|Deciding When to Plant Outdoors|
An important key to successful direct sowing is to pick the right weather. Study the climate in your area; determine your frost-free date to decide approximately when you will need to sow each type of seed. When the time comes, watch the weather reports and the sky for settled weather conditions, and plant promptly when proper conditions exist. It helps to have your soil prepared slightly in advance so that you can plant as soon as the time is right.
Many types of flowers that require cool temperatures for germination are sown outdoors in fall or spring, when changing weather encourages germination. In the North, sow from early spring through summer. Allow at least four months from sowing till first killing frost, so plants will have time to grow big enough to endure winter weather. In the South, sow seed that require cool germination temperatures in spring or fall.
Seed sown in hot weather may need shading. Covering your seed bed with a Protector will provide shade to slow evaporation and to keep the newly emerged seedlings from burning, as well as provide protection from pests that would find your seed or seedling a tasty meal. However, you will need to remove the cover promptly when the plants start showing their secondary leaves.
Some seeds need to be planted in the fall, ideally just before the ground freezes. This is not to have them germinate in autumn, but rather to give the seed a cold period to make them ready to grow with the first favorable weather of spring. Plant your seed slightly deeper than you would in spring, and protect the sides of the bed with boards to prevent any seed washing away. Apply a protective mulch as soon as the ground freezes.
From Philadelphia southward, flowers such as larkspur may be sown in September so that the seed will germinate in the fall. With a protective mulch applied after the ground freezes, they will live over winter and produce extra-early, longstemmed flower spikes. From Washington, D.C. southward, sweet peas can be handled this way. From southern Virginia southward, add Dianthus, Phlox, Poppy, Calendula, Alyssum, Nemophila, Canytuft, Eschscholzia, Bachelor's Buttons, Clarkia, Nierembergia, Gypsophila, and Nigella to the list.
NASA Seeds in Space
"If you are looking for a challenge with great rewards, if you love to garden and do not relish the routine, if you can accept heartaches and failures, and if you can burst with pride at success, then choose a garden by the sea," Dr. Ed Givhan, Flowers for South Alabama Gardens.