Louise Curley, author of The Cut Flower Patch, shares this month's planting diary.
'Another season on my cut flower patch is starting to come together. After months of poring over seed catalogues and making wish lists of the plants I want for cutting I can actually get started on the best bit – the growing. April is a month of frantic activity with every available surface that gets enough light covered with seed trays and pots. Early sowings in March tend to be indoors to protect them from the fickle nature of spring weather but by now the ground should be warm enough to sow hardy annuals directly into the soil. Country lore used to suggest testing the temperature of the soil by sitting on it with a bare bottom. An easier and less embarrassing way is to see if weed seeds are germinating. If it’s warm enough for them then it’s perfect for your hardy annuals too.
'Sowing directly is an option if you don’t have much space to start off seeds indoors and is the best way to grow certain plants which dislike the root disturbance involved in sowing into trays and then transplanting them. Hardy annuals to sow direct include nigella, cornflowers, ammi, dill, calendula and sunflowers. Direct sown seedlings are vulnerable to slug attack and, as their roots have yet to develop fully, they will suffer in a dry spell, so check over your cut flower patch regularly. Water if necessary and use organic slug pellets to protect your young plants.
'Now is also the time to start off your half-hardy flowers. These are plants which originate from countries such as Mexico. They need warmth to germinate and grow, any hint of frost and they’ll be wiped out. Sow now into seed trays, place on a sunny windowsill and they will be the perfect size to plant out by the end of May when any danger of frost should have passed. Half-hardies perfect for your cut flower patch include zinnias, cosmos, rudbeckia and ten week stocks.'