Text & photo: Louise Curley
Spring is the most frantic seed sowing time of the year; sometimes it feels hard to keep up with it all, as everything seems to move at such a pace. Once all those plants have grown sufficiently to be planted into their final growing space there’s almost a sense of relief that things have quietened down. But gardens never pause, and there are plenty of seeds that can be sown over the coming weeks to provide a continual supply of edibles and to even provide flowers for next spring and summer.
There’s still time to sow biennials such as foxgloves, wallflowers, sweet Williams, sweet rocket, forget-me-nots and Canterbury bells, but these need to be sown no later than mid-July, as they need to germinate and put on enough growth before the weather turns cold in autumn. Biennials are plants that germinate and put on leafy growth in the first season after sowing and after overwintering they flower in spring or early summer.
Quick-growing edibles such as lettuce, radish, dwarf French beans, spring onions and turnips can all be sown now to keep a ready supply of veg coming into autumn. It’s also possible to squeeze in a final sowing of carrots, which will be ready to crop in autumn.
Sow violas now and the plants will be mature enough to produce flowers in early autumn, making a fabulous container display.
The end of July is a good time to start to take cuttings of tender plants such as pelargoniums, salvias and glandularia. These cuttings will make small plants by autumn and are easier to store somewhere frost-free over winter than the larger parent plants. Younger plants will also be more floriferous next year than more mature plants, which have a tendency to become woody with age and have reduced flower power. You can also use cuttings to create lots more plants for free, saving yourself money next year.
To take cuttings, remove a healthy side-shoot above a leaf or set of leaves then trim the base of the cutting to just below a leaf. The cutting should be about 10-15cm in length. Remove the bottom leaves on the cutting and push it into compost with added grit or perlite to improve the drainage. Repeat, taking several cuttings as not all cuttings will develop roots. If you can give these cuttings some bottom heat by placing them on a heated propagator mat, they’ll root much more quickly.
Summer Sowing Tips
It can be trickier looking after seeds and seedlings at this time of year. The intensity of light on window sills and in a greenhouse can scorch young leaves and the heat means compost and soil will dry out very quickly.
- Try to position seed trays indoors in a bright spot but away from intense sunlight - avoid south-facing window sills.
- Use shade netting or apply shade paint to the glass of a greenhouse to reduce the intensity of the light.
- Use plastic lids on seed trays or cover with a clear plastic bag to retain moisture until the seeds have germinated.
- If you sow seed direct into the soil, water the seed drill first then sow.
- Unless it rains, make sure you water where seeds have been sown in the ground. Do this daily to keep the soil moist enough for the seeds to germinate.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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