One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to transform your outside space is with a few packets of seeds – and you don’t even need much of a garden to get some great results.

Sowing seeds outdoors, whether directly into the ground or into pots, troughs or any old container, is an easy and environmentally friendly way to fill your garden with colour, fragrance and interest, literally for pennies.

It’s suitable for lots of ornamental and edible plants, and just a few packs of seeds can produce a satisfying harvest of salad leaves, veggies and herbs as well as a summer of beautiful flowers.

If you have children or grandkids, they’ll usually be more than happy to help out in this particular gardening task, perhaps sowing some quick-growing mustard and cress seeds, or planting sunflower seeds to see whose flower will grow the tallest.  

Watch out for the appearance of those pesky weed seedlings in spring, because once they start to sprout, it’s a clear sign that the soil is warm enough to begin direct sowing of your own choice seeds.  

Spring is the ideal time to begin, although some seeds can be sown during summer and autumn, as indicated on the seed pack.  

Of course some varieties such as poppies will even self-seed, and save even more work for you later on.  Generally speaking these kinds of plants don’t like to be moved, so plant where you’d like them to remain.

According to expert advice from the RHS, seeds can either be sown directly in drills (rows) or broadcast (scattered over the soil surface). Sowing in drills makes it easier to distinguish your seedlings from weeds, and is suitable for larger seeds that need to be sown deeper than a few millimetres. To achieve a natural-looking result when sowing in drills, mark out areas for different sowings, make drills within the area, and change the direction of the drills between areas; you could even make curved drills.

Broadcast sowing is suitable for smaller seeds, seed mixes, and where you have a large area to sow, such as an annual meadow.  Mixing the seeds with sand makes it easy to see which areas you’ve already covered.

With large seeds that need wide spacing, it’s not necessary to make a drill – seeds can be inserted into the soil after making a hole to the required depth with a cane, dibber or trowel. Use a string line to get a straight row.  

Seedlings usually appear within a couple of weeks and will need checking every few days until their roots establish, to ensure they have enough water and are not being out-competed by weeds or attacked by slugs and snails.  Cover with fine mesh to protect from insects.

Don’t forget to label at the end of each drill or sowing area, so you’ll know what’s coming up where. Avoid plastic plant labels though as these don’t last long and are difficult to recycle.  Go for traditional ones in wood, metal or slate as they’re hard-wearing and can be re-used over and over again.

Happy scattering!