To sow, or not to sow…Hardy Annuals

…..That is the question Hamlet might have internalised had he been a gardener rather than a disenfranchised Danish Prince. To be honest had he been slightly more interested in flowers I can’t help thinking things would have turned out better in the long run, however I digress.


Orlaya grandiflora
Saved seed

At this time of year “When to Sow?” is a question a lot of newbie gardeners are asking on social media and replies are often accompanied by lots of pics of seedling germination. However, look a little closer at these pictures, and you may notice something they all have in common – a greenhouse.

So what to do if you haven’t been blessed with a greenhouse, pollytunnel or cloche? Well you wait, you twiddle thumbs for a week or two, and what you are waiting for is for the soil outside to warm up. Now, if you’re new to gardening, the following is a guide passed down from Mater Gardeners to their Apprentices for ages past…..

Firstly, you need to be properly attired, a pair of stout boots is essential as the soil may be wet and if you’re gardening on clay a little sticky. Secondly, loose trousers are an absolute must, as will become apparent shortly, or if you’re an adventurous chap or chapess a kilt is perfect. The techniques will differ slightly depending on your choice of clothing but choose something you feel most comfortable wearing.

Once attired correctly, make your way to the area set aside as your seed bed, it doesn’t have to be huge, however testing soil is easier if the bed is at least the width of your hips. Next as is the age old tradition stand in the middle of the seed bed, feet slightly apart for balance and slide your loose fitting trousers and undergarments down your legs so they are roughly level with your ankles. (If wearing a kilt in the traditional fashion you can skip this step.) Next maintain your balance while gently lowering your posterior until it comes into contact with the surface of the soil, kilt wearers will find it necessary at this point to flick the hem of the kilt out of the way so as not to sit on the fabric to avoid a false temperature reading.

If the soil is ready for seed sowing, you will barely register a change in temperature but if the cold wet soil causes a shock to the derrière then you will need to wait a week or so and test again.

I have to say these days I prefer to be guided by the rule of thumb, as opposed to the rule of bum and now favour a second method which is to wait for a nod from Mother Nature, who better to guide you in your seed sowing enterprises that the world’s foremost gardener, let’s face it – she’s been at it for millions of years.

Allium and Lunaria seedlings
Self sown Hardy Annual seedlings germinating in the garden

So if you’re not thinking of exhibition gardening wait until you see germination happening in the garden, whether its weed seeds or self sown hardys, then you’ll know the time is right to get sowing.


2 thoughts on “To sow, or not to sow…Hardy Annuals

  1. I don’t have a greenhouse so direct sow most of my seeds on the plot, which I tend to do mid April onwards providing ground conditions and the weather are okay. I most certainly do not use the ‘rule of bum’ method, preferring the rule of thumb. I have to say that the ground is now staring to feel warmer to the touch and both self-seeded flowers and weeds are satring to appear. Happy sowing. xx

    1. I feel perhaps the Rule of Bum is akin to apprentices being sent out for a left handed hoe, but you’re right the soil is certainly warming up so seed sowing without the aid of a greenhouse can now commence. I shall still wait for a week or three before sowing my half hardys tho…..let the season commence 🙂

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