What‘s a gardener to do when you look out the window but the weather just won’t let you get serious about planting anything yet? You put in breadseed poppies, officially Papaver somniferum. Yep — the same ones that show up on bagels and all other sorts of food. Except this time they turn into magnificent garden flowers, the easiest flower of all to get going.
What makes it so easy is they actually plant themselves. You somewhat direct them to where you want them to go. Then they are on their own.
These annual poppies need light to germinate so don’t cover them up: just gently press them into the ground like you do grass seed so they make seed-to-soil contact. It’s the thawing and freezing action we get this time of year that does all the work for you and “plants” them. You simply sprinkle them on the ground as it thaws.
The seeds are teeny tiny black dots, no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence so you may not see where you place them. Some gardeners mix them with sand so they can see where they have worked. They mix the sand (from the craft store) with the seeds into an old spice jar and get better control of the sprinkle. I like to pinch and drop like I’m seasoning with kosher salt.
They don’t transplant well so sow the seeds where you want them — in a large grouping for effect, in a sunny, well drained spot. Mark the spot where you put them so you don’t disturb that area and weed out the seedlings when they show up once the soil warms. A few extra weeds won’t be a problem once you recognize the poppies. Also know that if they flower during a spell of windy weather, your enjoyment will be short lived. They are delicate and fleeting, but oh, so lovely.
The last thing you need to know is that once you have them, you will always have them. That’s why they are called POPPIES — they will continue to pop up, year after year unless you do major renovation with a backhoe! And you will look forward to seeing them and love them each season as will all your garden buddies with whom you share the seeds.
By Lorraine Ballato, garden writer and author