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How to Sow Small Seeds

The only part of starting my own plants from seeds that brings me any kind of frustration is sowing really tiny seeds. Small seeds are easy enough to handle, but if you're trying to sow seeds that are no bigger than the tip of a pencil and make sure they're distributed evenly across your soil it can be a challenge. If you're having trouble sowing tiny seeds you can use this old gardener trick.

How to sow small seeds

Take a small container like a matchbox and fill it with 50% sand and 50% seeds. Close the container and gently shake it so the sand and seeds mix. For this example I used poppy seeds, but this works for smaller seeds like basil and lettuce too.

Now you can evenly distribute the seeds either directly into the soil where you want them to grow or into a seed starting pot.

sowing small seeds in the garden

Tips for Sowing Small Seeds
If you don't have sand available finely sifted seed starting mix or compost works just as well.
I used a matchbox because that's what I saw used years ago in an old garden book, and I find them quaint. But a mint container like the ones I use to collect seeds, salt shaker, and spice jar would work as long as the openings are big enough for the seed to pass through.

Benefits of Sowing Small Seeds This Way
Unless you're sitting there placing each tiny seed into your seed starting mix individually it is almost impossible to get an even distribution of small seeds. Small seeds will clump together and compete for light and space as they grow. You'll end up with lots of weaker seedlings instead of strong and healthy ones. Mixing the seeds with something like sand prior to sowing ensure the seeds have enough space to grow. You can sow small seeds using this old gardener trick when starting seeds indoors too and when you're direct seed sowing after all dangers of frost have passed in your area.


  1. Anonymous4:19 PM

    This is a good tip. I may try it. We have been making "seed tape" with 1 ply toilet paper. My 4 year old and I mist a 3 ft piece of 1 ply toilet paper then space the little seeds out evenly then fold the TP over. I roll them and when I am ready to plant them I just roll them out in my ready rows. I did that with radishes, beets and carrots this year so I don't have to thin them out. I will try this for my lettuce as well.

    1. Anonymous10:14 PM

      cool i like that!!

  2. I had not seen this done with a match box before. Good info.

  3. Great tip. I bought a fancy seeder with a wheel that is supposed to do this, but the plastic wheel wore trenches in my thumb in about 2 minutes. It was not pretty! thanks.

  4. Great idea, Mr. BT! I had the problem with my lettuces I planted. Now, I am into my flower seeds...will use this idea when I see tiny ones again! Thanks!

  5. Thank-you. This will be very helpful.



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