|Posted on 9 February, 2016 at 16:30|
It's the beginning of the flower growing season and I've been resisting planting since November, promising myself that the plants will thank me for it and do better if I wait. It's been a struggle but at last the first seed sowing day arrived, with early annuals and perennials now carefully tucked up in the propagator.
Since starting growing flowers for sale I've been slowly refining seed ordering, care and planting, trying to be more efficient, frugal and successful. All the advice says to keep seeds in the fridge but I can never manage that - too many seeds, the fridge is not big enough and I'd be taking them out all the time to look at them. I keep them in a plastic box sorted into perennials, biennials, hardy annuals and half hardy annuals, all nicely kept together with elastic bands, except when I'm sorting through checking that I have enough, reminding myself what the year is going to bring while a storm rages outside.
Fresh seed is best and I've found that the seed I save from my own plants generally germinates the best. However, one of the problems with selling cut flowers is that often there aren't any left to go to seed, or the weather is too wet for collecting it the end of the season. Saved seed is a small proportion of the whole, but those little brown envelopes are very much prized, and the ones sent by or swapped with other very generous growers even more so. However, there's still plenty of scope for buying lots of lovely new seed too and my ordering schedule is as follows:
November/December - Annuals and Perennials - for Spring sowing
May - Biennials - for June/July sowing
August - Annuals and Perennials - for late August/September sowing
Anytime - that lovely new seed I just can't resist!
Some seeds are sown every month except December and January, working through the year to make sure that there are flowers at all times except the depths of winter.
Where to get seed?
There are lots of options and more coming along all the time. In some ways it would be great to get all the seed you need from a single company but then that would mean only one seed catalogue and much less fun. It's easy to get carried away, order too many or end up with duplicates but I'm trying hard to be disciplined! In no particular order, this year I'll be using seed from:
Higgledy Garden - the delightful and very informative Mr Higgs sells a good range of cutting garden seeds. They have very reliable germination for me and an entertaining growing guide is always available online.
Seeds of Distinction - some unusual varieties, I'm trying Penstemon Chocolate Drop this season.
Kings Seeds - offer a service for allotment and gardening societies and are very competitively priced. Great range of sweet peas.
Owls Acre - sweet pea specialists who also sell winter varieites.
Suffolk Herbs - herb specialists, my Hop seeds have come from Suffolk Herbs.
Chitern Seeds - many different varieties, plus shrub and tree seeds. My germination challenges often come from Chiltern, when enthusiasm and optimism delivers seeds with a warning that they can take up to 2 years to germinate!
Moles Seeds - as well as a comprehensive catalogue, Moles are working with Flowers from the Farm to provide specialist cut flower varieties that we can't get elsewhere. Thank you!
Thompson and Morgan - a few additional special varieties
Lidl - they were next to the checkout and only 25p a packet, what can I say...
Johnny's Selected Seeds - a gift from a lovely overseas flower-mad friend
I did cheat slightly in the seed sowing schedule by breaking into a packet a few weeks ago to prepare it for sowing. I'm giving Hops a go this year and they need to be chilled before sowing, so they were spread on wet kitchen paper, put in a plastic bag and tucked into the firdge for a month before being sown into seed compost today. There's a very clear guide to growing Hops written by Alys Fowler that I'm carefully following http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/17/hops-as-garden-plant-alys-fowler and it seems to be working. Two of the seeds had already started sprouting in the fridge (see picture above) and I remain convinced we'll be draped in hoppage by the end of the summer, all from teeny seeds - beer anyone??