seed sowing quesitons from a new gardener

arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)October 14, 2013

I have a perennial garden that I put in this year (we moved to a new house this April, so I started from scratch). I spent a lot on perennials, and still have a lot of bare spots, so thinking towards next year, I wanted to add a bunch of annuals for more consistent color throughout the year, and to cover up the bare spots. I love the pictures I see of full to bursting cottage gardens.

I just planted a bunch of bulbs: tulips, alliums, dutch iris, and a lot of lilies (Asiatic, Orienpets, and even some surprise lily bulbs I found on ebay), but have been thinking towards the time between the bulbs and summer when perennials are in bloom. I've removed all my mulch in preparation for sowing seeds. I really didn't have any weeds this year with the mulch (shredded cedar), with the exception of the horrible maple seedlings from the trees all around us. I am a little worried about going mulchless, since while I l love the idea of a self seeding garden, I don't want my garden to turn into a weed patch, but I guess I'll risk it.

I don't have any experience with seeds, though I've been reading all I can. I'm planning on fall direct sowing a number of cool weather annuals like poppies, nigella, larkspur, bachelor buttons along with some orlaya grandiflora, which I think is supposed to flower through the summer.

I have a few questions. I'm planning on waiting to broadcast the seed until after the leaves are finished falling, since raking up all the leaves I think would move the seeds off the garden (I'm going to chop up the leaves and save them until I mulch the bed in late spring/early summer). Will I need to thin the seedlings in the spring? Some things I've read about self sowing gardens seem to say that they just leave the seedlings to "fight it out". What's the best idea? I was thinking fall sowing would be less work than winter sowing and transplanting individual plants, but maybe with the weeding and thinning seedlings it will work out to be the same amount of work either way?

Once the early annuals are finished flowering, I'm planning on pulling them up. I have some perennials that will hopefully be filling out by then, though I did want to add in some later flowering annuals like zinnias and cosmos for the summer. Would you say it's best to grow them separate and then to transplant them later after I've pulled up the poppies, etc.?

Also, will the seeds sprout among bulb foliage? I'm hoping to avoid bare spots in the garden for next year.

I guess it'll be an experiment, regardless of what happens.

I'd really appreciate any wisdom or advice!

This post was edited by arylkin on Mon, Oct 14, 13 at 15:56

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bugbite(z9a FL)

So many things to consider. If you direct sow seeds that are correct for your area, ask "will the seeds germinate and grow strong enough to be prepared for the harsh cold"? Or should you have planted them a lot earlier to get established?
One way is to set a budget; buy as many seeds as you can get for that price. Then plant the seeds. If they live, good. Transplant them where you want them in the spring; if they die then plant earlier. If they die, try different varieties. Something will work.
Seed gardening is all about experimenting any way.
IMHO Never lay out your seed plan and expect the plan to work as you envisioned. Not with seeds. But then that's why I love seeds. You never know what will happen.
Finally, I have often tried 10-20 new things a year. If I get 2 winners I am happy. Because in 10 years I will have 20 winners that love my yard. You finally reach your peak. This year I am only trying one new thing.
Tip: Get your seeds for your area on the Seed Exchange on this site. Even if you have to buy seeds to exchange. Ask what others do to make the seeds succeed that you are exchanging for. Trade with your local traders for greater success.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 11:42AM
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Sow the seeds outdoors at the end of winter, thin if you are into it, to give them room to grow. You can leave some seedlings in small clumps.

Those early flowers will overlap with your summer bloomers, so at some point they will have to be growing at the same time. You can sow the later annuals directly in the ground around the bulb foliage.

Yes, you can start annuals after you rip out the early stuff. Once it's really summer, annual seeds take off fast but need more water and protection from chewing bugs like grasshoppers.

Seed starting can be a whole other hobby. You're doing the right thing by reading up on it all. As you experiment, take notes and see what works in your garden. Each location presents different challenges.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 6:22PM
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arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)

thanks for the great responses! I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 10:59PM
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Kiwichristel(New Zealand)

I have planted a seed from my lemon bush (I think it is a Meyer lemon bush). It grew really nice, even the winter didn't harm it, but after 3 years, having grown to over a meter tall, it still did not fruit. Any info on this is much appreciated.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 7:24PM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Hi Kiwichristel,
Someone might answer you here, but you might want to post the same question in the Citrus forum.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 10:56PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Kiwichristel, it typically takes 3 - 6 years for a lemon grown from seed to be mature enough to begin to bloom and bear fruit. Yours is on schedule.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 10:08AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

if you are making a "WILD" garden, with no order, no priorities then you would just broadcast the seeds late winter or early spring.

But if you have a vision to have a garden by design, then you either sow the seeds in flats/pots and the transplant them in the garden, according to size, color of flowers, flowering time ..etc. Or if you can afford buy the plants from nurseries.

In a newly started perennial garden you can add some annuals to complement until the perennials grow and fill the space. But eventually, you should not plant any annuals in a perennial garden. UNLESS you know exactly the vacant spots.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 11:31PM
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