How to sow hardy annuals.

Sowing seed straight into the ground is a great way to raise plants if you don’t have anywhere under cover to sow them. Some hardy annuals, such as sunflowers and dill, actually benefit from being sown direct.

A fine-textured soil is crucial when sowing seed, as most seeds contain only limited energy reserves to fuel their development. Once they start to germinate, the seedlings need to break through the soil surface to reach the light quickly, so the green shoots and leaves can photosynthesise to provide more energy.

If the soil contains big lumps of earth, the emerging shoots have to divert around the obstruction. This wastes energy and could kill the seedlings before they reach sunlight.

By contrast, when seeds are sown into fine, crumbly soil, the shoots are able to push straight up and out into the light. As a rule, the larger the seed, the more energy reserves it contains and the coarser the soil texture it can cope with.

1)   Prepare the bed before sowing on a dry day. Break down any large clumps using the back of a fork, and remove any weeds and rake the soil to a fine tilth. Remove any lumps of earth and large stones that may hinder the progress of emerging seedlings.

2) Create drills using a trowel. Neat rows of seedlings are much easier to weed, so create straight drills, using a line and reel, or attach a length of string to a cane at either end of the row.

3) Water the soil lightly before sowing, using a watering can with the rose attached.

4) Space the seeds according to the instructions on the packet. Tip them into your hand, then sow them individually or in small pinches, rather than pouring directly from the packet. Lightly cover wth soil or leave the seeds on the surface, depending on the instructions on the seed packet.