Annual sowing time

I’ve left seed sowing very late this year, mainly because I want to use my new greenhouse (when it’s built!), for seedlings and potting on, but also the weather has been so awful! Anyway, it’s high time I got on with it, or there will be no filler plants this summer.

I’ve accumulated lots of free seeds since the start of this year, mainly courtesy of Amateur Gardening magazine, but I also found a box I’ve previously stored seeds in over the last couple of years. I say last couple of years, but in fact there were seeds that expired in 2013 in there, so a clear-out was definitely required! Following this, there was a more modest pile left to choose from, including a few purchases I’ve made recently. It does seem a shame to throw so many away, but all the advice I’ve seen indicates that it would most likely be a waste of time and money to try and germinate old seed. It strikes me that local councils and schools could establish donation schemes so that at the end of each season people could give their unused (and unwanted) seed packets for use the following year – I’ll look into this for my left over packets at the end of the season.


As usual, I will be sowing the stalwart that is the half hardy cosmos, ‘Purity’ and ‘Rubenza’ being my usual varieties. I have fallen into the trap of sowing these in my ‘super 7’ in early February only to find that you need a whole lot of space in a heated greenhouse to keep them strong and healthy up until planting out time when chance of frost has gone in May. This year I’m obviously much later, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do.


Two years ago, there was a whole billowing cloud of cosmos at Trentham, breathtaking!

Hardy annuals are a group of plants that I have rarely sown directly into the ground, but looking for fillers in the borders as gaps appear throughout the year, I came across a gorgeous looking plant, ammi majus. I’d seen this white beauty being prominently used last year at Trentham Gardens.


It is a perfect filler for my pink, blue and white border – I’ve bluebells and forget me nots in this area, growing freely, but as spring flowering specimens, they’re done and dusted by mid May and holes are left where they were. The added bonus about being planted directly into the ground, is that this year,  until I have my new greenhouse, there’s limited space for potting seedlings on.

For the same border, I’ll also be sowing cornflower seeds. I did try this once before, from an Autumn sowing so it’ll be interesting to see how much difference a Spring sowing makes.

A new one for me will be tithonia rotundiflora ‘Red Torch’. I saw this bright orange plant growing at an NGS open garden last summer, it is one of Monty Don’s favourites and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in my hot border this year.



I’ve never grown dahlias from seed before, but I couldn’t resist a purchase from Sarah Raven’s range. Also for the hot border, I’m hoping the variety ‘Bishop’s Children’, will compliment the vibrant colour of ‘Bishop of Landruff’ and the striking leaves of the canna I usually plant in this area. For a darker colour at the back of the border, I’m going to sow a burnt orange sunflower ‘Velvet Queen’, and plant it interspersed with salvia ‘Amistad’ (not from seed, plug plants ordered!) for contrast. Best laid plans?



For the first time, I’m not going to use a chemical control to prevent seedlings suddenly collapsing due to damping off. I’ve never experienced this problem, caused by fungal infection, probably as I have previously used cheshunt compound,  which is no longer available, and more recently Bayer’s Garden Fruit & Veg Disease Control, which is still on the market. This year I’ve decided to try straightforward hygiene and common sense:

  • fresh non-retentive compost
  • clean equipment
  • tap water rather than rainwater
  • avoid overcrowding
  • ventilation
  • timely potting on

It’ll be interesting to see the results this summer!