By Ken Hansen

My family and I have had a garden plot at Park Drive since mid-2008. We have always tried to grow at least 80 percent of our garden from seeds rather than from plantlings. That can sometimes be very difficult.

In the fall of 2013 we went to an Artisanal LA food event in Downtown L.A. We happened to catch a presentation by one particular gentleman who spoke about a surefire way to grow from seeds whether at home on your balcony or in the garden.

What I learned from that speaker has dramatically increased the output of our garden.

Almost every time we plant from seeds, I use his method.

It is a very simple six-step method. We will assume you have already softened and amended the soil where you plan on planting, whether in the ground or in a planting pot.

What you will need is compost, your seed packs, a small gardening shovel, a spray bottle for small pots or your garden hose set to mist, an old towel or wash cloth, and finally an old colander or something similar that you can sprinkle compost through.

STEP 1: Sprinkle a layer of compost over the soil using your colander. Using the colander gives you a nice even layer of compost.

Optionally what I have done is to mix in the compost with the soil then layer that on top of my soil. The idea is to have a smooth even layer to work with.

STEP 2: Sprinkle your seeds over the soil. There’s no need to dig any holes or push the seeds into the soil.

What the presenter did was combine several types of seeds and sprinkle them over his soil. He had carrots, radishes, lettuces, and other greens all growing together. He could thin them out later.

What I tend to do is grow one type of crop in a designated area and I try to sprinkle my seeds into rows.

STEP 3: Once again using your colander, sprinkle a layer of compost over the seeds.

You want to make it between a 1/4” and a 1/2” thick. It is very important to use only the colander. Do not try to spread the compost out with your hands. That will disturb the seeds and several may pop up out of the dirt or go down too deep.

STEP 4: Using your spray bottle or garden hose on mist, give your newly planted seeds a good watering. Again, it’s important not to disturb the seeds with a heavy watering.

Continue to mist until the soil is well soaked.

STEP 5: Cover your moistened soil and seeds with a towel. Lightly place the towel down so as not to disturb the seeds. This will keep the soil nice and moist. More than sunlight, newly planted seeds need to be kept moist.

STEP 6: Again using your spray bottle or garden hose on mist, get the towel nice and moist. Be sure not to allow puddles of water to form on the towel.

Every morning just mist the towel to make sure it stays nice and moist. After a week, gently lift a corner of the towel up. If you see your greens begin to sprout, leave the towel on another 2-3 days until your greens really begin to push up against the towel. Then you can remove the towel and you will have a nice healthy patch of new greens.

Using this method, I feel we are about 95-percent successful when planting from seeds at our garden. Keep in mind this works best for seeds that only need to be under a quarter- to half-inch of soil.

I would love to thank the presenter at Artisanal LA. I have yet to find out his name, but will keep trying.

Happy gardening!

Ken Hansen writes on behalf of the Santa Monica Community Gardeners. Want to learn more about the Santa Monica Community Gardens? Contact us at and follow Santa Monica Roots on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.