Water the garden bed before planting

June 14, 2017

People plant seeds by the phase of the moon, by the temperature of the soil or even by the calendar. Some traditional ideas on when to plant include waiting until the soil is comfortable to sit on with your bare bottom. 

Now it's sunny and warm, and time to plant flower seeds. If you have waited until June or even July to plant seeds, you will have to choose flowers that germinate, grow and bloom rather quickly.

Fast-blooming annual flowers from seed are one of gardening's miracles, and like many miracles, can get you out of a tough spot.

You may have new beds to fill with flowers or to replace plants that have died and left bare spots in the garden. So which flowers will bloom fastest from seeds?  Marigolds (Tagetes spp.), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), annual phlox (Phlox drummondii) and even sunflowers (Helianthus spp). 

A lot depends upon the growing conditions. If you plant seeds incorrectly or put them in the wrong soil or without proper light and water, the plants will grow slower or not at all. 

Planting a seed incorrectly can impede or end growth. Many seeds such as impatiens (Impatiens spp.) and petunias (Petunia spp.) need light to germinate and shouldn't be buried at all but simply scattered on the soil surface.

The more traditional seeds actually need darkness to sprout, so they need to be buried. These include calendula (Calendula spp.), phlox (Phlox drummondii) and sunflowers (Helianthus spp). 

But if you plant these darkness-loving seeds too deeply, they won’t be able to grow up through the soil surface to reach the sun.

A few tough flowers such as marigolds will germinate whether sprinkled over the soil surface in sunlight or buried under the dirt. 

When in doubt, plant seeds twice as deep as the diameter of the seed. So big, fat seeds such as runner beans or sunflowers need to be planted about one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half inches deep.

Marigolds, however, germinate whether planted under or on top of soil. Check seed packets for information about planting depth. 

Soil temperature has a big effect on how fast your flowers will bloom from seed.

That is why seeds planted too early can grow so slowly that they bloom at the same time as identical seeds planted later when the soil is warmer. 

How warm the soil needs to be for good germination varies widely with each flower. Keep in mind that many of our favorite annual flowers are non-native, so you need to mimic their homeland when growing them. 

Some, such as snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.) actually germinate faster in cooler soils. 

Generally, flowering annuals need a daytime temperature between 60 and 80 F, with nights going no cooler than 50 degrees. Since seeds need moisture to germinate, always water the garden bed before planting. If you wait to water after planting, you can wash away the seeds.

After planting your fast-growing annual flowers, keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. 

With summer upon us, you can plant all seeds directly in the garden. Indeed, some flowers such as nasturtiums and cosmos resent transplanting and will only grow well if sown where they will bloom. 

So toss away your calendar and plant fast-blooming flower seeds now. And you don't even have to test the soil by sitting on it with your bare bottom. The neighbors will thank you.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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