It’s time to sow winter and spring flowers

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In frosty & subtropical regions it’s time to sow winter and spring flowering annuals.

In cold winter regions which experience early frosts, gardeners generally start sowing seeds of slower maturing winter and spring flowering annuals in January and February; keeping them in a cool, shaded area until temperatures drop in late summer, before hardening them off, and planting out into the garden. In subtropical and humid regions, late summer, autumn and winter are the best times to plant a flower garden, and many winter annuals, as well as summer flowering annuals are sown during these cooler months. In other regions, many annuals can be sown into seedling trays now, but do not sow winter seeds directly into garden beds until the daytime temperatures have dropped significantly.

Some plants like alyssum, snapdragons, dianthus and petunias are grown almost throughout the year in South Africa and can be sown now, so be sure to include these on your shopping list, and remember, not all so called “winter annuals” are fully hardy to frost, and because sowing times vary from region to region, it’s always best to check with your local garden centre to find the varieties which do best in your region, before sowing or planting.

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In cold and frosty regions try pansy, viola, primula, cineraria, Iceland poppy, stocks, and ornamental kale. In these regions it is also time to sow slow maturing perennials and biennials like: foxgloves, delphinium, Canterbury bellslarkspurs, sweet William, and aquilegia (Columbine.) In the winter rainfall regions February is a dry, month with hot South-Easter winds, but winter annuals can be sown into trays if you have a cool, wind-protected place to keep them. In our subtropical summer rainfall regions you can still sow seeds of alyssum, cleome, dianthus, salvia, and nasturtium, and you can plant out seedlings of cosmos, impatiens, marigold, vinca, and verbena.

Sweetpeas Picture courtesy Picture courtesy peas are so easy to grow in full sun and seeds are relatively inexpensive. Not only are they highly scented, but they also come in a wonderful selection of clear single, or mixed colours; ranging from almost black, to the softest pink, blue, lilac, purple, red, white - and all the shades in-between. These excellent cut-flowers will bring warmth and cheer to any winter's day. Pick large bunches and fill your home with them - the more you pick the more they will bloom! Children also love growing them and the seeds are large enough for even the tiniest of fingers to handle. Climbing, knee-high and extra-dwarf varieties are available, so there is no excuse not to have some of these scented beauties, even in the smallest of gardens.

In cold Highveld areas prepare your trenches to plant sweet peas now. Choose a sunny spot and dig the trench 250mm deep and wide. Mix generous quantities of mature kraal manure and compost into the soil before putting it back into the trench, and adding one cup of slow release fertiliser per running meter;  water and allow the soil to rest until planting time. In cool regions of the country, sowing can start from as early as the middle of February, but in very hot regions, wait until the end of the month or early April.

If you love flowers, and put a little bit of effort into your garden in late summer and autumn, you will be rewarded with a colourful garden, even in the dead of winter. And even if you only select a few small areas of your garden to plant up, it will be worth it!

Whether you are new to gardening, or a pro, I am sure you will find my e-book "Growing Bedding Plants in South Africa” indispensable in helping you to select and grow all your favourite annuals throughout the year, with minimum fuss and outlay. And, no matter whether you like to grow from seed, or prefer purchasing seedling trays, you are sure to refer to it time and time again when planning your seasonal flower garden. It is written especially for South African gardeners and covers everything you need to know about growing or your own seedlings. All 78 pages are packed with useful information; like the best planting and sowing times for each variety, as well as ideal germination temperatures and days to flowering.

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