We were almost delirious with excitement yesterday when we explored the various seed sowing methods employed by flower growing folk up and down the Isles. Today we shall be dipping our proverbial toes into the tingly waters of ‘what seeds to sow when’.
As is becoming my habit, I have asked the flower bods on Facebook for their opinions. They are a clever bunch and they are friendly to boot.
Throughout this piece, I will give rough dates for central England…add on a couple of weeks for Scotland…and take off a couple of weeks for Costa Del Cornwall.
Far and away the biggest failures in growing flowers that newbie growers have is caused by sowing too early. Seeds sown outside in cold wet soil can easily rot before they get a chance to germinate. Seeds sown inside too early don’t get enough daylight hours…this makes them ‘stretch’ towards the light. The ‘stretching’ makes them really get the hump…they usually become weak and flop over in a gangly pile of sulking stems. Sowing early is a form of greed. Don’t do it. Be patient! #NaughtyNaughty
There are exceptions to every rule. The master flower growers at the brilliant ‘Organic Blooms‘ sow early in their polytunnels and have excellent results. However…I am aiming this post at those who may be just starting out on their cut flower patch adventure…and I want them to have the best chances of success.
Although the main push of your seed sowing will probably be in April, there are sowing opportunities in three seasons. I never sow anything in December, January or February (though some folk do)…the winter is a time for casseroles and for working on my beer belly…I leave my plots untouched and untidy…this is the way the creatures like it.
Right…I’ll start off with a rough guide to when I sow my seeds for the Higgledy Garden and then we’ll delve into the seedy lives of the Facebookies.
In theory, you can happily sow Sweet Peas from October to March. A couple of years back I found myself sowing them on Remembrance Day. I now make this my last seed sowing day of the year. I sow my first sweet peas on Feb 1st. (Imboc)
I then hold off sowing any more seeds until the spring equinox (no…I’m not a druid). The equinox is the day in March when we have equal day and night length. Plants are really switched on to this. Our ancestors were really switched on to this date too. in 2024 the equinox falls on the 20th.
I sow Sweet Peas right through until May with no problems. I think I am right in saying Georgie Newbury (Common Farm Flowers) sows into May too.
I will go into more details about the differences between Hardy and Half Annuals in a few days. For the time being newbies should just be aware that Hardy Annuals are generally flowers that are native to our climate and as such can take a frost without having a hissy fit. This means they can be sown in autumn. Conversely, Half Hardies are native to areas closer to the equator and generally like things to be warm throughout their life…and who can blame them.
The first sowings of Hardy annuals I make into pots from the March Equinox. I don’t sow many annuals directly into the soil but if I do I always leave it until the soil has properly warmed up….certainly no earlier than mid-April. I prefer the first flush of weeds to come through…and hoe them off before sowing my flowers.
I will sow hardy annuals right until the end of May. My flowers last until Halloween when I leave them to go to seed for the finches.
When it comes to Autumn sowing I make my last sowing into the ground in late August or early September and the last sowings undercover before the September Equinox. (Sept 22nd)
Remembering the dates of the equinox will make you look like a pro. Drop it into a conversation when you’re chatting with other gardeners and they will wish they could be like you.
Half Hardy Annuals.
I sow all my Half Hardy Annuals into three-inch pots. Again we are looking at our chum the spring equinox. Half Hardies generally like a long growing season, so try and get them in before mid-April…but it’s no biggy if you leave it a little later. As these critters are too wimpy for a frost we don’t sow any in Autumn. If you are buying seeds from me…you will see that I include in the description whether they are hardy or not. (Most are Hardy as Hardy Annuals are the most prolific flowerers and therefore suited to a cutting patch)
June and July is the best time to sow these (for flowering the following spring) I sow in pots and then plant them out before the September equinox (yup…I’m pretty big on equinoxes)
Higgers Tip: My autumn sown annual flower bed is usually spent by the September equinox. I plant my biennial seedlings into it after I’ve cleared it. This means that I can save a big chunk of space.
Zoe Leeson A patients relative told me a few years ago about his lovely tradition of sowing Sweetpeas on Christmas Day. I have therefore started my first set off during Christmas week (with three kids, sowing on Christmas Day was being a bit too optimistic 😄). I then sowed more at the usual time of year. The Christmas sown ones were a lot healthier. I also start collecting toilet rolls now to sow the seeds into, Sweetpeas love having long roots so they are perfect for the job and degrade in the soil …. love a bit of recycling too
I love the idea of having memorable dates for sowing seeds. Seed sowing can be a pretty emotive task. Like Zoe I sow in cardboard tubes too. I find it helps to water them very lightly or they can fall apart. It’s also pretty easy to make newspaper tubes. After I’ve realised I can’t afford any of the houses in the local property paper, I use that.
Nicky Ogborn I always like to sow things too early and have found that they don’t do well like this so now I normally wait until the end of March beginning of April to sow. The exceptions being Tomatoes and Antirrhinums which go in February to satisfy my plant cravings. Have tried some autumn sown hardy perennials this year which seem to be doing really well. Will have to try the Christmas sown sweet peas!
Good point on the Antirrhinums (Snapdragons), they like an early start….though they don’t get one from me! Carnations are another beastie that you can sow in February.
Rosemary Mckerrell autumn sown annuals – wait for the equinox …..
Rosemary Mckerrell and aim to get biennials sown by the longest day… so start in first two weeks of June. They are so worth it!!
NB Longest day being the solstice…usually the 21st June. I totally agree with Rosie, Biennials are a must have. They produce buckets and buckets of flowers…you’ve just to wait a while for them.
Cassie Maund-Powell Tip I heard but personally I test soil temperature with my hand 😂 “The gardeners of old would test the soil to see if it was warm enough to sow seeds in by dropping their trousers and sitting down on the earth with their bare bottom.”
Haha! Yes…I think the test is actually a mental one…you should look at the soil and decide if you would be happy sitting on it with a bare bum…no need to actually place your peachy buns on the earth. #BumTesting
Carol Thornton Don’t lose your gardening calendar is a good tip! I never know when to sow things, so mine are always late!
I will keep you on the straight and narrow, Carol. ;)
Many thanks to those who posted tips. I will update them as and when I get new ones.
Higgers & Flash.