Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Monday 19 February 2007

How to sow an annual bed

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 9:25 pm

So I have decided to plant a load of annuals in the right hand border. The area, shown in the picture below, is the strip between the bay tree and the camellia, and it is about 4.4m by 1.8m (about 14.5 feet by 6 feet).

Left hand border before seeding

In the picture you can see just the left hand edge of the camellia. What’s that pink blob? I think it’s done a flower. I shall have to go out and check tomorrow. The messy shrub to the right of centre is an escallonia, and the stalks at the left hand side are the kerria. The kerria is just beginning to come into leaf. I am going to dig both the escallonia and the kerria up. The annuals will all have finished their business by November, and therefore I can scoop them all up and put them in the compost, and leave the ground clear for the trench for the electric cable to the greenhouse to be dug. Although I have sown a few annuals from time to time, I have never planted up such a large area with annuals, and probably never will again unless I move to a house with a bigger garden. So this is an interesting experiment for me.

I thought about planting half hardy annuals, but then I would have to germinate them indoors and I haven’t got my greenhouse yet, and there wouldn’t be enough windowsill space in the house. Also it would be a lot more work because I would have to transplant them to their positions outside, and I don’t want this mini-project to distract me from the main project. If I plant hardy annuals, I can sow them in March and then I just have to weed them, water them and thin them out. The disadvantage is that if they decide they like the accommodation, they may leave their children behind for next year. I don’t think that would happen so much with the half hardy annuals because most of their children would germinate too early and get killed in the April frosts. On the other hand, I could do with some more interesting weeds. I am bored with bittercress and willowherb. So I have decided to sow some hardy annuals.

According to the gardening books, it is quite straightforward to make a display of annuals:

(1) Weed the area, then rake it until it looks like dark brown breadcrumbs.

(2) Use some sand to divide the area into smaller areas. Use curved lines to make it look informal.

(3) Rake out several parallel shallow straight line trenches across each area.

(4) Sow seeds thinly in the trenches, using a different packet of seeds for each area. Put tall plants at the back and short ones at the front.

(5) Rake at right angles to the trenches to fill them in.

(6) Water.

(7) When the seeds and the weeds germinate, you will be able to tell which ones are weeds because the annuals are growing in a straight line, so you can pull the weeds up early before they really get going.

(8) Thin out the seedlings if they are growing on top of each other. If you like, transplant some of the thinnings into the gaps between rows so that they don’t look like you sowed them in a straight line any more.

What they don’t tell you, though, is how many packets of seeds you need to buy. You can find out how many seeds there are in a packet; for example, there are 150 seeds in my packet of lavatera, but a massive 2000 in the night scented stocks packet. However, they don’t tell you what area these seeds should cover. They just tell you to sow them thinly. I think the seed suppliers should take a tip from the paint manufacturers and say what the coverage should be, assuming that you only sow one coat of seeds.

Anyway, I went to Wilkinson’s in Aldershot this lunchtime, and bought the following:

Alyssum, carpet of snow, 900 seeds, 49p
Cornflower, double black, 250 seeds, £1.59
Cornflower, double blue, 250×2 seeds (2 packets @ 59p), £1.18
Larkspur, giant imperial mixed, 600 seeds, 39p
Lavatera, Pastel mixed, 150 seeds, 39p
Poppy, Peony black, 750 seeds, £1.79
Stock, night scented, 2000 seeds, 49p.

I didn’t mean to buy two packets of the blue cornflowers; it just happened. I was obviously very attracted to them.

Total price £3.26 because they were all “buy one get one free”. The more expensive packets are Johnsons, while the cheaper ones are Wilkinson’s own brand. I remember BBC Gardeners’ World sowing an annual bed for £20 a few years ago. Theirs was probably bigger than mine. All the same, I bet they didn’t get their seeds from Wilkinson’s.

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3 responses to “How to sow an annual bed”

  1. Judy says:

    I expect you will get a great display using Wilkinson seeds.We grow all our own vegetables and always buy our seeds from Wilkinsons,they are cheap, and even cheaper at the moment with buy one get one free offer
    We are waiting for the weathet to warm up a little before we start our main planting of seeds, which will hopefully be in March

  2. Daniel says:

    I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding How to sow an annual bed, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong 🙂

  3. Helen says:

    Come on then, Daniel, spill the beans (or larkspur seeds). This garden renovation project has a policy of continuous improvement through appraisal, feedback and glyphosate.

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