Seeds & Bulbs @ Greenfingers
Growing flowers and plants from seeds - information for gardeners
Growing vegetables and flowers directly from seeds can be great fun and you get a great feeling of satisfaction when you see the "fruits" of your labour. Some seeds are easier to grow than others. In addition, seeds have different requirements and growth cycles depending on whether or not they are annual, biennial or perennial, so this guide cannot address all eventualities but will give you some basic information.
"Annual" describes a plant that completes its growth cycle in one year. The plant itself will not grow again, but it may self seed so that it appears to grow back, eg Poppy, Petunia, Nasturtium, Love-in-a-mist, Love Lies Bleeding.
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Nasturtiums planted near vegetables deter garden nasties such as aphids and beetles - in fact they make a very organic pesticide.
In addition, both the leaves and the flowers of Nasturtiums are edible - the leaves have a slightly peppery taste - and the flowers really bring a green salad to life.
"Biennial" describes a plant that completes its growth cycle in two years. It produces its flowers and seeds in its second and final year of growth, eg some varieties of Pansy, Foxglove, Canterbury Bells, Forget-me-not.
"Perennial" describes a plant that lives for a number of years, producing flowers and seeds each year. eg Peony, Iris, Bleeding Hearts, Delphiniums.
Seeds need to be planted at different times, and cared for in different ways depending on the variety concerned. For example, hardy annuals (often abbreviated to HA on seed packets), can be planted directly into the ground outside, whereas half hardy annuals should be started off indoors and only planted outside when there is no further risk of frost. The last frosts in the UK usually occur no later than April in southern coastal regions, and May in the rest of the country, with the exception of some inland areas of Scotland where the last frost can occur as late as June.
Soil and Sowing
Most seeds prefer a well drained soil and a sunny aspect. Clay soils can be enriched with compost. Many seeds do not appreciate fertiliser, especially the easier to grow hardy annuals such as nasturtiums and poppies. The majority of seeds should be planted four times as deep as the width of the seed. If they are very small and fine, simply cover them with a thin layer of soil. Ensure that the seeds are not overcrowded as you will get more viable plants if they all have room to grow individually, as you will be less likely to damage the roots when you transplant them. The medium in which the seeds are growing should be kept moist but not sodden. If you are growing the seedlings indoors, turn them frequently to encourage them to grow upwards in a straight line - all plants have a natural tendency to lean towards the light source. Note that seeds that have a particularly hard outer coating may germinate more quickly if they are soaked overnight in water directly before planting.
Seedlings grown indoors (half hardy plants) will need to be "hardened off" before being transplanted outdoors. The hardening off process acclimatises the seedlings to the external environment. The plants should be left outside for the daylight hours only for the first few days, then at night aswell if the danger of frost has passed. Once they are ready to be transplanted, you should ensure that the ground and the seedlings are watered both before and after being transplanted. Ensure the hole that you dig for the seedling is about twice the size of the seedling's root ball to avoid root damage.
The seedlings will need to be watered daily until their roots become established.