The Q&A Archives: How to begin to plant my flower seeds???

Question: Hi people. I just received a packet of 'Annual Cut Flower Mix', and I would like to plant them in the 2 little rectangular flower pots sitting on the balcony of my Mnahattan apartment. BUT< I have never planted anything in my life! And I dunno where I can get the appropriate soil for starters. Where can I get some? Any advice of what I need to buy for making this a success?? Thanks!!! =)

Answer: Seed starting is not all that difficult, so I'm sure you can manage it. However based on your description the seeds you have are for annual flowers. Annuals are plants that live only one summer and then die during their first winter. They are grown from seed each spring, starting as early as possible so they have time to reach blooming age early in the season. For this reason I would suggest you wait until next spring to start the seeds so you can see them bloom and enjoy them for a growing season.

If you start them now they may well not have time to bloom before winter. But, you can certainly try it now if you want to. Use just a few seeds, save the rest for next spring. Keep them in the envelope at room temperature or in the envelope in a closed container in the refrigerator until next spring. Keeping them cool and dry will help keep the seeds fresh.

I would suggest you use a good quality soil-less potting mix formulated for container plants for both the starting medium and in the containers. You can start the seeds in the planters outside but it is harder to do that way because conditions are less controlled.

Make sure your starter containers (you can use disposable cups or cell packs from the nursery or improvise with take-out containers from the grocery store, etc.) and your pots have drainage holes in the bottom. Thoroughly dampen the soil in the starter container so it is like a wrung out sponge, place the seeds on it and press them into it lightly. Put the seeds about an inch or half inch apart. Cover with about a quarter inch of dampened soil mix. Press gently to assure good soil to seed contact.

Enclose your seed starting container in a clear plastic bag or cover with clear plastic to maintain humidity and set it in a bright location but out of direct sun. Check periodically that the soil is still damp (like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet) and for germination. Germination can happen anywhere from a few days to two weeks.

When they begin to germinate, remove the cover, water well, and move to an outdoor location in all morning sun in a spot protected from the wind. Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet.

When they are large enough to handle and have one set of true leaves you can transplant them into your planter pots. You might put them three or four inches apart -- this is a little hard to judge when you have a mix of flowers, since some may be larger plants than others at maturity. After that, water as needed to keep the soil damp and also fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer such as 10-10-10 plus minors. Read and follow the label directions.

Keep the pot in the morning sun for a day or two after transplanting, then move it to as much sun as possible -- most annual flowers prefer full sun all day long.

Here are additional seed starting hints.

Since you have never done this before, there may be some trial and error to the process. That is normal for gardening. If you save some seeds you can try again next year, too. Have fun and best of luck with your flower seeds!

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