February Is a Good Month to Sow Seeds of Hardy Annuals 

If you want to have flowers blooming all year round, hardy annuals are your best bet. While many reserve their splendour for the summer, certain varieties announce spring’s arrival with their lively blossoms. Hardy annuals can withstand cold temperatures and light frost, so they’re suitable for planting in February. If the ground isn’t too frozen or waterlogged, get out and dig over your beds. Equally, you can use containers with good drainage at the bottom and large enough not to be top-heavy. Growing hardy annuals from seeds is fast, easy and fun; many will attract pollinators to your garden. 

Hardy annuals can be grown outdoors in most parts of the UK from spring to autumn. February is obviously the last month of winter, and plenty of plants can be sown outside in the open garden, such as Bishop’s weed, common marigold, Godetia, sunflower, and Bells-of-Ireland, to name a few. The more flowers you plant, the more you’ll get excited to try other varieties. There’s nothing wrong with perennials, but hardy annuals add an extra dimension of beauty to your garden. Seeds are widely available in garden centres and from online suppliers (they’re relatively affordable).  

Think About Sowing the Seeds Directly into Pots 

Hardy annuals grow quickly and flower with great flamboyance, but only for a short time. You can start sowing various seeds at this time of the year, and to give them the best chance of survival, it’s worth investing in something extra. Some seeds are better off starting in individual pots, according to the experts at elho, because there’s still the risk of unexpected frost that would kill the seedlings. You can sow most hardy annuals into a container, which should be placed in full sun so that your plants can soak up the warmth. 

Fill the pot with premium quality, peat-free compost. Try to leave 2-3 cm between seeds, but keep in mind that some seeds don’t allow for such precision. You can protect the seeds with a cloche until they germinate, which come in various shapes and sizes. You can make your own using items that might otherwise have been thrown away. Hardy annuals can be planted closer than perennials in outdoor planters and look best when grouped three or more. Even if you have beds, planting hardy annuals in containers will add a lot of curb appeal. 

Watering is recommended after planting. You’ll want to keep the soil damp but not too wet. Once the seeds sprout, don’t miss a watering. It’s rewarding, to say the least, to stand back and look at the arrangements you’ve made. Sun is necessary for the best display and although hardy annuals can thrive in cool and shady places, they require 6-8 hours of sun a day. 

You Can Sow Seeds into The Ground, But Be Careful 

Transplanting is more convenient, as the plants are less vulnerable to outdoor conditions, but direct sowing is more affordable. Most packets offer specific instructions for when to sow the seeds in the ground, just so you know. Even if you live in a less forgiving climate, you can still sow the seeds directly into the ground if you don’t want a greenhouse or don’t have much space to grow seedlings on window sills. You can scatter the seeds over the soil surface or sow more precisely in rows. The plants you grow from seeds will have healthier root systems than those transplanted from pots. 

It’s easy to get discouraged if you’re faced with a garden overtaken by weeds. Remove the weeds and let them dry out and die; repeat the process again if a lot of weeds sprout. Before seeding, you can use some homemade compost to enhance the soil’s nutrient content. Not only will the soil drain better, but it will also be easier to dig. Free-living soil bacteria are beneficial for plant growth, so layer cardboard and egg cartons on the surface for several weeks before planting. Figure out what should go where according to habit, height, and flower colour. 

If the soil is too rich, you risk encouraging leafy growth to the detriment of flowers, so avoid using fertiliser. Organic matter should make up 5% of the soil, or some nutrients may become toxic, which in turn makes it difficult to maintain a balanced ecosystem. If you have small seeds, all you have to do is press them into the soil deep enough to make sure they’re covered. As a precaution, the beds can be covered with horticultural fleece (or fleece) during cold snaps. Hardy annuals don’t require protection in northern parts of the country or even in southern parts, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather. 

Hardy Annuals Can Suffer Problems from Damping Off 

Nothing can quite compare to the thrill of sowing a packet of seeds and watching them bloom. Hardy annuals germinate without much difficulty, but they can be badly affected by damping off. For the sake of clarification, damping off refers to the destruction of seedlings by pathogens like slugs, snails, aphids, and powdery mildew. Seedlings affected by damping off rarely produce a vigorous plant. Once the hardy annuals will have matured, they’re better capable of confronting the fungus or mould that causes damping off. Simply put, there’s a critical period between sowing and maturity when special care is required to protect sensitive seedlings. 

Symptoms of damping off include but aren’t limited to seedlings failing to emerge and seedlings collapsing (post-emergence damping off). Preferably, you should use new pots when sowing seeds because disease-causing fungi and other organisms, including insects, can linger in old containers. If containers must be reused, at least brush off the soil and treat them with a disinfectant. Equally important is to not reuse potting mix, especially if you’ve had problems with diseases, weeds, or insects. Several applications of fungicide may be necessary, but keep in mind it won’t control the pathogens. 

Your hardy annuals will bloom fully for as long as possible before the record-breaking temperatures of the summer.