Saturday, October 22

An annual affair

If you are a regular follower you may remember that I like to plant up at least one bed with summer flowering annuals. The flowers double up as cut flowers and payment to the industrious creatures that make such a good job of pollinating our plants.

I've been fairly pleased with how it has turned out each year but there had always been plenty of scope for improvement and this year has been no exception.

Last year I started a selection of annuals in small pots in the greenhouse.
The problem with this is that the pots take up quite a lot of space when there are lots of other things vying for position. As a result my sowing timetable is governed by when there is some free space that vegetable seedlings don't take precedence for.

This year I decided to try and cut down on space by sowing in smaller module trays.
I sowed three batches from 17 April to 31 May. The space problem lessened but the seedlings didn't grow as well and to avoid them becoming pot bound I had to plant them out when they were still very small.
Each year the seedlings seem to sit in the ground doing very little other than recover from the shock of being planted and each year I think that the whole bed is going to be a disaster but eventually thinks take off.

Some varieties fare better than others but eventually we usually end up with an attractive display.
Each year I have quite a lot of seeds left over so this year I decided to try another tactic.

In mid June I mixed all the left over seeds together and sowed the seed quite thickly in a shallow trench filled with compost.
The seeds germinated and as they did it became apparent that the seeds had been sown too thickly.
As a result some plants such as cosmos dominated and squeezed out the less vigorous varieties.
As expected the later sown varieties were really just coming into their own as the early bed was fading but the plants that dominated grew stronger and didn't suffer a set back. Poppies and cosmos in particular thrived.

Next year I will grade the seeds according to their ultimate height before mixing so that the shorter plants are given a fair chance. I will also sow the seeds more thinly.

I really need to experiment with how early I can sow directly in this way. If I need to sow some more tender plants in the greenhouse where they should have more space.

I am also experimenting with sowing annual seeds now to overwinter. My choice of varieties was dictated by what was available in the local garden centre. I bought mixed cornflowers and calendulas and a pack called hardy annuals tall cut flower mixed. We usually have self sown calendulas and so I imagine these should survive. 
I also found a packet of larkspur that had lain forgotten in the freezer since the beginning of the year. I have little hope that the seed is still viable but have sown them anyway. The enviromesh is an attempts to make access to whole rows of seedlings less accessible to slugs and also protect the seeds drills from any scratching or digging visitors
All except the larkspur germinated fairly quickly.

However by October 10 even the larkspur had germinated in spite of its time in the freezer.
The larkspur is the second row down - if you look really carefully you can just make out some seedlings.

Now it's just a case of seeing if the seedlings survive winter! Fingers crossed.




28 comments:

  1. I just love to see the progression of a garden from seed to full glory. You've done a marvelous job documenting the progress. I always "intend to", but am always lacking in devotion to it. Sigh. Do you give lessons???
    Have a great weekend

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    1. I was a teacher in a former life, Sue but have now retired from giving lessons.

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  2. After seeing your lovely and robust cosmos I decided to try some flowers of that sort. This next week I plan to start a mix of cosmos, larkspur, agrostemms, nigella and poppies all in rose tones. Thanks for the inspiring photos.

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    1. Cosmos make good cut flowers too, Jane.

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  3. It's nice that you share your experience in the cultivation of flowers !!
    Happy weekend :)

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  4. Good luck. You should get some wonderful early blooms if they do survive.

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  5. Your cut flower bed so inspires me! Many vegetable seeds last for several years - based on your larkspur comment, are there many flower seeds that are that perishable in that you have to purchase them fresh (like onion seed) each year?

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    1. I often sow previous years flower seeds, Margaret although I do find some eg primroses are best sown fresh.

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  6. Love it ! Always good to remember the bees ! :)

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    1. The bees arew ell used by bees, Debs.

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  7. Great post. We just sow a wildflower seed mix and it's pretty but nowhere near as impressive as your flower display. I must remember this post in the Spring!

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  8. A most interesting and informative post Sue. Good luck with those autumn sowings.

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  9. Looking round the gardens near me, I reckon that Cosmos is rapidly becoming the most popular flower. Or perhaps it has been a year of weather conditions that particularly suited Cosmos?

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    1. They are deservedly popular, Mark. We have grown them ffor several years

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  10. Great to see how you have done this year, you look like you've had a good year and the patch looks lovely and colourful. I was interested to hear about your late sowing bed. Sounds a great idea to have another flush later on. I really struggle with direct sowing though which is a real pain

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    1. Have you tried using a trench filled with compost, Anna?

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  11. I think you have down pretty good job by sowing them directly! The flower bed look so colourful! Hope the new batch survive the winter! ;)

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  12. I am always impressed with the amount of work you achieve Sue and then having time to share your success and failures with others. Have you tried root trainers for growing annuals?

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    1. I tried root trainers once for sweet peas, Brian but I didn't really think they performed any better.
      When I have transplanted the annuals they don't seem to have made an enormous amount of root.

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  13. Grew Cosmos for the first time this year. Like you I didn't pay much attention to the height indication on the seed packet (120cm) and planted them out at the front of my beds: They grew into 6 foot green brutes and only started flowering in October. Will post some pics of the mad results.

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    1. I knew they would be tall, Mal I just hadn't taken into consideration the relative size of all the plants and hadn't expected that cosmos would be as dominant.

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  14. It's always a case of trial and error isn't it? You have had some lovely displays, good luck with this batch too, here's to a mild winter!xxx

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    1. With maybe the odd cold snap, Dina to knock the nasties on he head.

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