The warblers are returning and peepers peeping, daffodils bright gold and Friends, we’re getting closer every day to SUMMER! In the meantime, a glorious spring is unfurling around us. Here are the easiest seeds we’re sowing now to surround us with abundant blooms this season, plus a few keys to keep in mind.
Before We Begin
As you start seeds this season:
~ sow only seeds 2 to 3 times their depth (ie, not very much) and read the packet instructions, since some flowers actually need light to germinate.
~ sow only 2 to 3 seeds per cell and thin to the strongest single one as quick as you can.
~ bottom-water whenever possible and allow the soil surface to dry, ever so slightly, between overhead waterings.
If you haven’t already seen it, we made a seed starting infographic for you here! And for detailed step-by-step instructions for starting seeds, check out Rise & Shine: Starting Seeds with Ease, my ebook. Also, Fruition’s Seed Starting Academy has hours of video tutorials as well as Q & A throughout the season, a fun and extraordinary way to gain skills and confidence in seed starting quickly. Whatever you do, have fun, don’t be shy and in the meantime!
Four Weeks Before Final Frost, Sow…
It’s easy to start seeds waaaay to early. Zinnias started too early that get stressed will often revert to single blooms, even if they’re an abundantly petaled variety like our Salmon Rose zinnia below. If you’re transplanting zinnias that are root-bound, sow them later next year and you’ll harvest all the more flowers!
All seeds need moisture to germinate. Nasturtiums (affectionately known as ‘nasties’ in the British Isles!) are no exception, though they can easily rot, if over-watered, once they germinate. Be sure to let the soil surface dry between waterings, no matter what you’re growing, and you’ll avoid rot both above and below the soil. Nasturtiums thrive when direct-sown as well, even in less than ideal conditions.
3. Bachelor Button
How I love these little shuttlecocks of seeds! More than any other flower seed, people often ask which way to plant them. Any which way will do. Sometimes, as with a clove of garlic, there is truly an ‘up’ and a ‘down.’ No much with most seeds, bachelor buttons included.
Native to North America, exquisitely intricate with purple pollen, phacelia is unusual even in her seed form. Be sure to look closely at all her curls and crenulations before you sow her! Phacelia is remarkably cold-tolerant, so she can be transplanted several weeks before final frost for even earlier blooms. Whether you transplant before or after last frost, just be sure your plants are hardened off before finally planting them.
Now here is a tricky seed to sow! Marigold seeds are often long, narrow and rather flimsy, with a bit of a pom at the top. I sow their length parallel to the soil and they seem to sprout a bit more quickly. If you start them waaaaay too early, they may get stressed and try to flower when you’re ready to plant them out. Pluck of that flower, Friends! It seems counter-intuitive, I know, but trust me: You’ll enjoy more blooms from a plant that isn’t flowering when transplanted, because it’s less stressed.
One of the easiest to sow, Chinese Forget-Me-Not seeds are large, making it easy to sow only 2 to 3 seeds per cell. Because their seeds are large, they often crowd each other if not thinned early. We thin as soon as most of the seeds have emerged, preferably well before true leaves emerge from those first cotyledon leaves.
Now here is an alien from outer space! Sow your calendula seeds any way you like (up, down, sideways, parallel, anything!) and she’ll know what to do. Just like Phacelia, calendula is remarkably cold-tolerant and can even be transplanted several weeks before final frost for earlier blooms. Whether you transplant before or after last frost, take care that your plants are hardened off well before finally planting them.
8. Castor Bean
These massive, gorgeously tropical plants ascend over ten feet tall, even in Zone 5, when they are sown indoors just a few weeks before final frost. Sown earlier, it’s easy to stress Castor Beans and stunt their growth, reducing the height and health of your plant for the rest of the season. We sow them into large three-inch containers so we don’t have to pot them up and they have abundant nutrients right from the start.
Amaranth seeds are impressively small! Which is one of the reasons why one plant can grow 40,000 seeds or more each season. To sow tiny seeds with surprising ease and accuracy, wet the tip of a toothpick. One or two seeds easily adhere to the end and
…But Not Least
One month before final frost, we’re also sowing strawflower, borage and nigella love-in-a-mist as well as lots of herbs to add to our arrangements all summer, including shiso, thai basil and sweet annie.
Timing is everything. It’s so easy to start seeds too soon, stressing them with too little lights, too few nutrients and too much competition. It always feels late to me, even now, decades later, but Friends: In a month, when we’re finally transplanting trays of gorgeous, resilient, never-stressed and ready to rock little transplants, I am always grateful we resisted the temptation to sow too soon.
Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,
& the whole Fruition crew
Can you believe what may come from each tiny little seed?