Introduction to Direct Sowing

Direct sowing is the practice of sowing seeds directly into the soil of your garden, exactly where they are to germinate and grow. I was first introduced to this technique by way of my grandfather who direct seeded his peas, beans, and most salad greens. I soon began to apply this horticultural practice to flower growing.

After years of codling my tiny seedlings and starting them indoors first, followed by hardening them off (acclimating them to the elements outdoors), I learned that certain seedlings were actually quite resilient and had no problem with beginning their growth outdoors. In fact, some of them even preferred it.

Chinese forget-me-nots

Adopting the practice of direct sowing stems from both a practical, and a horticultural best-practices viewpoint. As I began to grow more and more flowers with each passing season, direct sowing a portion of my seeds became a practical and efficient method of growing more flowers. I was simply running out of space to start all my seeds indoors. Furthermore, sowing seeds exactly where they were to germinate and continue to grow eliminated the task of hardening-off the seedling and the time spent transplanting them. In other words, direct sowing saved me a lot of time, effort, and space. 

clarkia

From a horticultural best-practices perspective, certain types of plants actually prefer to be direct sown, and will perform much better. These are typically plants which dislike root disturbance, and therefore do not transplant well.

The key to direct sowing is proper timing. There are those seeds which prefer to be sown during cool weather, and those which prefer to be sown during warm weather.  

Direct Sow Cool vs Direct Sow Warm

Direct Sow Cool

Cool growing varieties of flowers prefer to be sown as soon as you can begin working the soil first thing in the spring. Here in zone 5, that typically happens early to mid-April. These are varieties which will germinate and establish themselves during the cooler temperatures of spring, and will then begin to bloom as the temperatures warm up in early to mid summer.

Types of flowers: agrostemma, bachelor's buttons, buplerum, forget-me-nots, larkspur, love-in-a-mist (nigella), orlaya, and both shirley and California poppies

nigella love-in-a-mist

Direct Sow Warm

Warm growing varieties of flowers are those which prefer to be sown once the soil in the garden has had a chance to warm up. Here in zone 5, this typically happens late-May or early-June. Most of these are quick growers and will begin blooming in the heat of mid-summer and continue to bloom until first frost.

Types of flowers: amaranthus, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnia      

sunflower

The only other consideration when direct sowing is whether a particular type of seed prefers to be surface sown (requires light for germination), or buried below the surface of the soil (requires darkness for germination). Simply follow the directions on the back of the seed packet to determine this.