The seed catalogs are arriving and glorious pictures of gigantic, ruffly blooms have you ready to order one of everything. Well, I'm here to tell you: Go for it! Grab a glass of wine and hit that "Buy Now" button, then bookmark this post for the humbling time when 40 packets of seeds arrive and you struggle to hide the fact that you don't know exactly where (or when) to plant them all.
Before you attempt to plant (or buy) your seeds, it is a good idea to know what kinds of seeds they are. Here at Dottie's, we grow mostly annual varieties (flowers that grow and die in one season) because they are affordable and provide flowers in a short amount of time(more bang for your buck! shazam) Did you know that there are different types of annuals? Flower farmers and savvy gardeners alike can use this info to help stretch out the planting season. Gradually planting your annuals provides joy and hopeful planting in winter and avoids the sowing frenzy in spring. Annuals can be hardy, half hardy or hoity toity sun-loving seeds.
Hardy Annuals- The Yukon Cornelius of annuals. No matter what winter throws at them, they can survive. Depending on your zone, you will have different hardy annuals. Hardy annuals will usually self seed if they like where they are growing, making your job as "Official Seed Planter" quite obsolete after a few years. Native plants tick all the boxes of hardy annuals. Cut flowers such as Queen Anne's Lace, Rudbeckia, Yarrow and Dianthus are all winter hardy. These seeds can be planted any time after the winter solstice. They can also be planted in fall, but that plane has already departed so let's not dwell... I usually wait until February when we have at least 10 hours of daylight here in Ohio. Your seeds will not germinate until they are good and ready to come out for spring. But, while your hardy seeds are outside waiting patiently, twiddling their seedy little thumbs, they will become acclimated to the weather. Their hard shells will start to wear down and they will be ready to go at the first signs of spring. Because they are cold hardy, you don't need to worry if they sprout early.
Half Hardy Annuals- Half hardy annuals are just as the name implies, borderline hardy. These annual seeds may enjoy cold weather, but can't handle hard frost or inches and inches of snow. Usually, half hardy annuals are right on the border of your hardiness zone. Cut flowers like godetia, chrysanthemum and everlastings are all half hardy here in zone 5/6. I will wait until March/April-ish to start sowing these annuals as a hard frost could easily decimate the lot. With Ohio weather, there is a good chance of a late frost so I usually have some sort of cover or frost blanket ready for these just in case. Another method is to sow these seeds close to the house, where it is warmer and late frosts aren't so harsh.
Sun Loving Annuals- Snooty annuals that wither at even the mention of frost are not cold hardy and need to be planted after all chance of frost has passed. Some folks mesh these in with Half Hardy Annuals, especially in areas where there isn't a distinct "snow" time, or if spring is a guaranteed sunny affair. Here in Ohio, spring is usually boggy, soggy with a slight chance of frigid. It helps to separate annuals that can take a light frost from those that can't in order to pace your planting and free up your sunny days for poolside margaritas -or tree trimming, whatever your fancy.
We are clear of frost around May in Northeast Ohio. I usually attempt a few before then, but save your rare and expensive seeds for May. Heat loving plants like zinnias, basil and sunflowers are planted at this time. If you plant them earlier, be sure to start them indoors or under cover in a winter sown container. They will have to be hardened off so they don't go into shock when transplanted.
It is important to note that ALL annual seeds can be planted after threat of frost. Hardy annuals do well when planted later in the season and can help extend your growing into fall. Along with a longer flower season, spreading your sowing season out allows for better time management. This way, you can make time for what matters in life; things like family, lime wedges, and more flowers...