One of the most common questions that I get about sowing hardy annuals in the fall directly relates to figuring our which plants should be started by direct sowing and which ones should be started in seed trays and then transplanted into the hoop house or into the ground. If I’m being honest, I don’t have an exact answer. While some flowers are happy being started in any ol’ method – others are very specific. The best I can really do is share what I’m doing here in my own yard, and hopefully it will be helpful.
New to me this year is ‘Mountain Garland’ Clarkia. I’ve grown godetia in the past and was able to overwinter it. However, I’m not certain how this flower will grow in the unheated hoophouse. I’ve direct sowed this flower in the ground as a test to see how readily it will germinate. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted about this one over on the YouTube channel. I’m always so excited to grow next flower types.
‘Zeolights’ calendula are one of my favorite varieties for a few reasons. Mainly, the color blends well in a wide variety of bouquets. Calendula are actually quite tricky to overwinter here – even in the hoop house. It seems that they really dislike the combination of cold and wet that we get here in the winter time. After this season, it is likely that I will only grow calendula when planted in the early spring.
‘Marble Arch’ salvia direct sow exceptionally well. In the past, I’ve also started them in trays. While very easy to grow, one of the biggest keys to success with these seeds will be to ensure that the seeds stay consistently moist throughout the germination process. This is important because the seeds produce a slimy mucilage when wet that seems to aid germination. Letting the seeds completely dry out could possibly lead to disappointment.
For some reason, I’m growing several varieties of love in a mist this year. I’m not sure why I ordered so many, but I did. This will be the first year that I’m actually direct sowing nigella instead of starting them in seed trays. Love in a mist can definitely be transplanted into the garden, but I honestly find that the process is painstaking and difficult. By nature, the seedlings are very wispy-looking and delicate. This makes them harder to transplant without damaging them. This year, I’m hoping to just grow them in place and make things a lot easier.
Like nigella, scabiosa pincushion flowers are another flower that seems to grow well whether direct sowed or sown in a seed starting tray. This year, I opted for direct sowing simply because I’m hoping to make things as simple as possible in the garden.
When it comes to some seeds, direct sowing is always the best option. Sweet peas were direct sowed this year, and it was much easier than transplanting. Biennial flowers like hollyhocks and lupines were also direct sowed.
In the unprotected flower beds, direct sowing was also my favored method of seed starting. While shirley poppies are always a great choice for direct sowing into fall flower beds – I also seeded larkspur, chamomile, bachelor’s buttons, feverfew, dill, and even some sweet william dianthus! While experimenting with direct sowing can sometimes feel frustrating, getting a firm grasp on which plants will and will not be successful is so helpful. I would love to hear all about your experiences down in the comments below! Thank you so much for reading!