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How to choose seeds to direct sow

There is nothing quite like growing your own flowers (or veggies) from scratch. It's one of my very favourite things about flower farming. The way the garden transitions from a field of dirt to an oasis of flowers in just a few short months is remarkable. Especially when you consider how harsh and extreme our climate is. We go from -30 to +30 easily, and yet things grow!

Our climate is extreme and our growing season relatively short which means some plants will never reach maturity if they are not started indoors first. If you simply direct seeded everything, some things would never bloom. This is why when ordering seeds, and when choosing what to start indoors vs direct seeding the most important stat is the "days to maturity" statistic. It is this number that tells you when something should be blooming (or in the case of vegetables producing ripe fruit).

If you type in your postal code or address into a zone map, it should give you an approximate number of frost-free days (there are all kinds of zone maps on the internet, the among other sites will let you type in your address). This is the length of your growing season. For us when we put in our address it gives us May 25th as our last spring frost and September 15th as our first fall frost giving us 112 frost free days of growing (in case you didn't know... frost kills most flowers. That's why this is important). Keep in mind that this is an estimate (They admit that 30% of the time you could get a later frost in spring or earlier/later in fall). We often get a frost the first week of June, and last year our first killing frost in fall wasn't till mid-October! Let's just go by this estimate for reference. This means that anything with more than 112 days to maturity if directly seeded will never produce this season. Now to put that into perspective, everyone's favourite Lisianthus take on average 160 days to maturity, meaning we would never even be close to seeing their flowers if we direct seeded them. There are many other examples of this which is why it's really important to look at that number when deciding what to seed into your garden, or what to start early or purchase from a garden centre.

If you're not into the idea of starting seeds indoors you are not alone. This is why there are lots of places to purchase plants that have been started for you. Most garden centres specialize in plants for garden beds and pots, but not necessarily for cut flower production. This is why many of the varieties we grow have to be started by us. If you're looking for someone who grows plants for cut flower gardeners, our friends at Lily Stone Gardens had a great selection last year and hopefully will for years to come! Make sure that if you go to a garden centre for cut flower plants, that the plants you choose are suitable for that... not all flowers make good cut flowers.

If you are into the idea of starting your own seeds indoors, we have a few blog posts on how to just that, so be sure to check out our tips for starting seeds indoors. When we decide which flowers we are going to start indoors, the number one factor is their days to maturity. Other factors you may want to consider is germination rate (if you have a low germination percentage you may want to start them indoors so you know how many plants you'll have and how to space them). Another thing to consider is how early you want something to flower. For example, we have never started our cosmos inside. Many people do, but we don't need cosmos to bloom in July because we have other flowers blooming at that time. So, we direct seed our cosmos straight into the garden and enjoy it later. Something else to consider is transplant shock. Most plants are set back every time they are transplanted. The more you can avoid that the better! Some plants also require cooler temps or hotter temps and so timing the growth for their ideal temperatures can also be tricky!

There are lots of factors to consider when starting plants indoors, but if you have the space to try a few things you can add some flowers to your garden you won't be able to find anywhere else.

Here's a list of the things we direct seed into our garden. If it's not on the list it means we start it in our greenhouse or in our house if it requires an extra-long growing season.

Zinnias, Cosmos, Dara, Snow on the mountain, Larkspur, Bepleurum, Sweet Peas, Queen Annes Lace, Amaranthus, Bells of Ireland, Calendula, Bachelor's Button, Safflower, Sunflowers, Nigella, and Orlaya. It's possible I'm missing one or two but if you have any questions, please let me know!

Hope this helps when deciding what if any flowers to start early this year.


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