The vegetables I have found worth sowing and growing in clumps

For certain vegetables, there are considerable benefits of sowing two or more seeds together, as opposed to a single seed per module or station:

  1. Grow more plants in the same area of propagating space
  2. Use less compost to propagate the same number of plants
  3. Save time because you are planting two or more at once.
  4. There is a companion effect: I observe how plants like being with their friends in clumps.

Because you can grow more plants in the same space, it’s feasible to grow more early crops of say turnips and radish, at a time when warmth for propagating is scarce and precious, in February and early March. Harvests of radish and turnips in April and May are welcome as ‘hungry gap’ vegetables, when fresh food is scarce. You then have time to clear the crop residues before plantings of summer beans, courgettes, brassicas etc.

In my experience, other vegetables not mentioned here make better harvests as singles. For example cabbage and lettuce to make hearts, swede to make large roots.

  • It’s easier to pick the outer leaves off single lettuce plants, then off those in groups of two or three.
  • On the other hand, it works well to pick larger leaves off two or three salad rocket plants in a clump.
  • Broad/fave beans are an exception because they ‘tiller’, making many stems from one seed, so they are best sown as single seeds.
  • Parsnips and carrots grow best from direct sowing, in terms of making a long, non-forked tap root. Nonetheless you can transplant them, and carrots are feasible in clumps.

My suggested numbers for great harvests

You can vary the numbers according to the size of vegetable you want. Only do not sow too many root vegetables in a clump, or you will have more leaf in proportion to root, meaning the roots will stay small.

  • For medium size plants and high yield, the first number is my suggestion for number of seeds to sow, per module.
  • The second number is how many plants can grow to a harvestable size in clumps, allowing for non germination of some seeds, and for multiple germination in the case of beetroot + chard.


Charles’ multisow veg Seeds per clump Desired plants per clump
Basil 3 or 4 2 or 3
Beetroot 4 4
Chard for salad/ to cook 4/2 3-5/1-2
Chervil, coriander, dill, parsley 3 2
Fennel, Florence 3 1 or 2
Kale for salad 4 3
Leek 5 or 6 2 to 4
Onion for bulbs 6 or 7 4 or 5
Onion for salad 8 or 10 6 or 8
Oriental leaves to cook 2 1
Oriental leaves for salad 4 3
Peas for pods 2 or 3 1 or 2
Peas for shoots 4 or 5 3 or 4
Radish 5 or 6 4 or 5
Rocket, salad and wild 3 or 4 2 or 3
Spinach for salad 4 3 or 4
Turnip 5 3 or 4

Your feedback

On my You Tube onion video, comment by Dylan Fogarty-MacDonald 11/08/18
Today I harvested my onions which I grew following this method. 36 modules, multi-sown with 8 seeds and we transplanted 20 modules. We harvested around 30 spring onions in May and today I harvested 98 mostly good sized onions (a few small ones amongst the plump ones). Happy about this as it was grown in such a small space and gave us multiple harvests through the season. Thanks Charles!

76 thoughts on “Multisowing

    1. Charles, I’ve just watched a video on multi sowing & you mention a link to a module seed tray company called “4tl”(?). I cannot find the link on your website as I want to invest in some quality module trays rather than the flimsy ones. Can you help please?

  1. Thanks Charles, much appreciate this information. In terms of growing medium, I notice in your YT videos you often sow into your homemade compost and sometimes into MP compost. Does this depend on how hungry the plants are? In case of homemade compost, I suspect this has to be very well aged?
    Best regards,

    Gabor, Hemel Hempstead

    1. Hi Gabor
      I mostly use bought MP compost because it’s so much quicker, not needing to sieve, and mostly as you say, one does not have enough old compost!

  2. Should you leave more space between clumps than you would between single plants (thinking specifically of onions, but curious about other veggies too)? Thank you!

  3. Parsnip multisowing: after last year’s dismal failure with direct sowing (too wet then too hot!) I’m having a crack at multisowing parsnips (4 per cell) – any comments or tips gratefully received!

    1. Hmm too wet should not happen with mulched no dig beds. Mine came up well from 1st April sowing.
      Multisown parsnips need planting when v small before tap root reaches the bottom & forks.

  4. Hi,

    Is it for beetroot better to use 4 seeds, or maybe just 2 because mostly 2 plants comes out of 1 seed.
    Don’t they get problems after all because its a root vegetable?
    I have a lot of perspex trays ready to use for it.
    Greets from the Netherlands!

    1. Yes Robert but some seeds don’t germinate, and 4 means occasional thinning to 4 or 5 plants, with all modules full.
      Beetroots are actually swellings of the stem above actual roots.
      Have fun with sowing.

  5. Giving us directions about the number of plants per station is very important.
    It is incomplete however at least to my opinion.
    There should be another column with the minimum distance between the stations since the distances will grow now that we have more than one plant per station.
    For example, what would be a good distance between multisown leek stations?

    1. I agree it is not complete Apostolos. I need scope to sell some information, and you sound ungrateful for all the free advice here. Why not watch my Leeks video (free) and I show the spacing there.

      1. Charles, I did not think about the selling potential so you are probably right at what you say.
        No intention to sound ungrateful. Far from it.
        It just did not occur to me what you just pointed out.

  6. Hi Charles,

    I learnt so much last year from your YouTube channel and had a few successes. I’m hoping for better this year and bought your Diary. However, I was hoping for a bit more handholding for each veg type, spacing, and succession in particular. I always felt behind last year and didn’t get things in to overwinter. What book do you recommend? Is the No Dig Home & Garden book more appropriate for my needs? I have a shady garden, and things like Multisown radish, beets and turnips didn’t come to much, but I discovered the radish flowers and seeds were fab and the greens were very welcome. So as a side note, does the cookery book I’ve seen you promote cover eating all the bits of the crops, like radish seed heads and turnip greens for example? Keep up the excellent work!

    1. Hi Susan, nice you are going for it and year one can be tricky. A shady garden means probably tree roots are pulling moisture away from your vegetables. You need beds that are not close to trees. Some shade is not bad of itself.
      My Organic Gardening book has specific details for most veg, Steph’s cookery book concentrates on main veg, some tips on those fringe harvests!

  7. Hi Charles, I’ve got your calendar which I’m following to the letter and your book which is on my bedside table. Looking forward to see how my veg patch unravels! I only have budget for one and wanted to ask your views: should I go for the online course or your one day at Homeacres? I wish I could do both but this year I can only afford one. I already know what Santa’s letter will say this year though !

    1. Thanks Bea nice to hear, and best go for whichever course you most want to do – each will offer lots of help, in different ways

  8. Hi Charles

    We have the diary and the create a veg garden books (and calendar). You seem to suggest multi sow spinach in the late winter/spring but only have one to plant out (sow 2, thin to 1) when planning to over winter. Is that correct?

    We can’t say how much of an inspiration you are to us. Old raised plastic beds repositioned and made hugels (not your subject) and whole swaths of garden down to black plastic! First greenhouse, boundry refenced and hedging planted, polytunnels to come, micro greens growing, early veg seed sown indoors and square foot no dig going to be tried in the hugels whilst we wait for the black plastic to do it’s stuff 🙂 Not sure how woodlice wil be in a hugel but here’s to the learning !

    1. Great you are trying so many things Deborah.
      Yes the overwintered spinach makes sideshoots and becomes multiheading in many cases.

  9. Any thoughts on mustard greens for desired clumping or possibly like lettuce a green that prefers a single cell to itself?

  10. Hi Charles,

    Thanks so much for all your work, and the idea of multisowing, I think it’s really going to transform our growing this year!

    I had a question about carrots. Our soil is very clay rich and sow we’ll be doing the parisian type, the small balls, and I wondered if you had any experience with them using this technique, or if you had any thoughts around whether it would work?


  11. Hi Charles
    I’m having a serious go at vegetable growing this year and can’t wait to try this method with beetroots, spring onions and some herbs!
    Unrelated to veggies, but can you use this multi sowing method with any flower seed? I have DOZENS of seed packets I’ve collected over the last couple of years and would like to use up a significant chunk, whilst still getting successful flowers..
    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Jo and yes you can, but tailored to how you want to grow and pick them, so numbers will vary for every flower you grow, try a few things

  12. Thanks to the blog post.
    I search for “multi sowing” after watched your propagation (2) video on youtube and google send me here 🙂
    Big thanks for your great videos, they made me a better gardener 🙂

  13. Hi Charles,

    I have been gardening for years the “old fashioned” way, but find as I’m getting older that it is just too labor intensive. Then I discovered you and it all made perfect sense and I’m already having great results – tons of multi-sown radishes just about ready to harvest. Thank you for the lovely videos with clear instructions. Just wish I were in UK so I could attend one of your classes.

  14. I was given your name by a young market gardener here on Vancouver Island. I am in a town lot and I am trying to establish new beds over a lawn using your methods. So far the results are terrific. We have had many salads so far this spring and beneath them are potatoes, between the early covered cabbage are onions planyed in clusters and the current garden awaits new starts (in my spare bedroom) I overplanted my seedlings of peas, melons, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, celery, radish, corn….and more….so I share the spoils with work mates and tell them to follow your videos and to buy the calendar which I bought and used. I will delay the date by a week or so next spring. Thank you for your advice. And thanks to the young market gardener for letting me know about you!

  15. Hi

    I have just multi sown some beetroot. Can you tell me when they are planted out, what plant spacing to use? Will the spacing need to be larger with multi sowing?

    Thank you.

  16. Dear Charles, many thanks for your great advices. About to multysaw beetroot in a small backyard in Sarajevo. Fond Greetings from Bosnia.

  17. Just wondering if there a benefit of multisowing climbing beans. I am going to start some bean seedlings in the greenhouse as its too cold wet and windy here at the moment (plus the position for planting isn’t free quiet yet)

  18. I multi-sowed swiss chard, beetroot, turnip, lettuce & leeks. I then proceeded to plant them crowded together in a raised bed of about 2 sq.m at the same time in Apr 19! I did harvest some swiss chard before it bolted and some other good vegetables, but I will space correctly for better results next year. Thanks for the advice!

  19. Hi charles
    How are you
    In terms of my condition of place with 4 cents this type of no dig formula which is correct to me exactly and that green grass around side ways are enormous.

    Thank you for that

  20. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of gardening wisdom!

    One of my favourites is pea shoots, and I’m now just thinking of growing specifically for that. I’m wondering if there is a type of pea that provides better shoots for eating than others. I did try growing some with the peas I have for pea soup, but the shoots were too things and had way too many tentacles to make for a nice meal.

    Thank you and have a lovely day!

    1. Gertrude
      Nice to hear and yes I agree, too many tendrils on those.
      Sow any tall pea, say 75cm plus, so you have more stem and leaf.
      Tall Sugar and Alderman are excellent but perhaps hard to buy,
      Or Oregon Sugar Pod.

      1. Thank you Charles! I will do just that.

        I have one more question if you don’t mind.
        Many of your multi-sown veggies are rounded root vegetables. Have you tried multi-sowing kohlrabi? Or is my logic off there?

  21. Hi Charles, I wanted to thank you for the work that you do and for putting this information out into the world!! We very much appreciate your help and experience. I have now all no-dig beds and am looking forward to trying multi-sowing this year. When you do the pricking out method, how do you know when the seedlings are strong enough to transplant into modules but not so far along that the roots get tangled up?

    1. Hello Tania, good to hear of your progress.
      Prick out when the two cotyledon leaves are well grown but before you see the first true leaf.
      So at two leaf stage, use a pencil to lift roots gently while pulling the leaves as well.

  22. Thank you Charles for all your wisdom. I’m transforming to a no dig garden and am happy to say that your methods are starting to work here in Southern Oregon, USA (I’m an ex-pat).

    One question though. Would parsnips work in a multi-sow environment? I’m thinking maybe not as they need the longer root. Have you tried them this way? I might experiment this year, some multi-sown and some not. What do you think?

    Thanks you again so much

    1. Thanks Penelope and for parsnips + carrots it depends what you want.
      Unless you plant them when really tiny, the tap root will have split or forked before transplant stage.
      You will still have parsnips or carrots to eat, mostly short and fat.
      I advise to sow direct because with no dig and sowing seeds into surface compost, germination is so much better than from sowing seeds into dug soil. And weeds are less, so it’s easy to wait the three weeks before seeing parsnips, without them being lost in weed growth.
      My only parsnip failure was from a pack of Kings Seeds which must have been old when packeted. It was bought that winter but there was 90% failure, compared to near 100% success of different seed in the next bed, sown at the same time.

  23. In your suggestions above you write, e.g. onions for bulbs, to sow 6-7 seeds per clumps in order to have 4-5 plants per clump. Does that mean you don’t expect all the seeds to germinate, or do you remove extra seedlings if too many do germinate?
    I had some success with multi-seeding last year and would really like to do more this year, it does save a lot of space, so thanks so much for sharing the concept with us.

    1. Thanks Helle and yes it’s mainly a question of germination.
      If they all germinate, you can pull any little ones soon after emergence to have 4-5 per cell.

  24. Dear Charles , I am very inspired by your no dig garden ,tools ,techniques and garden wisdom. I live in zone 5 USDA. I was wondering I wish to re-do my garden using your methodology. I have a scattering of native plants, roses, fruit trees, perennial and annual flowers. I am very much like to try the no dig along with using, wood chips and using the ” winter sowing” ( in milk jugs for some plants . Especially the roses!!! Do you recommend that I remove the plants that I wish to keep, placing them in pots temporarily and continue with the compost-cardboard-manure to create the new garden bed? Can I multisow seeds in the smallest soil block? Where if possible would and do you use wood chips in the garden? What are your thoughts. Also in your video featuring two ways to start a new bed you used a type of plastic-” polyproplene” you called it( Sorry about the miss spelling ). What would you call that in the States? It was used as an barrier under squash plants. I want to send you a million thank you’s for your vast and humble knowledge of being such a great steward of the plant kingdom.

    Much Gratitude

    1. Thanks Joyce.
      I do not use woodchip for vegetables, except it’s possible for perennials, and roses etc.
      No need to remove pllants before mulching unless you have many invasive perennial weeds, so need to cover 100% eg with cardboard.
      Just black plastic can serve, it’s cheaper and must be opaque to light.
      Small multisow seeds can start in small blocks.
      Go well!

  25. Charles,
    Thank you for your reply! I would really love to own one of your dibbles. I have studied it and your use of it and find it is quite useful. I am not mechanically inclined however, I thought I could fashion one from an old broken garden tool handle but most are straight and would not give you the torque necessary to create holes. And to round off the bottom who has a lath hanging around to make it round and smooth. I have searched the internet and no one comes near the simplicity and effectiveness of your dibble! I am also interested in your calendar. You presented one of the pages of the calendar and the picture looks great! Was your objective to give people a visual snap shot that they themselves can do? Your thoughts!

    Again, Thank you for your time!

    1. Yes the calendar is exactly that, a visual prompt and with date reminders.
      Sorry we don’t have time to ship the dibber to you.

  26. Hi Charles, I’m getting so much useful information from your website, YT videos and books. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge in such a clear, detailed and generous way. I already have Winter Vegetables and the Veg Journal. I’m particularly Interested in the multi sowing method and want to know more about spacing. Do you have plans to make the No Dig Home and Garden book available as an ebook? I prefer ebooks because I can take my tablet out into the garden with my garden plan and all the books at my fingertips ready for reference.

    1. Hi Helen
      Thanks, nice to hear this.
      It’s up to the publishers, Permanent, whether it becomes an ebook.
      If you do social media, put up a request and tag them.
      And for online, my online course 2 has all that information, do mail me about it via Contact.

  27. Hi Charles, very inspired by your approach, videos and now book that I have. Would you be able to share whether you would suggest multi-sowing either pak choi, broccoli or sprouts, and if so some guidance on how many seeds per clump?

    Many thanks

    Ian Morris

    1. Thanks Ian and multisowing is for vegetables you want more than one of – so not Brussels and broccoli.
      Or sow just two seeds and thin to the strongest.
      Pak choi can grow in a clump of 2 or 3 but is harder to pick leaves from, better then for cutting.

  28. Sorry Charles, forgot to ask also how many seeds you would suggest sewing in clumps for radish, carrot and parsnip (if you would suggest clumping parsnips that is).

    Thanks again

    Ian Morris

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