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October Seed Sowing Newsletter
The evenings are drawing in and winter seems very close once October arrives, but even at this time of year there are seeds to be sown.
It’s certainly not too late to sow sweet peas in cell trays indoors in fact we have a fabulous special offer to encourage you to grow your own from seed. Buy any four packets and get the cheapest free!* *(Mixes and collections are not included in the offer)
When it comes to flowers October and November are usually the last months that you’ll get away with sowing seed outside, but a sowing of hardy annuals is always worthwhile. They’ll make sturdy plants by next spring and flower earlier. Some perennials will also be happy sown now.
But if you have the benefit of a greenhouse, warm windowsill or well lit shed there are plenty of seeds that are eager to grow now.
As well as flowering peas you can also sow hardy overwintering peas for the kitchen. Sown now the young peas will give some tasty peas shoots for winter salads as well as a crop of vegetables in the summer, this is also one of the best months to sow Broad beans.
When you buy seeds from us you can be certain they’ve been tested for performance and of course each seed packet has full instructions and aftercare tips.
We’ve also included the handy How to sow instructions at the end of this newsletter.
Sweet pea ‘Madison’ Lathyrus odoratus
Sow sweet peas now and they’ll produce the most vigorous plants that will flower earlier next summer. Sweet peas flower profusely from summer to autumn producing masses of flowers for the house. You keep picking and they’ll keep flowering!
Our sweet peas are renowned for their range of colours including the soft pastel shades, all of which are gorgeous; but if you want to create a stir next summer ‘Madison’ boasts eye-popping scarlet flowers. This is a NEW Strongly scented sweet pea from Unwins that should set the border on fire!
Sow sweet peas at a temperature of 10-15C/50-60F they don’t need high temperatures to germinate. Sow seed individually into deep pots or cell trays or into special pea and bean root trainers filled with good compost. Keep warm and keep the compost moist but not wet until seeds germinate. You can keep the trays of sweet peas in a cool greenhouse or in cold frames outside. Sweet peas are hardy but protect the seedlings from severe winter weather.
Sweet peas Lathyrus odoratus are such easy plants to grow from seed and if you love sweet peas and want to grow your own from seed our excellent Sweet pea grower’s kit is too good to miss. It comes complete with everything you need for success plus a selection of sweet pea seeds including a packet of Gro-sure Sweet Pea Cupid mix absolutely FREE. These very compact, semi-trailing sweet peas are perfect for growing in hanging baskets or containers on the patio. But you can also use them to add some thing new and different to your bedding schemes.
They look great when they’re allowed to scramble along a border edge or you could grow
them on twiggy supports as a very low mounded ‘hedge’ that will give a subtle change of height in the border.
These dwarf sweet peas share the same strong scent as their taller cousins so they are also ideal for getting the full sweet pea experience where space is limited.
Sow the Gro-sure pelleted seed individually into deep pots or cell trays or into special pea and bean root trainers filled with good compost at 10-15C/50-60F. Keep warm and keep the compost moist but not wet until seeds germinate. Wet soil and cool temperatures can cause seed to rot.
Scarlet corn poppies Papaver rhoeas
Whether you just love these brilliantly coloured hardy annual wild flowers or you’ve been inspired to plant corn poppies to commemorate the centenary of World War 1; you can scatter poppy seed now for an early show next year. It’s not just the scarlet poppies that will grow from seed at this time of year. You can direct sow pastel coloured Shirley poppies too, they come in a range of shades from pearly whites to vibrant reds and plums, with filmy double or semi double petals.
Each flower is so fragile it seems to be made of tissue paper; yet seen en masse in fields and roadsides simple poppies are one of the most impressive and evocative of flowers.
The red poppy wreaths and buttonholes we wear on remembrance Sunday are a stark reminder of terrible times but they are also a symbol of hope. Poppy seeds remain viable in the soil for generations, they’ll germinate as soon as they are turned over by the plough, or as happened in the fields of Europe when soil is disturbed by battle.
Sow poppies directly outside now and you’ll have poppies in your garden, village green or school in 2014. (See how to do it at the end of this newsletter plus there are instructions on every seed packet). Double flowered poppies such as Papaver somniferum ‘Summer Sorbets’ look more like peonies than poppies; they are also ready to sow outside now for early, very showy double flowers.
Commonly known as Californian Poppy Eschscholzia californica is an annual flower. It too looks incredibly fragile with dish-shaped tissue-paper blooms and blue-grey ferny foliage. But don’t let those dainty looks fool you these plants thrive on poor, thin and stony soils!
California poppies are sun-lovers that enjoy the heat; although they will also grow in shadier conditions and on improved soils. They are perfect combined with other hardy annuals- such as Calendula, corn cockles(Agrostemma), cornflowers and Love-in-a-mist Nigella damascena. Sow all these seeds directly outside now where you want them to flower; they’ll push through the soil before winter to make sturdy plants in spring that will start to flower from early summer.
Convolvulus ‘Royal Ensign’ is a must have annual plant, once you’ve seen it growing you’ll never want to be without it. Don’t worry about this being a convolvulus- it’s non-invasive and only reaches about 30cms/1ft tall so unlike its disreputable weedy cousins it won’t be smothering neighbouring plants!
Low growing and beautiful, ‘Royal Ensign’ combines well with most hardy annuals but it seems to be at its best with Californian poppies.
Sow both these hardy annuals at the same time and look forward to amazing yellow-throated blue trumpet flowers weaving in among the poppies. Direct sow outside where you want them to flower into well raked and firmed soil, water and thin as instructed on the seed packet- (or see How to sow directly outside at the end of this newsletter).Then just sit back and wait for the complements next summer.
Meteor Vroma is one of the earliest Broad beans to crop so you could wait until spring to sow it, but you can also sow these broad beans in autumn while soil is warm for fast germination and even more of a head start. Fill individual small pots or 9-cell trays with good multi purpose compost.
Sow each seed on its side and push it gently into the soil to cover.
Water using a fine spray to avoid washing the seed out of the compost.
Label the pots and put the trays on a warm windowsill, greenhouse or propagator; a week or so later the seeds will have germinated. Aquadulce Claudia is probably the most famous autumn sown broad bean along with The Sutton they are both well loved and successful varieties.
Broad beans are perfect for children to sow. They make a good school-gardening project too because the large bean seeds are easy for tiny fingers to grip and the fleshy seedlings look very impressive as they emerge through the soil in double quick time.
Once the young plants have their true leaves (as opposed to the two ‘seed leaves’ called cotyledon leaves) and they are growing strongly with a good root system; plant them 20cm/8in apart in their final positions outside. Broad beans are hardy but be prepared to protect plants with fleece or a cloche in severe weather.
Sow indoors in cell trays
Sowing too many seeds is the most common mistake when you first start growing from seed. But even experienced gardeners get carried away with the excitement of seed sowing and end up giving the resulting plants away.
An easy way to only sow what you need is to sow seed into individual pots or cell trays filled with multi purpose or seed compost.
With large seeds such as broad beans, sweet peas and peas it’s easy to put one seed per pot, use a 9 cell tray for larger seeds or special extra-deep pots called root trainers for sweet peas. If seed is fine like poppies and foxgloves use a tiny pinch of seed for each pot or sow into 24 cells (or 48 cells if you need a lot of plants.)
The smaller the cell the more carefully you need to water - seeds hate overwatering just as much as drought! And be prepared to pot the seedlings up into larger cells if their roots have filled the cells they’re in.
Step by step
Each Unwins seed packet has instructions re sowing depth and what temperature the seeds need to germinate.
1 Sow at the right depth and temperature (look on the seed packet)
2 Water carefully use a fine, gentle spray to avoid displacing the seed.
3 Put the trays or pots on a windowsill or pop cell trays into an electric propagator at the temperature required.
If you want to use a propagator but don’t have power in the greenhouse try Unwins Windowsill Propagator is a brilliant piece of kit with interchangeable seed trays, a lid that is deep enough for developing seedlings and fuss free watering.
Our customers have already left some 5 star reviews and told us how much they liked it.
- As a quick rule of thumb: bury large seeds around 1cm deep, cover small seeds with a sprinkling of soil and fine seed can just be gently pressed onto the surface of the compost.
- If you are new to growing from seed it’s worth remembering that many varieties have enough seeds in each seed packet for a large amount of plants. Very fine seed may have over a 1000 individual seeds in each packet!
It takes huge self control but if you only want half a dozen plants at any one time only sow enough seeds to give this amount. And make sure you have enough space to keep, and subsequently plant the seedlings once they germinate.
Direct sowing outside
Sowing seed directly outside is an easy and cost effective way to get a natural looking display of flowers, especially if you have a large area to fill. It’s also a great way to get children involved in gardening.
Of course you could just scatter seed randomly, but this is a wasteful way of sowing.
By far the best way of sowing direct is to mark out an area for each variety and sow into it.
Whatever you’re growing, whether hardy flowering annuals or a collection of hardy herbs or salads the method for direct sowing outside is simple, you won’t need special tools; just a rake, a hand fork and some plant labels.
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 salad or type of flower. Plants can be grouped 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 When the seed is sown cover it over very lightly with soil; 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!)
6 Finally, water the length of the drill; use a watering can with a fine spray to avoid washing the seed out of the ground.
-To mark out 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 seeds are germinating.
Within a week or two depending on the weather germination will take place and you’ll see leaves appearing.
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.
Keep well watered but don’t saturate the soil.
TIP: Make sowings of hardy salads or herbs every few weeks and you’ll get a steady supply of young leaves.
If you have a favourite plant that you’d love to grow from seed -but just can’t find, Contact us we’d love to hear about it.