Most people sow hardy annuals in spring, but you’ll get a much earlier display if you sow seeds in early autumn.
Combine September sowing – when there’s warmth in the soil – with the usual March-May timescale and your annuals will look better for far longer.
Not every type is suitable – they must tolerate frost, so it’s not suitable for half-hardy annuals.
There’s three basic methods; direct sowing without protection; direct sowing with cloches or horticultural fleece when frosty; or sow in pots and keep frost-free over winter in a cold greenhouse/coldframe.
For direct sowing, either broadcast seeds thinly over weed-free, firmed and raked soil, or sow in drills.
Don’t use fertiliser at this point.
Aim for a gap of about 0.5cm (¼in) between seeds, then cover lightly with soil and water. If sowing in drills, space them 15-45cm (6-18in) apart.
If you live in a particularly exposed place, sow annuals under cover at 18°C (64°F), reducing to 15°C (59°F) after germination.
Grow them on into small plants, harden them off for overwintering in a cold frame or cold glasshouse, to plant out the following spring.
These hardy annuals probably will require protection in a bad winter.
If hard frosts are forecast, protect with cloches or horticultural fleece.
• Ammi majus/Ammi Visnaga;
• Calendula officinalis (pot marigold);
• Centaurea cyanus (cornflower);
• Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant);
• Linum grandiflorum (flax);
• Hordeum jubatum (squirrel tail grass);
• Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist);
• Papaver commutatum, P. rhoeas, P. somniferum (corn and opium poppies);
• Briza (quaking grass); Consolida (larkspur);
• Agrostemma githago (corncockle); Bupleurum;
• Iberis (annual candytuft);
• Scabiosa (scabious, a perennial often grown as an annual);
• Phacelia tanacetifolia (lacy phacelia);
• Malope trifida.
These plants definitely need some protection from frosts.
Sow in pots under glass and overwinter in a cold frame/cold greenhouse.
• Eschscholzia (Californian poppy);
• Gypsophila elegans;
• Lavatera trimestris (mallow);
• Cerinthe major var. purpurascens;
• Salvia viridis (annual clary);
• Matthiola longipetala subsp. bicornis (night-scented stock);
• Orlaya grandiflora;
• Adonis aestivalis;
Sweet peas can also be autumn sown.
• For more gardening tips and advice, visit Mandy’s website, www.mandycanudigit.co.uk.