Skip to Main Content

The University of Otago Library has re-designed its Subject Guides system. Please let us know what you think by filling out this survey.

Seed Library: Starting Seeds

How to 'start' seeds

Lets start growing some seeds!


Image: Seedling Vectors by Vecteezy

This is a generic guide to seed starting, and there are other methods to explore if your interested.

You will need:

  • Containers*
  • Seed raising mix*
  • A watering can or spray bottle
  • A sunny spot inside or a mini greenhouse*

*There is more information on these things a bit further down this page

Steps:

  1. Fill the containers with the seed raising mix. Don't pack it in too tight. 
  2. Put the seeds in the containers and LABEL THEM!
    The general rule of thumb is you put the seeds in about 3x deep as the size of the seeds.
    This means that really small seeds (like broccoli) can just be popped on top with a sprinkling of soil on top.
    For big seeds (like pumpkin), you push them much further down into the soil. 
    Don't forget to label which seeds are which!
  3. Water the seeds gently - You want the moisten the soil, but not create puddles or drown any seeds!
  4. Put your containers in a sunny spot.
    A north facing window with plenty of sun is great - or in a seedling house outside works too! More on that later.
  5. Water daily
    Keep your seedling moist but not waterlogged - don't let them dry out!
  6. Watch them sprout!
    Soon your plants will begin to shoot up and you will have successfully sprouted your seeds!
  7. Transplant to a bigger pot
    When your seedlings get big enough, you may want to transplant them into a bigger pot so it has more space to grow. 

Things to keep in mind:

  • Always plant more seeds than you need to grow - some seeds just won't sprout, so it is good to have extras!
  • Some plants also need to 'go to seed' in order to produce seeds to return to the library. This means you let them grow past when the food is ready - so always plant extras! Have a look further down this page for more info. 

Seed Raising Soil Mix

Having the right mixture for your seeds to grow is very important!

You want an aerated and well, draining mix - there are many, many, many, many recipes for DIY seed raising mix online, or it is quite cheap to buy a ready-made bag. 

Of course, not all pre made soil mixes are created equally - there are some that are better than others. 

1. Seacliff Organics Seed Raising Mix 
This is by far the #1 choice - locally made in Dunedin, certified organic living soil.

2. Tui organic seed raising mixes
A kiwi classic - available in organic and inorganic mixes (organic is obviously preffered!).
These mixes are available at most of the big garden and hardware stores.

3. Yates seed raising mixes
Again - available in organic and non. 
Can be found at garden/hardware stores and some supermarkets. 

Seed Tray Ideas

You can get free seed trays from Mitre 10 - they have a Pot Recycling scheme where you can donate and pick up trays. 

If you don't have a steady supply of  trays - you can use almost any containers to sow your seeds into:

Egg Cartons

Toilet paper rolls!


Stacie / girlingearstudio, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Takeaway Coffee Cups
Don't forget to poke some drainage holes!

Treehugger / Steven Redmond

Milk/Juice Cartons
Don't forget to poke some drainage holes!

Berry punnet greenhouse


Image from A song of sixpence

Self watering plastic bottle pots


Image from budget101.com

A DIY greenhouse is an excellent way of keeping seedlings warm and humid.
Here is how you make one for next to nothing.

'Going to seed'

"Going to seed" is an expression that refers to the process when a plant begins to mature and produce seeds.

When a plant "goes to seed," it means that its energy is being directed towards producing seeds for future propagation. This often marks the end of the plant's growth as the plant's focus shifts from producing new leaves, flowers, or fruit and into the production of seeds.

In order for some plants to produce seeds they need to keep growing after the point of creating food/flower which means you need to plant extra so you can save the seeds!

Some of the more common examples include:

  • Lettuce
  • Most Herbs
  • Onions
  • Carrots

Check out the Saving Seeds tab for more information