Favourite Hardy Annuals to sow now - Poppies
If you sow poppies directly outside now where you want them to flower you’ll have poppies in bloom early next summer.
Whether you love brilliantly coloured field poppies or the ruffled petals of double flowered poppies such as Papaver somniferum, there are plenty to choose from.
Whichever poppy you choose poppy flowers seem to be made of tissue paper; yet seen en masse they make an impressive show.
Another annual plant that is commonly known as Californian Poppy is Eschscholzia californica. They have dish-shaped tissue-paper blooms and blue-grey ferny foliage. California poppies are sun-lovers; they really enjoy the heat and thrive on poor, thin and stony soils; although they will also grow well in shadier conditions and on improved soils.
Whatever you’re growing, whether it’s hardy flowering annuals or a collection of hardy herbs or salads the method for direct sowing outside is the same. It is also very simple; you won’t need special tools, just a rake, a hand fork and some plant labels, and a watering can.
STEP BY STEP
1 First prepare the area by getting rid of weeds and removing any large stones then rake the soil so it is level and crumbly (often described as a ‘fine tilth’).
2 Mark out an area in the soil for each different seed variety. They can be sown in lines, blocks or circles but sowing in overlapping drifts produces a very natural effect.
3 Mark out ‘drills’ - shallow depressions within each area, where you’ll sow the seed. You can make them with the tip of the rake or a bamboo cane.
4 Sprinkle the seed very finely along the drills; sow the seed thinly because seedlings will need space to grow and mature.
5 cover it over very lightly with soil when the seed is sown; you can do this with your hands or a hand fork or by raking it gently along the drill, then and add a plant label- (It’s easy to forget what you’ve sown if you miss out this step!)
To mark out areas like the professionals fill a drinks bottle with sand and trickle the sand slowly from the bottle to mark out different areas for each seed variety.
Unless you have a large space to fill you will only need a small amount of seed so don’t be tempted to sow the whole packet into one small space!
If cats or foxes are a problem in your area cover the soil after sowing with mesh or fleece; or put down a few rose prunings or holly stems to deter animals from disturbing the area while your seeds are germinating.
Keep the area watered in dry spells; but don’t saturate the soil.
Germination will take place within a week or two, depending on the weather, and you’ll see the first true leaves appearing. (Embryonic seed leaves, called cotyledon, appear first followed by the plants true leaves).
Thin out any congested clumps if necessary, leaving space around each stem so seedlings don’t have to compete with neighbours that are too close.
TIP Don’t weed ANYTHING until you are certain which are your precious seedlings and which are weeds!