As more and more people use platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to get in touch and share their flower growing experiences…there has followed a whole host of photographs. This is wonderful…I love to see how customers are getting along. One thing that has struck me this season is that people often grow gazillions of seedlings of each variety they want in their flower patch…and then consequently have to pot them up…and of course find room for them all before they are hardened off to go outside.
This is one of the methods that I use…I am not a fan of potting up…I’m a slacker and I have better things to do. So I use the Higgledy Pool Table Method (HPTM)…no doubt you have heard Monty sing its praises. It is very simple and works thus:
*When scaled down, a pool table has roughly the same dimensions a seed tray…ie the length is slightly under twice the width.
*If you use, as I do, three inch square pots (or module cells) you will get 15 pots to a tray.
*Sow your seeds into these cells…and when they germinate, instead of potting on, simply dispose of all but one seedling per pot.
*In three inch pots these can grow happily for a few weeks without having to pot them up before you plant them out.
*A full seed tray of 15 seedlings will correspond approximately to covering a patch of ground equal to a pool table. Working on the theory that the vast majority of plants like a foot of space between them.
*So all one has to do is match the number of seed trays to the size of your plot…simples!*This system means you utilize all your greenhouse or windowsill space to its greatest advantage.
*If some pots are left empty…simply place them at one end of the tray and resow them…they will flower a little later…and a little longer into the season.
I know what you’re thing….Nobel Prize for Maths? I stand on the shoulders of giants…
Ben Higgledy…slightly wishing I hadn’t written this….
I am determined to keep my rows straight this year…they were far too in the spirit of Higgledy last year. I have also narrowed the beds a little and shall go back to sowing just three rows…I got a little carried away last season doing four and five row beds. They were tricky to keep weeded. Three is best…why make things more difficult.
I have some plans for half a dozen ‘seed collections’ for the shop next season…all containing ten packets each. I am trying these out this season and have sown the hardy seeds amongst them today.
I also direct sowed some Cosmos today…a bit early but it is VERY unlikely that my field will get a frost now…Cornwall is super mild…and Cosmos are pretty tough for half hardies.
This year I am mixing up all my rows…ie I’m not having a row of Cornflower and a separate row of Calendula etc…but instead I am mixing up the seed so my beds produce a meadow vibe. I wouldn’t do this if I was growing flowers commercially but for a domestic cut flower patch it’s pretty groovy.
*Make double super sure…no question…100%….treble checked….that your bed is weed free. Get those pesky native weeds out of there….there is plenty of room for them elsewhere. Take your time doing this…time spent doing this now will save you ten times more time later on.
*Never sow into cold wet soil…the seeds don’t like it…and who could blame them. As a general rule, the middle of April is fine for most of the UK…a little earlier here in Cornwall….and a little later in the northern parks of our fair Isles. If you are unsure…then leave it. Don’t feel there is a mad rush to get your seeds in….later sown seeds will be fine and produce flowers for longer into the late summer and autumn. I happily sow seeds all the way through May and even early June.
*Only broadcast seed if you know the difference between a weed seedling and a flower seedling…if you don’t…you’re in trouble and if you haven’t got your bed weed free to start off with you may as well give up your flower growing career and join the Foreign Legion.
*Sow in straight lines a foot apart…this simple tip will save you an awful lot of bother…you can easily see what are your flower seedlings as they grow.
*After germination, wait a couple of weeks or more before thinning….most annuals need about a foot between plants…I don’t stake my plants and instead grow them a little closer together…about a hand span BUT I still leave a foot between rows so I can easily run a hoe down them.
*Keep seed beds gently watered if it’s dry…hopefully you will have April showers…this is by far and away the best water for your seedlings…it’s warm and springy. Best not to water seedlings from a water butt as these can have microbes in that the seedlings don’t like….save harvested water for more robust plants.
*Note that as a rule ‘Half hardy annuals’ are usually best started off inside…in a greenhouse or on a windowsill and then planted out after the frosts…most places in the UK will get light frosts in the first fortnight of May.
*Hardy annuals can be sown direct in Autumn using the exact method prescribed here…a hard winter…or a wet one for that matter can rather spoil things however……gggggggggggggrrrrrrrr!
Claire from Plantpassion is cooking up a blog post on direct sowing very soon and it will be worth a read…Claire is a mighty fine grower and knows her stuff…’check it out’…as the cool kids say.
I shall have another bash at getting more hardies sown over the weekend….or I may have a couple of light ales………
PS Here’s a list of the hardies I sowed today:
Borage, Malope, Cornflowers, Calendula, Dill, Nigella, Godetia, Chrysanthemum, Larkspur, Gypsophila, Phacelia, Eschscholzia, Scabiosa, Iberis (Candytuft).
It was great Auntie Foxtrot-Higgledy the world famous explorer and discoverer or coffee and walnut cake who was the first of the Higgledy’s to grow Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ having brought seeds back from a trip into darkest Central America.
Now…neither Auntie Foxtrot or indeed myself are going to suggest that ‘Heavenly Blue’ makes a great cut flower…but…if you’re feeling flash then you can float them in shallow bowls whilst you do hot yoga or Jazzercise-Zumber-Boxing…this floating of flowers is very popular in lifestyle magazines and also in Bexleyheath.
Floaty flowers aside…I grow Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ just because it’s just the most immaculate blue flower in the whole wide world….plus…it’s my shop…I’ll sell what I like.
*Ipomoea is another one of those seeds that seed companies enjoy telling you to soak…or scratch with a knife….or both…under a full moon…singing ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon’…blah blah. Just keep them moist under a shallow covering of compost…give them a little warmth…a windowsill is fine if you don’t have a greenhouse. All will be well.
*Foxtrot sowed hers in the middle of April….you can sow earlier BUT you can’t put the plants out until the frosts are over as they LOATH the cold…she would put hers out at the end of May after getting them used to the perils of the outside world by leaving them out during the day.
*This year I have sowed about 40 for the walled gardens at Port Elliot for their festival….now I am having to manage this year without any sort of greenhouse or polytunnel (ours blew away)…which is more fun than you think if you have the right mindset. I have germinated mine in the warmth of the cottage…then I take the (Large) tray outside during the day if it feels warm enough. Cornwall is milder than most of the UK so I feel confident that they will be ok. ….famous last words…..
*When planting Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’ outside…give them about of foot a space between plants…and give them something to climb up.
*Also plant them where they will get lorry loads of beautiful sunshine.
*The amazing flowers from ‘Heavenly Blue’…bloom in the morning and fade in the evening…wonderful…ephemeral…worth taking a day off to watch whilst sipping Martinis in the sun.
*Many growers start them in Autumn and overwinter them in the greenhouse…I have never done this and so can’t comment…well…I WILL comment….it sounds faffy to me.
Why not try Ipomoea with the swimmingly marvellous Mina Lobata ‘Exotic Love’ for a hot and cold sort of planty romance?
Have fun annual climber-ing my friends.
Granddad Samson-Higgledy the Victorian cut flower grower and showman to the stars showed me how to grow Mina Lobata blindfolded and whilst tied to a moving steam train. The name Mina Lobata seems to have been changed to Ipomoea Lobata by the good people of the Ministry for Fiddling About….here at Hiiggledy I refer to it as Mina…or ‘Spanish Flag’.
Mina Lobata is a native of Mexico and is a fan of twining itself up and around over things,,,a half hardy annual climber….in fact it is in the Morning Glory family…despite not having the usual saucer shaped flowers. Instead its blooms cascade from a flaming, lava red…to Jafa orange..fading to cream.
Reginald Samson-Higgledy often used Mina Lobata in his world famous displays despite those around him saying the climbing annual was not suitable for cutting. He said it stirred a fire into the embers of lack lustre displays and as it flowered for months on end was a great addition to a sheltered cut flower patch.
He informed me that whilst many gardening folk would soak the seeds or scratch them with a knife…he would simply sow them as usual into seed compost to about three times their depth and keep the compost moist until after germination.
Reg always sowed in the last fortnight of April…usually after he had sown his hardy annuals outdoors.
He would sow a single seed into a three inch pot.
After germination he would keep the compost a little bit drier than usual…this he said kept it slightly warmer which Miss Lobata was fond of.
Granddad was careful not to put the plants out to early and would often leave it until early June to avoid any cold May nights and he would leave the plants outside during the day for 10 days before planting out.
A sunny and sheltered spot was always reserved…space them about a foot apart and give them something to climb up.
These wonderful plants can grow up to 6 feet in the UK.
His plants would flower until Christmas and were the talk of Europe and some say even beyond that.
NB Modern day growers often place their seed trays in poly bags to keep the moisture in…I don’t…seems not to matter…but just so you know.
I of course sell wonderful Mina Lobata seeds at £1.95 for 15 seeds.
I have just this morning sown up a tray…very much looking forward to welcoming the plant back into the garden.
Have fun one and all.
It has taken a while for the ground to dry out enough for me to sow seeds in my cutting patch. Breaking the soil down to a tilth has been impossible and trying to work wet soil does it no favours but today I was able to make a good start. I began with my ‘Bee Friendly Collection’
The beds here are slightly wider than I would choose…but being given the choice of digging them all over by hand over a couple of weeks or have @tenminutegardener run over them in his tractor pulling a wonderful Japanese rotavator and it take ten minutes…it was not hard to choose. The rotavator is probably just under two metres wide.
Last year I broke my cardinal rule of three rows and instead opted for 4 and even five rows per bed…it was fine but weeding was an issue. This field was a horse field just weeks before I started growing on it last April…so you can imagine the amount of weeds I have had…all rotavated in to the beds….keeps a chap on his toes.
This year I have decided to go back to three rows and encourage the grass to grow from the paths and made the beds a little narrower.
Today I have been sowing:
Sunflower ‘Valentine’, Nigella ‘Dark Blue’, Corncockles, Cornflower ‘Black Ball’, Zinnia ‘Cactus’ (It is VERY early to direct sow Zinnia but Cornwall is very mild and I may get away with it…don’t forget I have heaps of seeds! I would advise customers not to direct sow until mid May…and only then if the weather man says there are no frosts predicted in the coming week) Borage, Phacelia, Eschscholzia and Iberis.
I mixed up all my seeds as I like random chaotic beds…but I still sow them in rows…this makes weeding 38.4 gazillion times easier…simply remove anything that is not growing along your lines. NEVER broadcast sow if you don’t know what your flower seedlings look like when compared to a weed…we’ve all done it…nothing to be ashamed of….move on.
Only give your seeds a light covering of soil…too deep and they will run out of energy before they reach the surface…and if they do make it…they will probably hate you.
If I am feeling ‘string rich’ then I leave the lines in place until germination happens.
This is the technique that I shall be using for the ‘Higgledy Mega Bed Of Mesmerizing Beauty’ for the world famous Port Elliot festival this year.
Here is a link to my ‘Bee & Butterfly Collection’.
You can direct sow (Straight into the soil) your Hardy annuals all the way through April and into May.
So if you are of a mind then please visit my seedy shop: Higgledy Seed Emporium.
To see how other customers are getting on this season, then pop over to view the ‘Sunday Night Picture Show’.