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Flower Cultivation Tips

Types of Seed
H
- Hardy, HH Half Hardy, T - Tender, A - Annuals, P - Perennials, B - Biennials

When to Sow Seeds
The seed packets will indicate the best months to sow specific seeds and optimum temperature. Packets also indicate whether seeds need any special treatment.

Special Treatments
Stratification. Stratification of seeds is a process whereby seeds are given a "false winter" by being kept at low temperature for a period of time, normally a few weeks. This can be achieved by sowing the seeds into trays/bags and placing them in the top of a fridge.

Scarification. Some seeds germinate better if the surface of the seeds is broken. The safest way to do this is to rub the surface lightly with sandpaper.

Soak the seeds in tepid water for 24 hours before sowing.

Sowing Seeds
Sow the seeds on top of a good quality seed or general purpose compost. Seeds should be covered with vermiculite or fine compost to the depth indicated on the seed packet. Very fine seeds can be mixed with silver sand to make them easier to handle.

Seeds can be sown in reasonably deep seed trays, for later pricking out, straight into individual 3 inch pots (2 or 3 per pot - remove the weakest seedlings later) or into rootrainers. Keep the compost just moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out too much, as this is a common cause of germination failure. Cut down on watering by covering the pot or tray with plastic film. Try to keep the seeds at the temperature indicated on the packet (although room temperature is successful for most seeds). Don't leave the seeds in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them. If you like you could also spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide to prevent the fungal disease that causes "damping off".

Seeds of some HA and HP can be sown directly outside.

Following Germination
Once they have sprouted, keep the seedlings at a slightly lower temperature and increase ventilation. Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let seedlings dry out as they rarely recover at this stage.

Potting On Your Seedlings
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of proper leaves they can be potted on into individual 3 or 4-inch pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser, according to the manufacturer's instructions. I use 2 parts peat free compost, 1 part coir (a peat substitute), plus a little additional organic fertiliser; to improve drainage you may add perlite or grit.

Pot the plants on again before they become root-bound (you'll see roots appearing through the holes in the bottom of the small pots). Stake if necessary, using soft twine to tie in the stems. Seedlings should be grown in good light. A cool, frost-free, greenhouse is ideal for most seedlings.

Planting Out
In most cases it is beneficial to prepare the soil in advance by digging in plenty of organic matter a month before planting. The priority is to improve the structures of the soil (providing moisture retention and drainage).

Make sure that plants have been allowed to acclimatise to outdoor conditions for at least 2-3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. During this time gradually increase the amount of wind, sunshine and cooler temperatures that the plant experiences. HH and T plants must not be planted out until danger of frost has passed.

After planting ensure that the plants are well watered until they have established as they are quite vulnerable at this stage.

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