About this time of year I get swathes of folk asking me if it’s OK to sow their seeds…often a sunny weekend in late February or early March gives everyone a dose of ‘sowing lust’. Resist temptation my cherubs!
It’s a great time to be sowing up your Sweet Peas but for the huge majority of annuals and indeed perennials you are far better off waiting until April. I start to sow Half Hardy annuals (annuals that can’t take a frost) undercover from early April and Hardy annuals I start to sow outside in mid April. …well….here in sunny Cornwall I may start a little earlier but only a week or so.
If your soil isn’t at least 7 degrees…which it is VERY unlikely to be in March…your seeds will sit dormant…pesky mices and birds will feast away….cold and wet will rot them…….so why bother? Just hold off for a few weeks. Even the few that do germinate will struggle as the daylight hours and the average air temperatures are low. Later sown flowers will be stronger and therefore will catch up and flower at the same time.
If you sow your half hardy annuals at the beginning of March in a propagator you may well have germination success BUT you can’t plant the critters outside until after the frosts…and that’s mid May for most of us in the UK….a ten week old annual flower will only have a couple of weeks before it flowers…it’s pretty much full grown……..oh the horror of it all.
If you can’t see the native weeds emerging from the soil then you can’t expect your own seedlings to get involved. On this note…the other great advantage of sowing later is that you can let the first flush of weeds to germinate on your patch….then gently and shallowly hoe them off…this will be much easier than weeding them around your tiny seedlings. Why not have your beds ready by the beginning of April…hoe off the first flush after a couple of weeks….and then get sowing….trust me, you will have much greater success this way and your experience will be all the more pleasing for it.
Many experienced growers sow up beds in May…this will give them flowers much later into the season of course.
Without a doubt the two biggest reasons for lack of germination in your seeds will be sowing to early into cold wet soil……and/or sowing too deeply. Seeds on the whole are fine with just a light covering of soil…three times the depth of the seed is a good guideline.
…and for more tips for sowing up a patch ‘How, what and when to sow up a cutting patch in Spring’.
Have fun y’all!