Head Start for Spring Blooms | Sow in Fall

Not that you haven’t enough to do in early autumn, wrapping up summer’s harvest and processing crops and honey – but sometime in late September or so, your schedule may slow down and you can think about giving your flowers and bees a head start next spring by sowing seeds, planting bulbs, and dividing and moving perennials before winter arrives.

Autumn is the time that many summer bloomers are dropping mature seeds, sowing them naturally for next year’s flowers. You can join that party by direct-seeding species such as those listed below.

Seeds of quite a few familiar plants, such as poppies of all sorts, require winter conditions before the seeds  will germinate, which the gardener can accommodate either by direct sowing of seeds in fall or by trying to mimic the cold, moist, freeze-thaw, and other necessary conditions by artificial means (extra labor, equipment, and space required).

Others, such as lacy phacelia and fava beans, can germinate in fall and grow slowly through the winter as an enriching ground cover and bloom early in the spring.

Still others will germinate in the fall and produce flowers,  even if the plants are still relatively small.  And if weather allows, they’ll continue blooming and growing through winter into spring—or pause during a hard freeze or snow, then pick up where they left off as the weather warms again. Borage, calendula, and alyssum are good examples.

Take a stroll through the list of flowers below, and maybe pick a few for your own garden.  Following nature’s pathway, drop the seeds in your autumn beds, let them be covered by falling leaves and twigs, and they will pass through the rigors of the colder seasons to germinate and grow when the time and conditions are right. 

Realize that there is a degree of risk and uncertainty in this approach:  because these seeds will be exposed to the natural hazards of granivorous creatures and potentially harsh weather, you should expect some loss. Best to over-plant a bit—maybe by about 20%.

Finally, if you are not yet certain of where to place the overwintering seeds in your garden, or if the preferred beds are still occupied, you can autumn-sow seeds in containers outdoors instead. However, be advised that some species do not transplant well—check the literature on your plants of choice. 

You and the honey bees, and native pollinators, too, will rejoice in early blooms next spring, while you extend a well-deserved winter pause from garden labor a little bit longer!

                                            Seeds to Sow in Fall for Next Year’s Blooms

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