Updated: Apr 2, 2020
A simple guide on sowing seeds, and some of my personal favourites.
I sow seeds every spring for my garden, Annuals are easy to grow, and a lot of them will produce flowers right through the summer until autumn.
April is a perfect time to get your seeds stared indoors, in seed trays (or any shallow dish that you can currently get your hands on). You will need to keep to soil damp, and keep it somewhere bright, if the seeds are in a warmer part of the house it will trigger them to germinate faster. Some more hardy annuals can be sown straight out into your garden. Most seed packets have all the information you need on the back of them.
Once your seeds start to sprout, the first job is to thin them out, picking out the smaller ones, thinning down the amount of seedlings by about 30%. This gives them more space to grow, and they will get more nutrients from the soil too.
The next job is to pot them on, and move them outside. You will most likely be thinning down again at this point, only selecting the stronger seedlings. Remember that these tiny seedlings will grow into quite large plants, so you only want to grow what you have got room for. Unless you are growing as gifts for people.
Before you plant them out into your garden, it is good to do something called ‘pinching out’. This is the process where you snip or pinch off the top sprouting stem and leaves. This encourages the plant to grow out fuller and produce more flowers in the future.
Last year I grew cosmos from seed, it grew so well, and kept flowering right through to October. It is super easy to grow, and is available in light and dark pink, as well as white. As long as you keep dead heading the flowers once they have finished, it will keep blooming until the autumn. Mine grew very large, they were almost as tall as me! So keep this in mind when you plant them out into the garden.
Photography by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash
Sweet peas are to me, a classic cottage garden flower, their delicate scent and variety of colours make them a firm favourite of mine. You can actually start them off quite early in the year, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t too late to sow sweet peas now. I got mine in the seed trays less than two weeks ago, and they have shot up.
They do of course need a bit more space, in terms of something to grow up. You can use frames, or Jute netting which is secured to a fence.
Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash
In my experience, these take a little longer to germinate, and are quite delicate, but they are worth the wait, the reward of beautiful tall flowers, that make for very good cut flowers in your home too! Plus the bees love them.
Photo by Alexey Rusakov on Unsplash
I have grown sunflowers from seed every summer for the last 6 years, experimenting with different varieties, as there are many. I tend to skip the seed tray stage and pop the seeds straight into small individual pots, I move them up to bigger pots to get a little stronger before I put them in the ground. This also helps to give them a fighting chance against the snails, who love them. They will of course need some support, in the form of a cane or other sticks. As they get taller, to stop from drooping or falling down, due to their heavy heads. I am always collecting sturdy sticks to use in my garden, for supporting flowers, it gives a more natural look than canes.
Photo by Haley Owens on Unsplash
There aren’t many flowers that are the electric blue shade you get from cornflowers. You can get lighter blues, through to purple and pink, which look stunning dotted amongst the pink cosmos in the garden. They are actually one of the edible flowers too, and look very pretty adorning cakes or biscuits. And they give your garden that wonderful wild flower meadow vibe.
Photo by Sugar Bee on Unsplash
This is the cultivated version of cow parsley, which grows in abundance along hedgerows around the UK. You can sow it straight into the ground from Autumn, and just let it do its thing, I have never actually done this myself, apparently it is very easy to grow. You can also get the seeds started in trays over the spring months.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Don't forget to label your seeds, as you will be glad of the labels once they start to grow! You can use lolly pop sticks, or strips of yoghurt pots, using permanent pen.