And Sow On

17th Oct 2019

seed packet

Seed sowing in Autumn

As the leaves start to brown and Summer fades into the recent past, it is tempting to write off this year as being over, horticulturally. Yet Autumn can be a great time to sow seeds. Cooler temperatures, but warm soil means perfect germination conditions for many annuals biennials and perennials. I sowed a huge batch of Foxgloves in purple and white forms recently and they are already up showing their wares. They will happily sit in pots over Winter and be planted out in Spring.

So, what might you sow now, or over the next month, to get a head start on next year? Basically anything which is fully hardy, which means they will be happy to sit in a pot or in a seed bed through the winter. Lunaria, Calendula, Nigella and Verbascum are some of my favourites. They are all fairly easy from seed.

What do you need?

If you have never sown seed before, then start small. A 9cm pot or two filled with a seed sowing compost is best. Seed compost has a fine texture, low in nutrients and above all sterile. You want to be sure that what emerges from the soil is what you sowed and not a weed! Firm the compost into the pot, but don’t compact it. Then, water it well. You probably want a saucer underneath if you are inside or somewhere for the water to drain away. Then sow the seed. It is best to sow thinly rather than throw the whole packet on. This way, the seedlings wont be overcrowded. Then cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost, label the pot and place it somewhere light, with an even temperature. You can do this outside until about mid-October, but a windowsill or balcony is fine too.

If you have the room, you could always sow directly where you want the plants to grow. This is much easier. Just rake or scratch the soil into a fine crumb, then scatter seed thinly, cover and water in. You could try all the above seed as well as Poppies and Forget Me Not.

Our Spring/Summer seed-sowing project, Ready, Steady, Grow! introduced quite a few novice sowers to the magic of growing. I am not going to pretend that it was a hit every time. Raising plants requires a lot of dedication, but this little video of Gail says it all about the potential joy of giving it a go!

Tim Hewitt
Mark Cummings
Guest Editor
Mark Cummings