How to plant poppies
I’m often asked by visitors to the garden why their poppy seed hasn’t germinated. The most common mistake is that people bury the seed rather than sow it. Most poppy seed is best sown when the weather cools down in autumn although peony poppies can be sown right up to the end of winter.
Poppy seed is very fine, almost dust like, and needs light to germinate. The seed needs to be sown on the surface of the soil. It may help to mix the seed with a little fine sand and sprinkle this on the surface of the garden. I don’t bother doing that but just put a small pinch of seed on top of cleared soil every 30cm or so.
In recent years I have had to turn the sprinklers on to the garden before sowing because autumn has been so dry. After sowing I gently watered the seed with a fine rosed watering can. After sowing the soil surface has to be kept moist until germination takes place which is generally within a couple of weeks. Care must be taken with watering as the seed being so fine will wash out if it gets a too enthusiastic drenching.
Once the seed has germinated the area around the seedlings has to be kept clean of weeds.
When the poppies produce their first true leaves I remove all but one plant for each 30cms. This thinning isn’t strictly necessary but the resulting plants will be stronger and produce more flowers than if they are left congested.