Growing flowers from seed is cost-effective and rewarding. However, many gardeners struggle with getting their seeds to grow. Follow these tips for planting flower seeds to get a bountiful harvest.
Choose an area that gets full sun throughout the day. Also, watch the weather. High winds and rainy days can wash your seedlings away.
Prepare the Soil
The first tip for planting flower seeds is to ensure that you have enough space. When seedlings get too close together, they don’t grow as well and can become susceptible to fungal disease. Be sure to research the ideal spacing for your particular flower type.
Before you start your seeds, prepare the soil in which they’ll be planted. This includes loosening the soil with a rake or hand fork, breaking apart large soil clumps and removing any debris that may be in the area. It’s also a good idea to add organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to help improve the quality of your soil. Organic matter is essential to healthy soil, as it provides a source of nutrients and binds them into small aggregates that make water available to plants.
Check the seed packet for a recommended starting date to plant your flowers. Many warm-season annuals, such as cleome and petunia, require up to 12 weeks before the last frost date in much of South Dakota to germinate.
Sow the Seeds
Growing flowers from seed opens up a wealth of options to the gardener that aren’t typically available as transplants from a local garden center. Whether you’re starting seeds indoors or outdoors, following the directions on your seed packet for planting depth and other specifics is key to successful germination.
Many annual and perennial flower seeds grow best if they are directly sown outdoors. This is the simplest way to grow them, and it mimics Mother Nature’s own natural process of reseeding. After a flower’s bloom fades, it will drop its seeds where it can germinate the next spring.
To sow the seeds, dig a furrow to the depth specified on your seed packet and then scatter or push the seeds into the soil. Some seeds require a light cover, like lettuce, while others, like nasturtium, should be almost completely buried. Once the seeds are distributed, mist the surface of the soil until it is moist.
Water the Seeds
Whether you are sowing flowers indoors or outdoors, the key to success is moisture. Seeds that do not have the proper amount of moisture will not grow into a flower plant.
To help keep the soil moist, mix it with ingredients that prevent clumping and promote drainage. Mulch, compost, sand and volcanic rock like perlite or vermiculite are all good choices for mixing into the soil before planting.
A sprinkler attached to a timer can be an effective way to water seedlings without disrupting your regular routine. When watering from above, mist the plants lightly to avoid displacing the seeds and compacting the soil.
For best results, sow seeds indoors eight weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. This allows them to grow strong and healthy before being planted outdoors. However, if you are using open-pollinated seeds (those that do not have any genetic modifications), it is possible to sow them directly in the garden in March-June.
Keep the Seeds Moisturized
When stored improperly, seeds can quickly go bad. Humidity can be more damaging than heat to seed viability. Seeds that are exposed to humidity will begin using their stored energy to try to germinate. This will use up the available water in the seed and deplete it of nutrients, eventually resulting in poor germination.
Seeds need to be kept cool, dark and dry to retain their stored carbohydrates and minimize fungal infection. If possible, save the original seed packets and their labeling information. You can store the seeds in plastic bags or resealable containers and keep them in an unheated garage, basement or root cellar.
If your growing season is short or you have many flower varieties to plant, start the seeds indoors. To do this, you’ll need a container, potting soil and something to plant the seeds in. The seed packets will note which varieties can be started indoors and the proper time frame.