The most cost-effective way of growing summer bedding plants is to grow them from seed especially if you have several pots to fill. To make a colorful display you can use those that germinate quickly and make colorful displays from summer until the first frosts. These include annual dahlias, nasturtiums, Bidens and French marigolds.
Sowing your seeds: Sow seeds indoors in seed trays following the instructions on the packet. Start in early spring.
What you will need: Seeds, seed soil, clean seed trays, modular seed trays, a selection of pots, broken clay pot pieces, slow-release fertilizer, a watering can with a flower rose and all-purpose soil.
Fill seed trays: Using seed soil and clean seed trays fill to 2 cm of the top. Firm and level the surface of the soil by gently pressing another seed tray on top.
Sow the seeds: Check the depth the seeds need to be planted. Water the soil using the rose and allow to drain. Pour some seeds into your hand and carefully sprinkle over the surface of the soil. Sieve some soil over the seeds so they are at the right depth.
Cover and keep moist: Add a label to the seed trays and put on the lid. If no lid comes with the tray then use a plastic bag over the top. Check on the temperature requirements of the seed and place in a light spot. Keep the soil moist and as soon as the seedling emerge remove the lid or plastic bag.
Larger seeds: Nasturtiums and larger seeds can be planted in small 8 cm pots and will not need to be potted on.
Fill pots for larger seeds: Fill pots with seed soil and firm and level the surface. With a blunt pencil or small dibber make three holes 2 cm deep.
Plant larger seeds: Drop one seed into each hole and cover them with soil before pressing the soil down lightly. Label and water the pots then put them inside a plastic bag until the seedling start to emerge and then remove the plastic bag.
Potting on seedlings: Check the seedlings are well watered or place the seed trays in a larger container without drainage holes, half fill this with water and then put the trays inside this tray. When the water has seeped into the soil and the surface is damp remove the seed trays. Once the seedlings have grown a few leaves they will need potting on.
Using all-purpose home-made compost,half-fill modular trays. Hold the seedlings by their first leaves and gently tease their roots from the seed soil using a pencil or small dibber.
In the middle of each cell make a hole with your pencil or dibber and place one seedling in the hole. Fill around the roots and lower stem with more soil. Secure the seedlings by firming gently with your fingertips. Water carefully so as not to wash them out of the soil. Keep the seedlings in a bright place and at the right temperature. A few weeks before the last frost stand them outside but remember to bring them in at night. This will harden them off in preparation for planting out.
In late spring after all the frost have finished, plant your bedding out in the garden or in hanging baskets, window boxes or pots. Plants from six packets of seed will fill five pots, a hanging basket and three window boxes. You can vary the types of containers used to blend with your garden design.
Soak your terracotta pots in water before planting up. Terracotta is porous and will need saturating to prevent the clay from drawing out the water when the pot is planted up. Place a layer of broken clay pots at the bottom of each pot to ensure good drainage. If you have a large pot you can reduce the amount of soil needed by filling the bottom third with broken pots or pieces of plastic.
Fill each container up to about 2 cm from the rim of the pot using an all-purpose soil. Using a slow-release fertilizer designed for container plants mix with the soil. You can, at this time, also add some crystals designed to retain moisture to keep the soil damp and this will reduce the frequency of watering.
If you are planting seedlings that will grow to various heights put the largest at the back and smaller ones at the front. Plant the container up and firm the plants before watering well.
Removing seedling from modules
When you need to plant out your seedling from modules first soak the modules and allow to drain. By squeezing the bottom and sides of the cells you loosen the root ball and can remove the plants. Plant in the soil about 10 cm apart.
Water the plants regular and place in a sunny position. Remove fading and dead flowers regularly using clippers to prolong the flowering season. Slugs and snails love young plants so protect them by using slug pellets or nematodes. Alternatively you can fix a copper ring around the pots to keep them away. Certain pets hate rough surfaces so apply a gritty mulch around your plants. To retain moisture add a decorative mulch to enhance the appearance of the plants and garden.
For quantity you can do better than grow from seed and you have a much wider choice of plant varieties. You get a more plants for your money with seeds than buying mature plants and therefore can fill a greater area.