After a cool and very dry April some of us are a bit behind with sowing and planting. But hardy annuals can always be relied on to provide maximum colour for minimum cost, and they’re perfect for new gardens where you want lots of colour quickly while other plants are getting established. They’re also ideal to fill gaps in borders. Hardy annuals can be sown early in cell trays but they don’t like root disturbance so can be sown direct where they are to grow.
This requires breaking up the soil surface into a fine tilth. Remove any annual or perennial weeds and hoe and rake the surface. If there’s time, it’s a good idea to prepare a ‘stale seedbed’, which involves raking the soil, watering it and allowing weed seeds to germinate. Once they have, hoe off the weeds and once they’ve wilted, sow as usual. This should remove weed seeds that would compete with the seedlings you sow.
If it’s difficult to get the soil surface fine, it’s possible in small areas to put a layer of multi-purpose compost on the soil and sow into this. In dry weather water the whole bed the day before sowing. Always sow in rows so that you can identify the seedlings from weeds when they grow. Space the rows from about 15-20cm (6-8in) apart, depending on the height of the plants.
Annuals to sow now
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’
See below for our step-by-step guide
How to sow annuals direct
Rake the soil carefully to break up the surface. Adding some fine compost to the surface makes sowing easier. Remove large stones and weed debris.
Mark out the areas where each variety will be sown. This is easily done with some dry sand because you can easily adjust and 'rub out' the lines if necessary.
Use a trowel to take out the seed drills. Alternating the orientation of the lines in different areas helps avoid obvious lines in the seedlings as they grow.
Sow thinly along the rows, use a rake to cover the seeds and water well. As the seedlings grow they'll need to be thinned out to allow them room to grow.