Trees, shrubs and perennials provide the structure to a garden and create and maintain constant interest as they change through the seasons however for vivid, albeit temporary, summer colour hardy annuals take a lot of beating.
So what’s so good about hardy annuals? They’re cheap, easy to grow and to look after, are great in tubs, baskets or sown direct and will flower within just a few weeks.
When annual weeds are starting to appear is a good indication that conditions are right to sow your hardy annuals. This is usually from the end of April to mid-May but does of course depend on where you live and on what sort of spring we’re having, the timings given on seed packets are for guidance only. The soil needs to be warm enough to allow and encourage the seeds to germinate and cold frosty nights need to be a thing of the past. If you are happy to sit out in the evening with a cup of tea or glass of wine then the chances are that the time for sowing hardy annuals has arrived.
Pick an open sunny site and give it a good hoe to remove any weeds. Then tread to firm the soil and rake it over so that the surface is a fine crumb. Hardy annuals do best on poor soil so resist the temptation to add fertiliser.
If you are going to sow several varieties of hardy annuals then it’s a good idea to mark out their designated areas using sand or grit. Create drifts of semi-circles or just lovely sweeping curves. Using a hoe create shallow drifts, going in different directions within each marked area. This means that although you will in effect be growing in rows the blooms will not look at all regimented. Rather than creating drills you could just scatter the seed but this will make both weeding and thinning that much harder. With drills you know that anything growing outside of the row is a weed and needs removing.
The depth of the drill depends on the size of the seed and advice is probably given on the seed packet. As a general rule of thumb the drill needs to be twice the depth of the seed. If the soil is dry then water before sowing.
Sow the seed thinly and then carefully rake the soil back over the drill. Now wait for the seedlings to appear. Once they have formed their first set of true leaves thin them out to about 1 seed every 4cm, then as they grow thin them to a spacing of 9cm to 14cm. For exact spacing for each variety refer to the seed packet.
Within just a few weeks you’ll be enjoying a blaze of colour as will visiting bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. And all for just a few pounds spent on Suttons seeds and a few hours of enjoyable gardening. Marvellous!