“Higgers you crazy mixed up fool! Annuals are sown in spring…everyone knows that. Have you been on the sherry again?”
Dear flower friends, come hither…gather round….let me tell you the tale of the autumn sown flowers…
The varieties of annual flowers that we grow and sell at Higgledy Garden are native to different parts of the world. The flowers that are native to areas close (ish) to the equator are flowers that only know days of equal day and night length and have no experience of the seasons….or more importantly, they have evolved without having to overcome the rigors of a sharp frost. The frost can damage the very cell structure of a tender plant….after which they are not happy bunnies and often sulk themselves to death.
However…as we move our jolly way either north or south from our friend the equator, our annual flowers start to experience fluctuations in temperature and have spent many happy millennia finding ways to successfully combat the cold and the wet. In the interests of utter simplicity, the horticultural world (In the UK at least) separates these flowers into just two tribes, ‘Hardy Annuals’ and ‘Half-Hardy Annuals’. Hardy annuals can take a frost…and can therefore be sown in late summer/early autumn (When you see mature flowers drop their seeds). Half-hardy annuals must be sown after our frosts have gone…or in a greenhouse (in early spring) where Jack Frost can’t get his chilly mitts on them.
FAQ: “Higgers you staggeringly delight of a man, what are the advantages of sowing hardy annuals in the autumn”?
We have two bundles of discounted seeds to sow in late summer in the Higgledy Seed Shop of Dreams.
A late summer or early autumn sowing of your hardy annual flower seeds can produce exceptional results the following year. Seedlings grow to a few inches high and then the tops become dormant over the winter, whereas their roots are kicking down into the still warm soil and gently expanding the root ball over the season. In spring time the plant already has the system in place to rocket upward as soon as the soil warms up and the sun starts to shine again. This produces much stronger and more abundant plants which will flower earlier than their spring sown brothers and sisters.
Whilst this is all fine and dandy…there are of course lots of variables and late summer/early autumn sowing can produce mixed results…it’s a good idea to keep some seeds back for a spring sowing.
FAQ: When do we sow these hardy annuals, Mr Higgsbosun?
One of the challenges is sowing into a somewhat small window of opportunity….let’s steal a phrase from NASA and call this window ‘The Goldilocks Zone’. The Goldilocks Zone is the period of time that you can sow your seeds that isn’t so early that your annuals will try to flower that same year…but not so late that the seeds refuse to germinate. (Seeds that don’t germinate may of course germinate in the spring.)
For most growers in England and Wales I would put the Goldilocks zone between late August and mid September. If sowing outside I would favour late August, and if sowing in pots in the greenhouse I would leave it a little later until September.
It seems that many of my flower growing friends have their own preferred weeks for sowing….up in Scotland they might sow a couple of weeks earlier….in sunny Cornwall, the merry men and merry maidens might sow toward the end of September.
I tend to sow some outside and also sow some in pots. The ones in pots I overwinter in a coldframe (storage box) or a greenhouse and plant them out in a mild week in March. I use the pots to fill any gaps I might have in the rows that I sowed direct.
For a more detailed guide on how to go about sowing flower seeds, clickerty click over to: “How to sow flower seeds.”
The social enterprise ‘Organic Blooms’…(these folk are heroes of mine)…….having a chat with them earlier in the year I was surprised to discover they never ever direct sow their flower seeds…and instead start everything in the polytunnel…even the flowers that don’t like root disturbance. I forget what time of year they sow their autumn annuals undercover but I suspect it is mid September.
Benjamin Higgledy and Mr Flash Fantastic
.If you have any questions then please ask away…you can find me on Twitter orFacebook. Should you wish you can join ‘Club Higgledy’ (see the right hand side bar). This is a six times a year email with links to my discounted bundles….these are offered to subscribers first as they are usually limited in number.