MIKE I’ANSON, of Helmsley Walled Garden, sows the seeds of gardening success.

Remus is my garden cat. He only has one fang tooth, but he still manages to bring back a young rabbit to dine upon on our patio. Why do they always leave the tail? Anyway, like the rest of us he is now that little slower, spends that little longer resting, but nonetheless still goes on his daily patrol of the g arden warding off other cats.

While Remus and I have been together for 15 years, some plants in our garden only live for one year. These are annuals and they germinate, develop from seedling to full-grown plant, flower and set seed. There are two kinds of annuals; hardy annuals that can withstand frost and are sown direct into the soil in late March, some even in September.

The second group is half-hardy annuals. To be successful with these we have to sow under glass and grow-on under protection until the risk of frost has passed.

For the hardy annuals some easy choices are English marigold and cornflower, but why not try Anchusa capensis “Blue Angel”? It will grow to 40cm high and bears dark blue forget-me-not-like flowers. Another to try is the annual chrysanthemum C. carinatum “Court Jester”, showy flowers that hold three colours.

To sow these hardy annuals, select a day when the soil is neither sticking to your shoes nor dust dry.

Over an area of soil of about one square metre, remove all weeds and large stones. If you have some dry plant food, such as blood, fish and bone, apply at half the rate the packet advises and rake in.

We do not want to feed annuals excessively, we want them to flower well and placing them under some stress by keeping them a bit hungry helps, feed them too well and you end up with lots of foliage and little flower.

Now tread the soil surface down. Your forking has added air to the soil, but also large air pockets. Treading removes the gaps while retaining air in smaller pores. Once trod, gently rake the surface; if you have no rake or it is in the shed at the bottom of the garden, then loosen the soil with the back of your fork.

Now with a stick scratch a series of arcs 15mm deep and pinch into the scraping you annual seed, sow the seed at 25mm spacing and lightly draw back the soil over them and down with the back of your rake. If the seed is really small, mix with sand for ease of sowing.

You don’t need to water in if the soil is not dust dry. The seeds will germinate in the arc you drew making them easy to identify from the weeds that need removing to keep your display at its best.

Hardy annuals are a valuable addition to the garden and so is Remus, who I will miss when he’s gone. I will not, however, miss his use of my freshly-sown annual bed as a toilet.