Seedlings germinated in soil blocks

The Flower Patch - Jobs for Autumn

September and October are brilliant months on the flower farm - lots of the hard labour is over and late summer plants are in full swing - in particular the dahlias are looking amazing at the moment. 

This makes early Autumn a brilliant time to start planning for next year, which in my case means sowing my hardy annuals; these are plants that will be planted out later in Autumn so that they can spend the winter in the flower patch, ready for flowering next year. 

It can seem a bit counter-intuitive to leave plants out for the worst of the weather, but these are tough seedlings which, once somewhat established, will be able to withstand anything the winter throws at them. In fact, they will spend the winter establishing a great root system under the soil, so that when the weather warms up in spring, they can romp away, getting a head start on the spring-sown seeds.

Seeds that I recommend starting in Autumn are:-

  • Snapdragons
  • Sweet peas
  • Calendulas
  • Cornflowers
  • Nigella
  • Cerinthe

I find that soil blocks are a brilliant way to get these seedlings started (except Sweet Peas which do best in deep root trainers due to their tap root). You can read more about soil blocking here.

Another job which I am doing for the first time this year is sowing a cover crop. Now I have my new, improved flower patch, I need to keep the weeds off and the nutrients in the soil until next year, saving space for the dahlias and tender annuals as well as providing habitat to improve biodiversity. I bought a special seed mix, designed to protect soils over the winter as well as being suitable for grazing animals. The idea is that, when I am ready to plant next year's spring crop, I can allow the farm's sheep to nibble off the plants, leaving the compost ready for lovely cosmos, dahlias and sunflowers. 

Cover crop germinates

As you can see, the cover crop did not take long to germinate in this lovely warm weather we've had lately.

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