Start annuals early

Annuals can turn your garden into an ocean of flowers within a short period of time. They come in a wide choice.

Seed trays
For best results, use a seed tray with small holes in the bottom and the special seed compost that is now available on the market. Fill the tray in layers. The first layer should consist of unsieved compost, spread out well, filling the tray to about 1.5cm from the top. Then cover this layer with sieved compost, up to the rim of the tray. Remove the surplus by moving a lath over the top to leave a nice flat seed bed. Carefully firm the compost down with a small board. The bed is now ready for sowing.
Sow large seeds by hand, spacing them as indicated on the packaging. Smaller seeds should be mixed with fine, dry sand. This enables you to see where you have sown. To sow the small seed mix evenly, divide it into two equal parts and, using a folded piece of paper, scatter the first half on the seed bed from a height of about 10 cm. Then, turn the tray 90 degrees and scatter the remaining half. Cover coarse seeds with sieved compost. Extremely fine seeds will not need to be covered. Water the seeds with a plant spray or a watering can with a very fine rose and cover the tray with a sheet of glass. Place the tray in a warm, light spot and check daily that the compost is neither too moist nor too dry.

Overcrowded seed tray
After some time the seedlings will become too crowded and it will be time to give them more space, or to 'prick them out'. Strong, large seedlings should be planted out, one by one, in a pot, a frame or in garden soil. Smaller seedlings should be planted in groups of three to a planting hole. Lift seedlings from your trays using a 'dibber' or a pencil and transplant them into another seed tray, spaced approximately 5cm apart. When you have watered the seedlings, place the tray in a light, but not too warm spot (10 C().

Hardening off
One week after pricking out, you can start hardening-off the seedlings. You can get them used to the cold in a heated greenhouse or frame, although a bedroom is also suitable for bringing your plants further on. If you open the window during the daytime the young plants will get accustomed to fresh air. When night frosts are no longer expected, your annuals can be planted out in the garden.

Filling up bare patches
When the Tulips, Hyacinths and other spring-flowering bulbs have been lifted and put in a clamp or pit in a shaded spot, you will be left with bare patches between your plants. Colourful annuals are very well suited to fill these gaps in the border.

There are various annuals that will be extremely successful every spring and summer. African marigold, Marigold, Busy Lizzie, Lobelia, Pansies, Daisies and the beautiful Mesembryanthemum will turn your garden into a sea of flowers. The taller varieties such as Sidalcea, Giant sunflower, Cosmea and Everlasting also provide an abundance of flowers. Try them and you will find annuals are worth their weight in gold.


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