May is the ideal time for sowing many Spring flowering perennials including aquilegias (Columbine), hellebores & primulas so they are ready for first flowering next year. Here is a five step guide to maximise your chances of successful seed sowing.
1. Unless you are planning to sow lots of a single plant variety, go for half size seed trays. They take up less room that the full size ones and means that at one time you can sow many different varieties with different germination rates. Fill the trays with a fine (ideally loam based) compost. At first, fill them right to the top and then using your fingers, lightly firm in the compost to the corners and sides to remove air pockets.
2. Next get another seed tray of the same size and place it on top of the compost filled one and gently press down to firm down the compost. This gives a nice firm bed for the seeds to germinate in and a relatively level surface on which to sow. Alternatively, any sort of board or flat surface will do the job.
3. Tip the seeds into the palm of one hand and then take a good pinch of seeds between the thumb & forefinger of the opposite hand. Scatter the seed evenly on the surface of the compost. Sow sparingly around the edges of the tray to avoid too many seeds getting trapped down the side, before moving into the middle of the tray. If you're sowing larger seeds, instead of sprinkling them, space the individually approx. 1cm apart.
4. Lightly sprinkle a fine grit or vermiculite evenly over the surface of the compost.
5. Stand the seed tray in a shallow pool of water to let the compost soak it up from the bottom. Avoid watering from above as this can just scatter the gravel and seed around, lifting the seeds from the compost. When the water has soaked up to the surface of the grit, remove the tray from the water and leave to drain. Pop the trays in a propagator, cold frame, growhouse or on a well-lit windowsill.
Germination will then depend on the type of plant grown but will typically take between one and 12 weeks. Just make sure that the soil remains damp and the seeds are in a nice light spot until they germinate and are ready for pricking out.
For a selection of seed trays, propagators and growhouses, visit our shop.