Larger seeds can withstand the vagaries of a garden bed but smaller ones need the security of seed pans
The thing about seedlings is that you could always buy them, any kind, right off the shelf, but nothing compares to the thrill of watching a seed you sow germinate and morph into a plant.
But for this, you need preparation. Larger seeds can take on the vagaries of a garden bed but the smaller ones need to be raised in seed pans and transplanted in beds. If you wish to be truly professional about this, you need the following: seeds, seed trays, seed-raising mixture, scissors, watering can with a fine spray, labels and notebook for records.
Ensure the seeds are of good quality; check the expiry date if you have bought them. The seed raising mixture is a combination of a handful of vermicompost with cocopeat. This mix is light and allows the seedling to push through easily. It allows in enough oxygen and retains moisture. Resist the temptation to add any soil to this mixture.
These days the market offers seed trays and seed pans with various-sized punnets. The most preferred are seed pans and punnets that are around 5 cm in diameter. These can be washed and reused several times over, so make sure you go for quality. And when you do reuse them, wash them with soapy water.
Fill the container with the seed-raising mixture and level the surface. Water it with fine spray till the mix is drenched, and set the container aside in a place where it can drain. This is when you organise the seeds. Don't forget to read the instructions on the seed packet, because each plant has its own requirements.
Tiny seeds like petunia grow best when you mix them up in fine sand or saw-dust and sprinkle them evenly.
Small seeds do not need soil covering; just gently press them into the mix.
Medium seeds like balsams can be placed one by one on the surface and covered with some cocopeat. Seeds need space to grow and must not overcrowd. This is when you label the seed trays. Cover the seed pans with a loose plastic sheet and keep it in shade. If you notice the soil drying, lightly sprinkle water using the water can. When the seeds begin to germinate, remove the cover.
Larger seeds can go directly into garden beds. But make sure the sowing area is conditioned with cocopeat and compost. It won't be long before it is time to transplant them.
(This column will be your guide as you raise your own garden)