By Don Logan, Horticulturist, EdenBrothers.Com As many experienced gardeners are aware, planting flower seeds is a relatively simple task; but like any worthwhile endeavor, it does have its challenges. The following steps are designed to assist the home flower gardener in establishing a successful – and stunning – flower garden for years to come!
1- When To Plant
It is a pleasant surprise for many gardeners to learn that flower seeds can be successfully installed at various times throughout the growing season. Though spring is the most common and conventional time of the year to sow flower seeds; successful results can also be achieved by planting in summer and fall as well. This seasonal versatility is a great advantage to the flower gardener and brings many diverse benefits and possibilities.
Spring Planting: For most temperate regions of the United States, spring planting is best carried out within a month or so after the final frost of the winter season. The exact date will naturally vary based on your region and the severity of the winter season. The important thing is to not ‘jump the gun” and plant too early; if seeds are installed prior to a late-season frost, they will be lost for the season and will need to be re-seeded.
Summer Planting: Summer planting is advisable for cooler areas where temperatures don’t hover at 80 degrees or more for long periods of time.
Fall Planting:Though it may seem unusual to plant flower seeds in fall, it is actually the preferred time of year for many seasoned wildflower gardeners. The main benefit: a jump-start in bloom the following spring! However, if you do decide to plant your seeds in the fall, the trick is to do so after the first killing frost of the season and when the ground is almost frozen to eliminate any chance of germination. Use caution when considering the best time to plant as weather patterns can never be guaranteed.
2- Site Selection
It may sound obvious enough, but choosing the most advantageous site on your property is a very important determinant in the eventual success of your flower garden. The most important factors to consider in this regard are the amount of average daily sunlight, the relative quality of the soil, and the accessibility to a water source like a hose or a sprinkler.
Though many flowers do tolerate some filtered shade – and a few actually thrive in it - the vast majority are definitely sun-lovers and will likely demonstrate the strongest bloom where exposure is greatest. Therefore, the general rule of thumb when considering the optimum planting site on your property is “the more sun the better”. This naturally means that areas with little or no tree coverage and as little obstruction from any structure such as a house, garage, or barn are best.
Lastly, when choosing the best site for your seed installation, the availability of a steady watering source is helpful, but not usually necessary. In most regions and during most seasons, natural rainfall will be sufficient to provide the water necessary for a successful bloom. However, if you live in a particularly arid region, are planting during drier months, or are simply experiencing prolonged drought, it will definitely be to your advantage to water your site every other day or so for the first few weeks after planting until root growth is established.
3- Prepare the Site
This is an absolutely vital step in the installation of any successful flower seed project. Though it may sound tempting to randomly cast your seeds into thin air and hope they will sprout, it is simply a waste of time and money to do so on a site that has not been properly prepared for planting. Though many flower seeds are tenacious by nature – others are delicate and need pampering. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is to always remove as much unwanted debris from the site as possible before planting.
There are several ways to effectively remove existing growth and cultivate your soil, and the size of the site will typically be the deciding factor in which method is ultimately chosen. For smaller sites, a rake, hoe, or shovel is often sufficient to do the trick of removing unwanted grass, weeds, etc., while for larger sites, a roto-tiller is often the preferred method. Regardless of what tool or machine is used, the important thing to remember is that the more growth that can be removed, and the more the soil can be loosened, the better the environment for which your seeds to ultimately thrive. The bottom line is: work the soil as best you can, but don’t panic when some weeds sprout along with the flowers!
4- Time to Plant!
So now you’ve got some sweat on your brow and you’re ready to plant! There are many effective installation techniques, but again, the size of the project will probably determine which makes the most sense for you. The two methods that are probably most advisable for the home-owner are 1) the old fashioned hand-broadcast method (for smaller jobs), and 2) the use of a rotary or “cyclone” seeder (for larger jobs). The former involves simply scattering the seed evenly over the site by hand, while the latter accomplishes the same results through the use a hand-cranked spreader that can be purchased relatively cheaply at any garden center.
Regardless of which sowing method you choose, we strongly recommend mixing your seed with regular “sand box” sand at a ratio of about 5 parts (sand) to 1 part (seed). This allows for a more even distribution and also provides a convenient way to mark which portions of the site have been seeded and which have not. This is not a required method for a successful planting, but most will find it a simple, affordable, and practical step
After sowing, we recommend that you lightly compress your seeds into the soil – no more than a ½ inch - so as to protect them from birds, wind disbursement, etc. The key here is to compress them, but not bury them. If the site is of a manageable size, you can accomplish this by simply walking over the portion that’s just been seeded, or if it’s a larger area, you might want to use a standard seed roller; often used when planting grass seed.
Now, you’re finished! It’s time to kick back and watch the “seeds” of your labor take root!