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Growing perennials from seed for a brand new Scottish garden...?

Hi everyone,

I'm gearing up to plant up my newly designed and landscaped garden. I have something in the region of 20 square meters of border to plant up from scratch (currently bare soil, about to be conditioned in preparation).

I'd like to plant with a semi-prairie wild style, leaning heavily on colourful perennials. I'm yet to pull together a proper lay-out plan, and am just starting my plant research now, so if anyone has advice on planting schemes that'd be great too.

My question is this- to save money, could it make any sense to start growing perennials from seed, indoors under lights now(ish), before transferring to mini-greenhouse late winter/early spring to harden off? Would that 2-3 month head start create plants that are garden ready for spring, hopefully to flower by summer?

I have a few Ikea Vaxxer setups which I could utilise!

Thanks,


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  • Hold your horses a little longer!
    If you wait till the end of Feb, early March, then light levels will be higher and temperatures gradually increasing. If you can provide a warm place for seed germination that will speed things up a little more, but at the 'right' time of year plants will grow more quickly and strongly and you won't need to wait so long to get them outside. Natural light is best as it provides the correct frequencies for growth, unless you have proper nurserymens' lighting. Without it plants get drawn and leggy and are weakened. You also risk losses from  fungal diseases.
    Check your individual seed packets for the best times to sow. There are many perennials that will flower in the first year and they can start quite early in some cases, though others will need more time.
    Growing from seed is good fun and very rewarding, but you do need a little patience. :)

  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 8,532
    I agree with @Buttercupdays - much better to wait.

    Last year I sowed Gaura - The Bride in March, by june they were good size plants and started to flower - they're now very big plants and still a few flowers on them. I was very impressed with their performance.

    Drainage and sun are key to success with prairie planting and soil that's not too nutrient rich.
    Good luck
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Pete.8 said:
    I agree with @Buttercupdays - much better to wait.

    Last year I sowed Gaura - The Bride in March, by june they were good size plants and started to flower - they're now very big plants and still a few flowers on them. I was very impressed with their performance.

    Drainage and sun are key to success with prairie planting and soil that's not too nutrient rich.
    Good luck
    Hold your horses a little longer!
    If you wait till the end of Feb, early March, then light levels will be higher and temperatures gradually increasing. If you can provide a warm place for seed germination that will speed things up a little more, but at the 'right' time of year plants will grow more quickly and strongly and you won't need to wait so long to get them outside. Natural light is best as it provides the correct frequencies for growth, unless you have proper nurserymens' lighting. Without it plants get drawn and leggy and are weakened. You also risk losses from  fungal diseases.
    Check your individual seed packets for the best times to sow. There are many perennials that will flower in the first year and they can start quite early in some cases, though others will need more time.
    Growing from seed is good fun and very rewarding, but you do need a little patience. :)

    Thanks for the advice, both. The concept of putting together a planting plan is thoroughly overwhelming. I guess if I can pick a good selection that can be grown from seed, and combine them with some established potted plants after last frost, that'll cover most bases!

    Interesting on the soil nutrient levels- The majority of the beds I've created are filled with what I'm assuming is quite low nutrient (cheap!) topsoil/subsoil. I planned on enriching it soon and letting the fert break down over winter- but are there particular areas of the garden that won't need any fertiliser? (ie- the areas of hardy perennials and grasses?)
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 8,532
    Prairie plants grow naturally in quite poor and stony soils - to flower well they often need to struggle a bit.
    If the soil is too rich they will produce lots of foliage at the expense of flowers and often get straggly.

    I've lost Gaura before as I'm on good ol'Essex clay so they drowned over winter, but I'm improving it year by year.
    If your soil is free draining then you should have a good choice of plants.
    I don't have any prairie style to my garden, so I can't help much I'm afraid.

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,260
    Hi @Gaughan.david- I don't know whereabouts you are exactly, but the one piece of advice I'd give you is - whatever it says on seed packets - wait a few weeks longer.

    Most timings are too early for Scotland. :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,661
    Starting a planting scheme from scratch can be pretty overwhelming as there are so many thousands of plants to choose from!

    As Pete8 says, sun, good drainage and a not-too-rich soil are ideal conditions for prairie style planting, but if you have less than ideal conditions you can still create the look. Knowing what type of soil you have, assessing how much sun each area will get and taking into account average rainfall and temperatures for your area will help you filter out the unsuitable ones and whittle your planting list for each area down to those most likely to succeed there.

    How does your topsoil look after rain? Does it puddle on the beds or drain away quickly? Squeeze a small handful of soil and see if it is sticky and clings together, or whether it crumbles and runs through your fingers. If it is sticky clay, you would be better digging in large quantities of grit and working it right through the soil to improve drainage. Don’t add any manure or fertiliser, but cheap compost (not with added fert) worked through with the grit will also help open up the soil and improve drainage. If your soil is very sandy and free-draining you have a head start and won’t need grit, but in this instance some cheap compost worked through may help create a better planting medium without enriching it too much.

    Also, don’t worry about getting it right from the beginning, I am still shuffling around, adding and subtracting plants in my now 3-year old borders and will probably still be doing so for some time yet. By all means plan for some instant colour, but allow yourself several seasons to see what works and what doesn’t and to achieve the desired effect.
  • Sounds like I've more to think about! I've got around two tonnes of topsoil/subsoil to finish dressing the beds with- luckily it's currently raining cats and dogs (east cost of Scotland), and the topsoil seems to be draining quite well- certainly no surface water. 

    I'm not completely set on a prairie style, but think I'll use it as a general guide. Still lots of work to do!

    Priority #1 is to eventually cover that ugly fence and huge old gas box with planting!


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,605
    beautiful wall. I'm very jealous.
    Devon.
  • Hostafan1 said:
    beautiful wall. I'm very jealous.
    First time I've had a compliment on a wall! Thanks- it's several hundred years old and actually forms my kitchen and bathroom walls too!

    What would you do with it? I've left a little bed, about 1m wide, but on a slope to about 40cm up the wall. I was thinking about sticking some rocks in it to maintain the slope, but not sure what to plant around them! Directly South facing too!

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,260
    edited December 2019
    A natural wall is indeed a beautiful thing  :)
    If you have the border planted up, you probably wouldn't need anything to retain it, but a row of matching rock or similar would be nice. Only problem is edging the grass when you have anything other than a straight finish to the edging. I've got setts, which were already here, along one of my borders. They might fit well, and you can get them quite easily

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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