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How to Direct-Sow Seeds in Iowa

Plant seeds directly in the ground for lots of flowers easily and inexpensively!

Renees seed packet Seed starting doesn’t always have to mean fussy trays and grow lights. Some seeds do well if you plant them directly in the soil outside, the way you might green beans or lettuce.

However, different seeds germinate best in different temperatures. Check out the list below for the best seeds to direct-sow when the weather is cooler or warmers:

Cool-Season Annual Flowers to Direct Sow
Plant in late April
Bachelor’s buttons
California poppy
Larkspur
Nasturtiums
Sweet peas

Warm-Season Annuals to Direct Sow
Plant in late May or early June
Cosmos
Hollyhocks
Marigolds
Sunflowers
Zinnias

However, it’s not as easy as just digging a hole and burying the seeds. Follow these tips:

• Plant in rich, loose soil that’s been well-weeded in an open, bare area, such as a vegetable garden. Don’t make the seeds compete with nearby flowers or other plants.
• Consider planting rows in your vegetable garden so you’ll have armloads of flowers for cutting in a couple of months.
• Plant at the depth and spacing recommended on the seed packet (though some seed packets are more thorough than others.) If they’re small, mix in with a teaspoon or two of sugar to help disperse the seed more evenly.
• Mark the seeds so you don’t lose track!
• For the first couple of weeks, keep the soil lightly and evenly moist—critical for good germination. 
• You may need to “thin” the seeds—that is, pull out the tiny seedlings and leave some of the strongest so they have plenty of room to grow and thrive. Again, with luck, this will be specified on the seed packet.

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