Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

Get ahead with spring sowing

February 16th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Calendula 'Snow Princess'

Well, last week I was talking about seeds not to sow this month, so this time I’m reversing the idea – what can we sow now that we should have sown in the autumn?

I’m always bashing on about how autumn is a really good time to sow a number of popular annuals, especially those that grow naturally in the Mediterranean region where they germinate at the end of summer and in autumn as the rains begin. Sweet peas, nigellas, cornflowers, cerinthe, calendulas, and annual chrysanthemums all produce superb plants from an autumn sowing. But we don’t always get round to it. So can we sow them now and still get ahead of the usual March or April sowing? Yes, we can.

The problem is that in February the soil is so cold that germination is very slow and slugs and rots of all kinds can kill seedlings before they get anywhere. But if we can get them to start to grow in February they’ll make better plants than if they’re sown a month later. Here’s what I suggest.

If you have a cold greenhouse, then you’re all set. Sow sweet peas in Rootrainers and the others in regular modules, sow them and grow them on in the cold greenhouse and plant out in April.

But, if you don’t have a greenhouse, here’s what to do. Sow the seeds in Rootrainers or other modules and keep them in the house, anywhere warm. The seeds need more warmth for speedy germination than they do for growing. Then, as soon as the seeds show signs of emerging, move them outside. Don’t wait until their leaves unfurl and the stems start to stretch. Where, exactly, you move them is important.

Choose somewhere warm and cosy, a position that benefits from as much low late winter sun as possible. Ensure that surplus moisture can drain away and, crucially, protect the emerging seedlings from slugs. I use organic SlugClear™ Ultra³  slug pellets which I find work very well.

I used this method with sweet peas and with calendulas last year, I’m expecting to prove the point with other annuals this this year. Why not give it a try?