Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy Direct Sown Annuals

I am doing something different this spring. I will not be growing all my bedding plants and new perennials indoors under lights. I plan to be away for a bit of the spring season, so I can't take care of seedling plants and am going to rely on buying a few annuals and direct sowing the rest.
This year's (bigger) Thompson and Morgan catalog which is enticing me with its full-color pictures:

It is a challenge to select the right seeds for direct sowing in a northern short-season climate like ours, though. Our frost-free season is about 95 days and thus the flowers have to get everything done in a limited window of time. Direct-sowing is one of the easiest ways to get nice drifts of flowers. Simply throw the seed on the ground in spring time, scratch around in the dirt to mix things up a bit, and let nature take its course!

My biggest successes with direct-seeding (and self-sowing, for that matter) annuals, have been with poppies and cornflowers. The good old breadseed poppy (P. somniferum) and the corn poppy (P. rhoeas) do great after throwing some seed in the raised beds in April. My cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) have self-seeded for a few years and their tall, brilliant blue flowers look amazing in contrast to the yellows and pinks. I have had sweetpeas grow okay and some Phacelia campanularia (California bluebell) grew well in a neglected and dry flowerbed. I am hesitant about distributing mass amounts of viola seeds, considering that Johnny-jump-ups are some of the most prolific "weeds" in my garden.
Mixed colors of Papver rhoeas (corn poppies) last year in my raised beds:

What's neat about direct-sown annuals is that the require so little effort, though the results often cannot be duplicated by putting a fortune into buying bedding plants. Some plants just don't transplant well and should only be direct sown. It's easy to be smug in July, standing next to your stunning flowerbed, knowing that you are reaping the results of your minimal efforts in the springtime.

So here are my ideas for direct-sown annuals to try in my short-season garden:
  • nasturtiums
  • calendula
  • California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) -- I like the new pink and pastel ones
  • cornflowers
  • Nigella/love-in-a-mist
  • mirabilis/four-o-clocks
  • sunflowers -- have done these before with success
  • nicotiana
  • sweet alyssum
  • snapdragons
  • clarkia
  • cosmos
  • cleome -- I have started these early indoors before and am not sure they'd flower in time otherwise
  • flax
  • sweet peas
  • corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) -- these worked very well last year
Any comments and ideas would be appreciated!


Melanie said...

Great recomendations. I grow many of these every year and some of them, calandulas and poppies self seed. I grow sweet peas every year but if the season is cold and wet, flowering is sparse.

Clayton said...

Good notes. We tend not to do well here with direct sowing as we can get very dry in spring and they end up late anyway. One of the best self sowers is Lavatera. They tend to grow up in the vegetable garden and can get nearly 4 ft. tall.
Now we also have volunteer Physalis (Husk tomato, Garden Huckleberry)in several species since I planted them and they did not ripen in time to eat but did set seed! Violas or Johny Jump ups and of course the poppies in abundance. We also have a wild flower area with Blue Flax and Shasta Daisy.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

I grow most of these myself. Some are direct sow and some I start earlly. I love reseeding annuals. They just keep going, year after year, with no effort from me at all.

Beautiful poppies! I grow peony poppies that come back every year. I love them and they make fabulous cutting flowers!

shelly said...

you're getting me excited!! hubby and i just bought a place on riese dr last year and started had a successful veggie garden, this year i'm wanting to plant some flower beds as well.
thanks for the suggestions, i will not have too much time, or space, to start flowers, as i want to start some of the longer vegetables soon... and then i'll be having our second child in may, so i will be booked up with that one and our 14 month old son:)
i'm hoping for some color to add to this drabish area we live:)

kate smudges said...

We are reading the same catalogue! It is sitting on the table right beside me. From your list, I have direct sowed Nigella, Cleome and Nicotiana. One annual I like growing is Amaranthus (Loves-Lies-Bleeding). It's an unusual plant, which is why I like growing it.

I noticed yesterday that La Ronge was warmer than Regina. Your snow must be beginning to melt too. Hope you are off to a warmer place!