How to Raise Seedlings: An Easy Way

by Corinne Mossati

If you find raising seedlings in cell punnets a fiddly and tedious task, I have a tried and tested alternative. Here’s how to raise seedlings the easy way.

Raise Seedlings

Planter Dedicated to Raising Seedlings – Photo © The Gourmantic Garden

There are many ways of raising seedlings. You could grow them in cell punnets, start them in seed trays, jiffy pots, toilet rolls, DIY newspaper pots, propagation containers and even any small container with drainage.

I’ve tried various methods and I find raising seedlings in cell punnets fiddly and tedious and while I may sow some seeds in small tubes and containers, there’s another way I raise seedlings that works for me.

How to Raise Seedlings The Easy Way

In my courtyard garden, I have a few raised planters like the one I used for my balcony herb garden. This spring, I have dedicated one of them to raising seedlings. Here’s what I do:

Raise Seedlings

Raise Seedlings – Photo © The Gourmantic Garden

  1. Start by rejuvenating the soil in the raised planter. Remove any old plants including roots, add compost and nutrients, rake it all in, give it a deep watering and leave it to rest for up to one week.
  2. Add a layer of soil raising mix on top, about 2-5 cm thick and moisten it with the mist setting on the hose.
  3. Create a layout by dividing it into 5cm squares, using sticks or old chopsticks. (I used repurposed lemongrass sticks I had kept when I pulled out the invasive plant).
  4. Start sowing seeds and label them. I use cut outs from a milk bottle.
  5. Once the seeds are sown and labelled, mist again with the hose.
  6. To keep it moist, warm and to provide protection from the elements, cover the planter with an old white/semi transparent storage container lid and weigh it down with pot feet or anything heavy you have lying around.
  7. Keep it moist by misting with the garden hose and covered until germination.
  8. Once germination takes place, remember to leave the lid off during the day and keep the seedlings moist. Seedlings need sunlight and you do not want to accidentally ‘cook’ them.

Note: Occasionally I add sugar cane mulch after sowing the seeds but I have not done so in this case.

Transplanting Seedlings

Raise Seedlings

Raise Seedlings – Photo © The Gourmantic Garden

Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, I have a repurposed takeaway fork that I use to gently scoop out individual seedlings along with their delicate roots and transplant them immediately. It’s that simple.

I find so many benefits to raising seedlings using this method, namely:

  • Much easier to water and keep moist.
  • No fiddling with seedling trays, moving them in and out of the mini greenhouse to harden them off.
  • Less chance of damping off which kills the seedlings.
  • Better protection from the elements and pests as they’re contained in their own greenhouse.
  • When using cell punnets, some seedlings mature earlier than others and need transplanting which leaves some gaps. Using this method, it’s much easier to fill the gaps with a top up of seed raising mix and start sowing.

Which Seedlings to Raise using this Method


Volunteer Seedling – Photo © The Gourmantic Garden

This method is suitable for herbs, leafy greens, flowers and some fruit. I have used it to grow seedlings for all types of basil, parsley, dill, fennel, chives, coriander, orach, spinach, borage, chard, amaranth, bok choy, tatsoi, lettuce, okra, shiso, cape gooseberry and green onions to name a few.

Naturally, it’s not suitable for crops that should be sown direct such as root vegetables, namely carrots, beetroot, radishes. Although you could use it for tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, peas and beans by making the squares larger, I would not recommend it. I prefer to sow these in their own 15 cm diameter pots.

By dedicating a raised planter to seedlings, it has saved me a lot of much time and effort, and once I’ve transplanted the seedlings to their new home, I have an empty raised planter for succession planting.


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