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September Seed Sowing Newsletter.
Ready, steady, SOW!
At Unwins we sell a huge range of plants, seeds and products and with over century of experience we’ve carried on a long tradition of supplying seeds to keen gardeners.
We stock seed for almost every type of plant; from Unwins’ world famous, award winning, sweet peas - first introduced in 1901, to Unwins Gro-sure pelleted seed range, the result of pioneering new seed technology.
As keen gardeners ourselves we wanted to share the joy of growing from seed, and to take a way a bit of the mystique associated with sowing and growing your own plants.
Growing from seed is fun; children love to help and whatever your skill level you’ll get results.
So whether you’re a new gardener or an experienced grower we’re sure you’ll find something exciting to grow in our seed ranges and plenty of useful accessories.
Join us in a voyage of discovery; it may start with a tiny seed but growing from seed could become a lifelong passion.
September- What to sow now:
Spring is often thought of as prime seed-sowing time, (rising soil temperatures and frequent showers in spring encourage seeds to germinate quickly). But there are plenty of seeds that can also be sown in autumn. Hardy annuals and perennials fit the bill perfectly because they germinate at cool temperatures and the seedlings are able to cope with winter weather.
The advantages of sowing in autumn are stronger plants that will flower earlier than their spring sown counterparts.
We have almost 1000 different seed varieties and all our seeds are guaranteed to give excellent results. But if you are new to seed sowing or want to encourage youngsters to have a go try our Gro-sure range of seeds. Because the pelleted seeds are easy to handle they are perfect for anyone who finds it hard to see or handle fine seed. There are over hundreds of different seeds in the Gro-sure range including vegetables and flowers plus herbs and salads.
Little Growers is another seed range that will appeal to green-fingered youngsters, and their teachers!
The blue of a cornflower is so intense that few flowers can match its colour and when wild cornflowers are combined with white daisies and red poppies the effect sums up the beauty of an old-fashioned summer cornfield. Cornflowers also look spectacular combined with lavender plants, the deep blue cornflowers combined with purple-blue lavender spikes produces an amazing ‘ultra violet’ effect.
While blue may be the most common colour cornflowers also come in a rainbow of different shades including pastels, pinks and wine-red, some even get close to being black!
Cornflowers are just as variable in height; shorter cornflowers make perfect edging plants for a sunny border, while the tall bushy varieties such as Cornflower Double Mix blend well with flowers in the middle of the border. Short or tall, all of them are easy to grow from seed.
Cornflower seeds look like tiny pastry brushes with a bristly tuft at the end. This distinctive shape and their pale straw colour means they show up well against dark soil, so they are very easy to sow thinly. Direct sow them NOW for an easy and effective display of flowers in late spring and early summer.
Marigolds are traditional cottage garden plants that attract bees and butterflies as well as delighting us.
For the old fashioned pot-marigold choose a traditional seed mix such as Calendula Long Flowering Mix but for a marigold that is just a bit different choose a hardy marigold such as Calendula Needles and Pins. This marigold has brilliant orange, quilled petals on strong stems, the flowers looks lovely in a vase as well as in the border. Direct sow the seeds now and they’ll fill the border (or veg plot) with sunny yellow flowers that keep going from spring until late summer if regularly deadheaded.
Calendula? Tagetes? Or marigolds? Gardeners know them by all of these names. It’s good to know the difference because calendulas are hardy and some tagetes aren’t but don’t let the names confuse you! Just choose the flowers you like best from the seeds on offer.
If you want to identify them with their correctly horticultural names the hardy, so-called English marigolds are correctly called Calendula.
The Half Hardy French Marigolds and African marigolds are both different varieties of Tagetes.
You can sow calendula NOW but wait until spring to sow tagetes. Simples!
Get the Kids Growing!
September is traditionally ‘back to school’ month and if the youngsters in your family are eager to grow something, or involved with a school garden, inspire them to start their own small plot or raised bed at home. Our Little Growers seed range has veg and salads as well as flowers and everything is designed to be fun and easy to sow; plus they’ll help attract wildlife such as bees and butterflies into your garden.
But even if your only garden is a windowsill, one marigold plant grown from seed in a pot makes a brilliant winter and spring indoor pot plant!
Get the kids gardening like professionals in no time with Unwins Little Growers Propagation Kit to make sowing fun and informative. The kit comes complete with a packet of marigold seeds, a progress chart and all the tools and labels needed, just add seed trays and compost.
Who knows? Your little grower may turn out to be the next gardening whizz kid!
I’m a big fan of ALL autumn bedding, whether grown from seed or bought as plants these hardy flowers keep the garden cheerful for the longest time. Buying bedding as plants as well as growing from seed gives you the best of both worlds, you get instant results with the plants while you wait for the seed-sown bedding to grow.
Winter Pansies are fun to grow from seed. My granddad used to help us kids to sow and grow pansies for the village show and those pansy ‘faces’ still appeal.
Winter pansy varieties have been specially bred to keep flowering at low temperatures and in low light levels and still give a reliable display. But if you hanker after a particular colour seed of most pansies and violas can be sown now and grown on to give winter or early spring-flowering plants.
Pansy and viola seeds are best sown in cell trays –use the trays with 24 cells and you’ll give the seedlings enough room to grow without worrying about spacing them out. They don’t need high temperatures to germinate so they’ll be happy kept in a cool greenhouse or on a cool windowsill indoors to germinate. Once they’ve germinated you can grow them on to make well rooted young plants before planting them outside wherever you want them to flower.
Salads are a main stay of the summer garden but despite cooler temperatures and shorter days there are still some salad leaves that can be sown outside now. One of the hardiest is Land Cress also known as American salad cress. It has a pungent watercress flavour but unlike watercress it doesn’t need running water to thrive. Just keep soil reliably moist for the best crop of young leaves.
Corn salad also known as Lamb’s Lettuce is another tasty salad leaf that will keep cropping in cool weather.
Sow Land cress and Lamb’s lettuce now, directly where you want them to grow, and harvest when the leaves are large enough to snip from the plant. Both Land cress and Lamb’s Lettuce are hardy enough to survive winter temperatures.
Over wintering peas such as Douce Provence can also be sown now for an early harvest. But if you are a fan of pea shoots in salads why not sow some extra peas to use as a swanky salad leaf! Sow the peas indoors in cell trays or outside in the veg plot, either way you’ll get an extra winter salad crop.
These days the vast majority of seeds will germinate successfully but there is a country saying about seed sowing (especially peas and beans) that goes like this: ‘One for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow’!
Luckily, with careful watering and a bit of protection from pests such as mice and pigeons all your seeds should flourish.
How to sow:
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 - Sow Indoors
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.
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 - Sow direct outdoors
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.