We know. Next summer feels like a very distant prospect. But for a brilliant show of summer colour, Alan Titchmarsh says we should be doing some planting now. And if one of our favourite gardeners tells us we need to get outside, then we’re not going to argue.
But what should we be planting in autumn to make our gardens beautiful next summer? We’re talking hardy annuals here. Annuals are the plants that flower then die so have to be replanted every year if you want them as part of your garden. Hardy? Alan’s putting in annuals that are pretty frost-resistant, so they can be sown outside ahead of the cold months of winter. And while annuals might sound like a lot of work, vibrant and lasting summer blooms are the reward, so it’s well worth the yearly effort.
If you want to put in these beauties, scroll down for Alan’s tips. Looking for more garden ideas and ways to decorate your outdoor space? Discover them on our dedicated page.
1. Prepare beds
Alan planted calendula, aka pot marigold, seeds in autumn for great results the following summer. To follow suit, you’ll need to create a clear patch of soil by raking it over and gently levelling it.
2. Create furrows for the seeds
The rake you used to prepare the soil can now be employed to create furrows for the seeds. Alan advises pushing the back of it into the earth at intervals of three to four inches (that’s around 8 to 10cm, metric fans) to space out the planting spots.
3. Plant the seeds
To plant, simply sprinkle the seeds from the packet into the palm of your hand, Alan says. You can then take a pinch – like salt – and sprinkle the seeds along the furrows. Space them around half to an inch apart, Alan advises, or at intervals of just over 1 to 2.5cm in new money.
4. Cover with soil
It’s your trusty rake you’ll need again here. Use it to gently cover the seeds with soil so you can’t see them any longer, Alan says. It’s a good idea to mark their position with a label so you don’t lose track of them, and you can also sprinkle some sand on the area, Alan suggests, which will make their position obvious.
More seeds to sow in autumn for summer colour
Alan planted calendula seeds in order to create a display of orange/yellow blooms the following year, but there are plenty of other hardy annual seeds that can be sown in the autumn, and won’t need protection.
Cornflower has beautiful dark blue flowers from late spring to mid summer.
Love-in-a-mist combines flowers in pale blue with fern-style foliage, and the seedheads are ideal for drying, too.
Opium poppy comes in a range of shades including white, pink and purple. Added bonus? It self-seeds easily so you can skip buying the seeds in later years.
Honesty has flowers in spring, then beautiful flat silvery seedpods that can be dried ready for using in arrangements.