Winter doesn’t have to be a boring time for your garden and adding beauty doesn’t need to be expensive. Yip, it’s time to sow!

What to sow now for colour in winter

Traditionally, winter’s a dull time in the garden. We gardeners tend to get depressed at the thought of months with boring brown gardens, bare trees, dry crispy lawns and no colour to be seen anywhere. But your garden doesn’t have to be like this! Even with a tight budget, you can turn a few packets of seed into a spectacular winter garden, and now’s the time to start!

Going into autumn is the time to sow Namaqualand daisies or another indigenous option – Mesembryanthemum, a succulent with fleshy leaves that’s tough and water-smart. Other options on the menu are Shirley poppies (those iconic red ones) and Californian poppies, which boast grey foliage and striking orange flowers. These beauties will not only reseed themselves but also jazz up your garden with minimal effort.

What to sow now for colour in winter
Calendulas too are a must, with their medicinal properties – and did you know that you can eat them too? And yes, it’s sweet pea time too! Depending on your local frost dates, you might want to get those seeds in the ground sooner rather than later, but the general sowing time is April to early June.

For those of you who like a little height and drama, cornflowers (especially the double polka dot mix) are perfect. They’re not only a pollinator magnet but make excellent cut flowers too. Don’t overlook alyssum, or the honey flower, for its delightful sweet fragrance. It’s a low groundcover and is really easy to sow.

One of my favourites to round off the planting list is statice, especially statice ‘Art Shades’. Excellent as a cut flower, the more you pick, the more they bloom – what’s not to love?

What to sow now for colour in winter
Now, on to the actual sowing. Whether you choose a sterile palm peat or a germination mix from your local Builders, the key is not to compact the medium too much. Lightly level it with a plank, but no squashing down. When it comes to choosing between mediums, consider the size of your garden and your sowing plans. For smaller or patio gardens, use a block of palm peat, but for bigger gardens you want to use a 30 dm³ bag of germination mix, just for economies of scale.
Pruning roses
Here’s a neat little trick with tiny seeds like those of Californian poppies: mix them with a bit of flour or maize meal before sowing. This helps distribute them evenly in your seed tray, ensuring perfect spacing without overcrowding. You can also use a little palm peat for this job.

The next step is to sprinkle a very light covering of germination mix or palm peat over the seeds. Give them a good firming down with a piece of wood. Don’t forget to label your seeds so that you know what you’ve sown and when. A good tip is to use an HB pencil for your labels, because it never fades!

What to sow now for colour in winter
Keep them in a well-lit, warm spot, but out of direct sunlight. As your seeds begin to sprout, consistent watering is crucial – watering every day or even twice a day so that they never dry out. To give your seedlings the best start in life, water them with a mix of Seagro Organic Plant Food. Different seeds germinate at different rates, so don’t give up if two weeks has passed and there’s still no sign of little green shoots.
What to sow now for colour in winter
Once your seedlings reach the four-leaf stage, it’s time to move them to bigger pots and plant them in a good seedling mix or germination mix to encourage growth. When they’ve reached the stage that they have real, true leaves, you can plant them directly into the garden.

But if all this seed talk sounds too time-consuming, there’s always the cheat’s way out – head over to your local Builders and pick up a tray of ready-to-go seedlings! Primula malacoides is another great option for easy winter colour that is always readily available as seedlings.

What to sow now for colour in winter
Whether you’re sowing seeds or planting seedlings, preparing your soil with compost is the best thing you can do. By adding it you’re adding good organic matter to the garden and improving the soil. Other good additions for the soil are bonemeal or Atlantic Root Builder (rock phosphate). Which one? If you don’t have dogs, go for bonemeal. If you do, they’ll dig up your plants to find out what that wonderful smell is, so choose the rock phosphate instead. Both enrich the soil, and foster strong root growth essential for healthy plants. Add this to the planting holes and also on top of the ground.
What to sow now for colour in winter
The next step is to turn your soil over using a garden fork. Go down as deep as the fork’s tines and turn the soil, removing stones and breaking down clumps of soil as you go.

When planting seedlings, these plants come in specially designed trays that make it easy to pop them out without damage. Gently tease out the roots if they’re dense, to ensure healthy growth. Plant them close enough so their leaves touch, ensuring a lush, full garden without bare patches. Water well after planting and continue with a nutrient top-up every two weeks.

Remember, everything you need is available at your local Builders. So stop procrastinating, get out there and transform your garden into a colourful, thriving space. Don’t be the one with garden envy this winter and spring!

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