1: SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING. Obviously you will get more flowers from a bigger patch but if you only have a few square metres to spare you can still have lashings of flowers. Chose cut and come again flowers like…Cornflowers, calendulas, zinnias, cerinthe and cosmos.
2: THREE IN A BED. A good rule of thumb is to make your beds about three feet wide. This lets you have three rows of flowers at a foot apart that you can easily reach from each side.
3: STRAIGHT LINES ROCK! Lose the idea that you can scatter your seed willy nilly whilst singing 1970’s Coca-Cola jingles and then return in 12 weeks to a flower patch. The chances are that weeds will have out competed your flowers…why? Because that is their job and they are good at it…respect your weeds. Sowing in straight lines makes it REALLY easy for the novice to work out what is a weed and what is not. Simples.
4: DON’T SOW TOO EARLY. By far and away the biggest failure cause for flower seed not germinating is that it is sown in cold damp soil. Don’t be fooled by a few sunny days in March. For most of the UK I wouldn’t suggest spring sowing (outdoors) until mid April. You will know when the soil is ready because our old chums the native weeds will be beginning to show themselves. To expect your seeds to germinate before them is foolish…and I can promise you that even if a few of them do germinate they will flower only a day or so behind later sown seeds.
5: SOW LATE! Keep some seed back for sowing in late May…this way you will have flowers flowering away until right up to the frosts. I sowed in late June as an experiment and have got a wonderful fresh looking be;d of flowers as we speak. (Though smaller plants than normal)
6: BE ARTISTIC. When it comes to arranging your flowers don’t listen to anyone else…do what you want…let yourself go…it is an art from and should be treated as such…express yourself…be silly….have a bottle of wine. Or ignore all that and follow the rules….yawn… ;)
7: WAR ON WEEDS. In the cutting patch at least, weeds are your enemy…they will thieve light, nutrients and water from your seedlings and they will thieve from you all your dignity and self respect when your flowers capitulate to them. This battle must be won!…keep at it early on in the season and the problem will go away…leave it too late and the whole street will be laughing at you behind your back. You have been warned.
8: TOP WEED TIP: Dig over your bed in late March and thoroughly weed it…rake it flat and make sure the soil is down to a fine tilth…then leave it….every week come back a hoe it gently…not going too deeply as this will bring other seeds up to the surface. Then hoe once more before sowing…this will knock down your weed problem by 76.4%.
9: DON’T SOW TOO DEEP. A seed must not be confused with a mole….don’t bury the poor thing so deep it is getting third degree magma burns. A rule of thumb is three times it’s depth…naturally this is pretty impossible to achieve…SO…this is how I do it. Mark out your line with a taught piece of string that runs along the ground. With a stick, scrape a VERY shallow ‘drill’ along the string. PREWATER this before sowing….this stops your seeds being flushed away when you water….rake over the drill very gently to cover the seeds.
10: SOME SEEDS NEED TO BE SURFACE SOWN: Most seeds need darkness to germinate…some need light. Usually it is the tiny dinky winky seeds that shouldn’t be buried…seeds like snapdragon and nicotiana. HOWEVER if you are sowing mixed rows, as I often do…just ignore this as just by the law of averages, some won’t be buried by your raking. Obviously if you are sowing in pots in the greenhouse you will have more control over this.
11: SUNSHINE: Just about every single flower that you will be growing in the cutting patch will do best in full sun.
12: ANNUAL FLOWERS ROCK! I grow very few perennials in the cutting patch. Annuals are MUCH more productive and generally will keep providing you with flowers all summer long. Also you can have a different selection every season…seeds are as cheap as chips. …and I know a very nice man who will sell you some.
13: BE MEAN! On the whole flowers like a poorish soil with regard to nutrients….dig manure in and you will give them too much nitrogen…this will make them produce loads of leaves…but few flowers. However…keep the soil in good order…home made compost is good but add lots of bulk to it like straw or newspaper to keep the richness down.
14: WATER. Use harvested water where possible…it is usually warmer and your flowers like it. Don’t allow seed beds to dry out. When the plants are all grown up I stop watering entirely..all but the most severe drought would damage them.
15; ENJOY YOURSELF. Cheesy as it sounds…this flower growing malarky is a journey…all parts of it…weeding included, can be enjoyed. I enjoying preparing and sowing up seed beds just as much as I enjoy harvesting.
16: BE SMUG. Producing your own cut flowers rather than buying in rubbish that has been flown in from Columbia is very rewarding….feel good about this. Take some round to a neighbour…they will invite you in for tea and you can just sit there and be smug for ages whilst they can only dream that one day they could be like you.
Please visit my Higgledy Garden Seed Shop and spend spend spend. ;)
I hope these 16 top tips are of some help. :)
January 28, 2015 @ 11:44 pm
Thank you, my seeds arrived today, I love your packaging! I also love the fact that you put a hand-written letter inside, so personal! Lovely to deal with such a good company! Looking forward to seeing lots of colour in the Summer.
May 11, 2014 @ 10:13 am
I wish I had read your list before I threw my seeds in “willy nilly” in a random fashion…..I have lots of little seedlings coming up around my perennials, but until they flower, I have no idea what’s going to have flowers and what’s a weed!
I WILL remember this point next year ;)
“Can I sow Up A Cut Flower Patch In May?” | Higgledy Garden
April 29, 2014 @ 4:08 pm
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March 8, 2014 @ 11:08 am
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October 20, 2013 @ 9:00 am
brilliant post! very informative. i have managed to convince my hubby that as we arent doing the driveway on the front garden till next autumn at least i can have a cutting patch on the south facing front garden! plus still gonna have a patch out the back too. whoop whoop bring on spring!
October 18, 2013 @ 10:13 pm
Hi Ben. Seeds arrived today. Shall probably wait until May before sowing and (after reading your advice) in straight lines. I have enough seeds for my plot and the garden (shall be digging up the lawn). Hurry up spring x
October 17, 2013 @ 10:07 am
Higgledy Ben, in the picture with ‘Harry twelve hats’ it looks like you’ve sown in blocks not rows. I’ve sown mine in rows but just realised that I need to make sure the inner row is now going to be shorter flowers than the outer rows. This is a cunning plan of yours to sow the same in each row/patch – I like it!
October 17, 2013 @ 12:24 pm
they are still in rows…ie there are three rows going through the bed but I have different varieties in them. In fact most of that lot were started undercover…certainly the rudbeckia and the dahlias etc….but then I plant them out in exactly the same rows as I would have sown them…if you see what i mean…when plants get big it is impossible to see they started life in rows. :)
October 17, 2013 @ 6:55 am
Great advice as always Ben … I didn’t know about the nitrogen bit, so you are a world dominating flower grower AND a geek … Swoon ( !!!!)
October 17, 2013 @ 12:24 pm
I do my best…. ;)
October 16, 2013 @ 3:54 pm
Great post with sound advice – thank you. Will you be doing a post later about a good selection to carry us through from early summer to late autumn (not too difficult to grow ones, that is). I will be giving up one of my veg beds next year to devote to cut flowers now that I no longer have an allotment so the space will be limited.
October 17, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
pretty much everything I sell will go from early…or mid summer through until the frosts…but I shall be adding posts all winter long…it keeps me from mischief… ;)
October 16, 2013 @ 3:05 pm
Great post, Benjamin. You have inspired me! I am just trying to figure out where we could fit a cutting garden for next year…
October 17, 2013 @ 12:25 pm
Dig up the lawn….lawns are soooooooo last year.