This season I have been trying out a new idea. Most of my customers aren’t lucky enough to have greenhouses, so I do without one myself…keep a level playing field and all that. I have tried various of the plastic grow tunnels of varying sizes….most blew away in the storms that rush off the Atlantic Ocean and send all my outdoor possessions towards Devon.
This year it came to mind to try out growing seedlings in storage boxes. Can you imagine just how smug I felt when the plan came together? If you could produce electricity from smugness I could have powered I small seaside town through a cold Christmas.
The only modification I have made is to put holes in the bottom for drainage. You could drill these holes…I melted mine with a red hot poker that I heated up in the wood burner. There are health and safety issues when one welds a red hot burning poker but I did mine blindfold at the tail end of a meth and tequila binge…and no one died.
Why this is a genius idea:
*Seedlings are kept double super cosy and warm.
*Slugs and other pesky wildlife have a tricky time getting in the boxes to cause trouble.
*The lids can be taken off when it’s warm and sunny…or left on if it’s raining.
*If a sharp frost is forecast…just bring the boxes indoors and stack them up.
*After you plant out your seedlings you can use the box to store a massive packed lunch.
*These boxes are made by ‘The Really Useful Box Company’ and they are 64 litres. They cost about £12 each. They take 40 x 3inch square pots snugly. This covers just over four square meters of cut flower patch.
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PS It’s not too late to sow seeds for a cutting patch. I sow throughout May. If you fancy a shot at it please visit my seed shop.
We have taken a totally different approach to the cut flower patch of the walled garden at Port Eliot this season. Usually I would use the tried and tested method of direct sowing in straight lines a foot apart and filling any gaps, where there is poor germination, from seedlings that have been started undercover (mainly half hardy annuals).
This season we are looking for more height and flounce (and less cornflowers that took over last year!) The beds in the walled garden are pretty much weed free, this makes it much easier to simply scatter seeds as the danger of them being out competed by weeds is far lower than say, my allotment, which is a weed fest.
The main bulk of the scattered seeds are Larkspur, Ammi majus (which flowers earlier than it’s brother visnaga), Daucus carota (wild carrot…not the popular purple one…but the more rustic pale one) and Dill ‘Mammoth’.
I have 1000 seedlings that are presently being pampered undercover at the Higgledy HQ which include: Zinnia, Rudbeckia, Nicotiana, Sunflowers, Cosmos, Tithonia, Malope, Chrysanthemum and Lupins. The intention is let these chaps wriggle away undercover and slowly trickle them out into the garden from mid May.
So much of the timing being right for the festival, at the end of July, is in the hands of the Goddess Flora and she can be a mischievous little Imp…she sends some flowers too early…and others too late. This season I have made a sacrifice in her honour and helped provide 51,000 packets of bee friendly seeds to the good people of 38 Degrees for their ‘Save The Bees Campaign’...so hopefully she will pat me on the head, tickle me on the chin and help my flowers strut their funky chicken.
I shall be visiting Port Eliot next week and will report on if we have any germination from the direct sown seeds.
NB There is still plenty of time for you to sow your seeds…I haven’t sown any directly into the ground in my own flower garden yet (Port Eliot being a walled garden is much warmer)…the soil here is still a little wet and cold…I’ll give it another week….no rush.
First off the bat my dear chums, you should be aware I am sowing super early in an attempt to ensure I have some Zinnia flowering their socks off for the Port Eliot Festival beds at the end of July. Usually I would hold off sowing for another couple of weeks and if I was sowing directly into the ground I would leave it until the end of April.
Zinnias are horti-famous for not liking root disturbance. With this in mind I have sown the little madams into fibre pots. I am using New Horizon Peat free compost for all my sowing this year. This compost has had very mixed reviews in the past but thus far, for me at least, it has been capital.
I am a fan of a square pot as they have fewer places for snails and slugs to hide…a chap knows what’s what when he is employing a square pot method. These beige rascals are made by a company called Kingfisher. They cost £2.99 for 36 pots. I’m sure you can find cheaper ones but I was in my local garden centre where one has to spend a few quid every visit or be haunted by the village elf.
I have found myself in the habit of germinating seeds indoors where I can keep an eye on them and ensure they are behaving according to the strict rules of the Higgledy Garden. As soon as Furface sees the first green growth he alerts me with a predetermined coded whistle and we move the tray into the light and glory that is the coldframe/seedling tunnel. Here they will stay until toward the end of May. Well…that’s the theory.
If you wish to direct sow your Zinnia in the soil, which is often the recommended method, I should wait until towards the end of April. Soil should be rich in organic matter and the bed should get full sun. I sow plants to about a foot apart.
Zinnias are very productive beasties, so keep harvesting the flowers and they will keep coming for yonks.
Utilising A Seedling Grow Tunnel. Higgledy Flower School. #34.
These type of tunnels can be a really cost effective way of managing a reasonable size cutting patch if you haven’t got a greenhouse. I think they’re great. I’ve had troubles with the larger walk in versions with ripping and getting blown away in the storms that come of the Atlantic down here in Cornwall. With these small ones….if a big storm is coming I simply take them down and move the seedling trays to a sheltered spot.
I paid just under £30 from my local garden centre for this one…you may find them cheaper online. This is made by ‘Grow It’ and they call it a ‘Seedling Cloche’.
Initially I was disappointed that it didn’t quite fit a ‘Garden Tray’ (I think that’s what they’re called…the trays that carry four seed trays) without having to sit on the metal tubing…however this has turned out to be a plus as it keeps the tray off the cold ground and also weighs down and secures the whole structure.
Without too much trouble I can fit 270 three inch square pots into it. Roughly enough plants to fill a thirty by one metre cutting bed.
The front opens up which makes watering easier…and I can leave it open for a week or so whilst I am hardening the plants off ready to plant out. It makes life very simple. After everything has been planted out after mid May I can simply take it down and store it in the shed.
This season I am germinating most of my seedlings in the house which is a pretty consistent 19 degrees…and then putting the trays into the Grow Tunnel. I am starting seeds off early than it is wise to…this is because I need them early for the Port Eliot Festival….I would certainly have more success if I held off for a couple of weeks or more. April is best for this kind of caper.
Last year’s bucket garden was a resounding success…the vast majority of the flowers seemed to thrive in it and I loved doing it.
I tried it out because I hadn’t grown a cut flower patch in containers before and I get asked regularly if it is possible. Yes I had a few failures…my Nasturtiums failed to do anything remotely entertaining and my Craspedia didn’t get off the blocks but other than that all was hunky dory. I don’t think the Nasturtiums liked the richness of the compost…I’m about to sow up a bucket of them using soil from the garden…it could well be the same issue with the Craspedia.
It goes without saying that bucket gardens can be great for those with balconies or patios…but they must get lots of sun. Being that they are easy to put anywhere…perhaps they might be useful for those not physically abled to get out into the garden…buckets can be close in to the house…and of course they stand a good foot higher than the ground.
Last year I think I had about 20 buckets…this year I am going to up that a little….oh yes…I like to live dangerously….30…maybe 40….who can tell the bounds of my buckety dreams.
Buckets. £1 each…I got mine from a market/shop in Redruth…but I think B&Q sell £1 builder’s buckets too.
Compost. £10 for two bags of New Horizon Peat Free Compost (organic too as it happens…but the peat free bit is the most important bit to me.) Two bags of 50 litres will fill five buckets…so that’s £2 per bucket.
Seeds. £2ish per variety of flower…you will only use a tiny fraction of a packet so share them with your chums and the cost will be negligible…but lets call it 50p for argument’s sake.
Thus…each bucket of flowering wonder will cost £3.50.
NB You MUST put holes in your buckets for drainage. I melted holes with a rod of burning hot iron straight out of the woodburner which made me feel very macho.
I have started several buckets of sweet peas… a couple of buckets of Calendula and Cornflowers…but bear in mind I’m right down in deepest Cornwall…if I was ‘up country’ I wouldn’t bother sowing anything until well into April. Keeping a couple of buckets to sow up in May will of course extend your flowering season.
Wherever you are in the world…rest assured I shall keep you abreast of all bucket garden developments as they happen.