Understanding types of seeds
If you are new to gardening then understanding the types of seeds will really help you get to grips with how and when to sow your seeds. It can be tricky to understand what the different types of seeds are but this simple guide should help.
An annual is a plant which roots, forms leaves, flowers and sets seed all within the space of a year. Annuals divide into two groups – hardy and half-hardy...
Hardy annuals can withstand the frosts and tend to be easier to grow in our northern climate, where they form the backbone of the vegetable and the cutting garden – without them, your patch would be half empty. They are happy sown straight into the ground outside from the middle of spring and will germinate and start growing well before the frosts have finished in May.In this group, newly emergent seedlings can survive the winter and a few degrees of frost.
If you want an early crop in May, it’s a good idea to sow in March, but at this stage of the year, the soil in the garden is too cold and wet for decent rates of germination, so you’re best to sow them inside as you would a half-hardy annual. (see across) The hardy annual group includes many flowering plants like cornflowers and sweet peas and vegetables like lettuce and salad leaves, peas and broad beans and some biennials treated as hardy annuals like celeriac, carrots, beetroot, leeks and onions.
Some of them – parsnips, cabbages, broccoli, Brussels, broad beans, leeks and the autumn-sowing varieties of onions - are reliably tough and can survive the winter outside with no protection. Others, like beetroot, carrots and celeriac may get frosted if left in the ground in very cold weather. Its best to dig these up, or store them, still in the ground under a winter mulch – a deep duvet of compost or straw.
Half- hardy annuals
If a plant is half-hardy, it means it cannot withstand winter wet and cold and will be killed by the frosts. Sow the seeds and grow the seedlings in a light, frost-free place, protecting them under cover until the frosts are over. You’ll then have decent sized plants ready to put out in the garden at the end of spring. The plants will be zapped by the frosts in the autumn. Cosmos, tobacco plants and zinnias are all examples of half-hardy flowering plants and tomatoes, cucumber, French beans, runner beans, courgettes, sweetcorn, basil, sweet marjoram, chillies, aubergine, peppers, pumpkins and squash are all vegetable examples of this group.
These are plants that you sow between May and July and most flower at the same time the following year and then they die. Like fox-gloves and honesty, they often self-sow.
A perennial is a plant that stays in the garden from one year to the next. This will last forever in your patch, and is a brilliant investment. This includes many wild flower seeds, as well delphiniums, verbenas and foxgloves.