoors (e.g. tomatoes or aubergines).
How to sow seeds
The size of the seeds will determine whether they should be sown in individual pots or in propagation trays. Large seeds can be sown into pots individually or in pairs, where they can get a good start until they are planted out. Small seeds are sown in flat propagation trays, in which they grow in large numbers. Here’s how to do it: half-fill the tray with soil and press it down gently with your fingers. Now fill the tray up completely so that the soil in the middle is heaped significantly above the rim. Then skim off the excess soil with a ruler. You should hold the ruler at slight angle of about 45° while doing this – and be sure to slide it beyond the edge of the tray. This will automatically compress the soil. Finally, press down gently on the soil with a wide piece of wood so that it bulges slightly towards the edges of the tray. Now, scatter the seeds directly from the package, distributing evenly, and sift some soil over them. Tip: Mix extremely small seeds such as begonia seeds with bird sand and distribute the mixture across the tray using a tea strainer. As soon as you can grasp them firmly by the seed leaves, the seedlings from the tray should be pricked out into small pots before they can be planted outside. You should only prick out the strongest seedlings.
The best way to water seeds is with a watering can with a fine rose. Now, cover the seeds with a clear cover. If you do not have a propagator, you can use a plastic sheet or some plastic wrap. This keeps more moisture in with the seeds.