Being able to pick flowers from our own gardens for the kitchen table has inspired many of us to grow more flowers for cutting. We’ve gone for a bit of a colour theme of apricot and orange with accents of dark pinks and burgundy, but time will tell if its worked or not. Read on to find out more about seed sowing and what we will be growing to cut.
The smaller or less hardy seeds (Echinacea, foxglove, zinnias, cosmos, nicotiana, annual phlox and Chinese aster) are starting off in trays or cells indoors whilst the larger seeds such as nasturtiums and sunflowers are sown into individual 7cm pots. Of course if you don’t have indoor space then you can direct-sow most of these lovelies, but we suggest you wait until at least mid-April when the soil temperature will be warmer.
The annuals like cornflowers, poppies, nigella and marigolds germinate readily in open ground and will be direct sown this way. The dahlia tubers won’t go out until May and we have more a post with more information on sweet peas!
Our Seed Sowing Tips
Little and often is best. There are nearly always too many seeds in a packet so refrain from sowing the whole packet as it will be impossible to separate the seedlings later and getting a good root on each seed is vital.
Read the seed packet. Not all seeds are equal – by this we mean they require different planting depths, temperatures, light levels etc to germinate, so doing research beforehand will improve success rates. Chilterns seeds and Sarah Raven seeds provide good germination guides.
Size matters. Some seeds are as fine as dust such as foxgloves. These we sow onto the surface of a small seed tray and don’t cover as they need light to germinate. Other seeds are larger and can be sown individually into modules.
Compost. Which is best for seed sowing? Seeds need a compost that is low in nutrient in order to germinate. We use a seed compost such as Levington peat free seed and cutting compost. We like to sieve the compost first to break it up, let some air in and sieve out any large lumps.
Sowing technique. Sow thinly onto moist well drained compost covering (most) with a sprinkling of either vermiculite (which filters light through) or finely sifted compost (for those requiring dark to germinate) and press the top down gently to ensure the seed is in good contact with the soil.
Waterwise tips. Allow the seeds to soak up water from below to encourage the roots down and only use tap water as all seeds are prone to fungal infection the spores of which can harbour in rainwater.
They’ve germinated! Well done. Now move them to a cooler spot to avoid leggy growth. Generally, somewhere 10-15C with good light but that remains frost free. If they grow too quickly their stems will be too weak to support their top growth. Check daily and turn the pots as they will want to grow towards the light - you don’t want lopsided plants.
Moving on. Your seedlings will develop juvenile leaves first followed by ‘true’ leaves. i.e., leaves that look like baby versions of the final plant you are expecting. Transplant them on when they are big enough to handle but before the roots become congested. We use large modules or 7cm pots and a sieved general multipurpose compost which will have more nutrient than the seed compost they started in. Continue to water from below with tap water. They will go out into the cutting garden in mid-May when hopefully the frosts have passed and when they have developed a good root system.
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