Growing summer bedding plants from seed is both fun and cost-effective, especially if you have several pots to fill.
The seeds used in this design are French marigolds (Tagetes), Bidens, nasturtiums and annual dahlias, all of which germinate quickly and make a colorful display from summer until the first frosts.
When to Start: Early spring
At Their Best: Summer
Time to Complete: A few hours over several weeks
Sow seeds indoors in seed trays, but check the packets first for any specific instructions.
1. Fill Seed Trays
Using potting soil soil, fill some clean seed trays to within 1 inch of the top. Gently press another seed tray on top to level out and firm the surface.
2. Sow Seeds
Water the soil with a can fitted with a fine rose and allow to drain. Pour some seeds into your hand and carefully space them out on the soil surface. Sprinkle some sieved soil over the seeds, but check the packet first to see what depth the seeds require.
3. Cover and Keep Moist
Label the seed tray, and put the lid, or a clear plastic bag, over the top. Place in a light spot, and check the packet to see what temperature the seeds need. Keep moist, and remove the lid or plastic bag as soon as seedlings emerge.
Large seeds, such as nasturtiums can be planted in small 3-inch pots and will not need to be potted on.
1. Fill Pots With Soil
Fill pots with potting soil and press it down gently with your fingers, or the bottom of another clean pot. Use a blunt pencil or dibber to make three holes, 1 inch deep.
2. Plant Seeds
Drop one seed into each hole and press the soil down lightly. Label and water the pots, then place in a clear plastic bag until the seedlings start to emerge.
Check your seedlings daily and keep them well watered. The most effective way to do this is to place the seed trays in a larger container (with no drainage holes), half-filled with water. Leave them until the water has seeped into the soil and the surface is damp, then remove the seed trays. When the seedlings have a few leaves, pot them on as shown here.
1. Remove Seedlings From Tray
Half-fill modular trays with good quality all-purpose soil. Holding the seedlings gently by their first leaves, use a pencil or dibber to gently tease their roots from the seed soil.
2. Plant in Modules
Place a seedling in the middle of each cell of the modular tray, and fill around the roots and lower stems with more soil. Firm the soil using your fingertips to secure the seedlings.
3. Water In
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 for each seedling, and water carefully. Keep the seedlings in a bright place and at the right temperature. A few weeks before the last frost is forecast, set them outside during the day, bringing them in at night, to harden them off.
In late spring after the last frost, plant your bedding outside in pots, window boxes, or hanging baskets. The plants raised here from six packets of seeds filled five pots, three window boxes, and a hanging basket. Choose containers that suit your garden design.
1. Saturate Clay Pots
Before planting up terra-cotta pots, soak them with water. Terra-cotta is porous, and saturating it first helps prevent the clay from drawing moisture out of the soil when the pot is planted up.
2. Add Drainage Material
Place a layer of broken clay pot pieces in the base of each pot. To reduce the amount of soil needed for larger pots, fill the bottom third of the container with pieces of plastic or broken pot instead.
3. Apply Fertilizer
Fill each container to about 2 inches from the rim with all-purpose soil. Mix slow-release fertilizer designed for container plants into the soil. You can also add water-retaining gel crystals, which help keep the soil moist, reducing the need to water as frequently.
4. Plant Up
In this scheme the dahlias are the tallest, and should be planted at the back, while the dwarf French marigolds need to be at the front, with the other plants dotted in-between. Plant up, firm the plants in gently, and water them well.
5. Lift the Plants
Water the young plants in their modules and leave to drain. Then gently squeeze the bottom and sides of each cell to loosen the rootballs, and remove the plants. Place them on the soil about 4 inches apart.
Place the pots in a sunny position and water the plants regularly. Deadhead frequently to keep them in bloom for longer, removing faded flowers with clippers. Young plants are prone to attacks by snails and slugs, so apply a few slug pellets, use nematodes or fix a copper band around the pots to keep them at bay. A gritty mulch may also help to deter pests. To retain moisture in the soil, you can add a decorative mulch, which will also help to set off the planting.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010