A Cunning Plan?

CuttingBedsNot so much cunning, but at least it is A Plan – which is more than be said of my cutting bed activities so far. Julie of Peonies and Posies is posting a review of her cutting beds today so I made a bit of an effort to get some sort of organisation into mine. I may be up to date on my sowing (listed under the ‘Sowing 2014-15‘ tab), but until today I had little clue where the resultant plants were going to end up, or whether I would even have room for them all! It was more a matter of – ‘ooh it would nice to grow those’, ‘they would like nice in a vase’, ‘they’re free, I’ll have them’ or ‘yes please, I would love some of your seeds’ – you know the sort of thing….

This week I planted out the rest of the late summer sown Sweet Williams, centaurea, Poppy ‘Swansdown’ and Californian Poppy ‘Ivory Castle’, mostly elsewhere in the garden, but I could have incorporated them into the cutting beds if I had prepared a plan earlier so I will have learned from this for next year. Once I had drawn up the basic plan, I divided the beds into sections a little less than 0.5m square and, having IMG_4509roughly listing the seeds by colour and height, I allocated them each a section (the number of plants per section will vary). The original intention was to plant dahlias in the corner bed where the rhubarb used to be, but with alliums and tulips already planted here incorporating dahlias later would be too disruptive (there are in fact more than 4 dahlias to find homes for but the others can go somewhere else – don’t know where yet!).

Of course not all the seedlings may successfully reach planting out stage, but coincidentally there was just enough space to allocate a section to all the seeds I am growing so far! It will be some weeks before any more seedlings are ready to be planted out, but November sown Ammi visnaga and Bupleurium are looking promising, whilst  sweet peas sown at the same time have put on a spurt and probably desperately want to get going in the big wide world (some to be planted against the fence that edges most of the cutting beds). Cerinthe seedlings also look sturdy, unlike previous attempts.

APlan.1Included in the list of seeds planted this year is a key to say whether they were last year’s seeds, seeds collected, freebies or for a Which? Gardening trial. Most of the seed sown from left over packets still germinated, but not always reliably. Seed was collected from Ruby Eclipse and Topolino sunflowers, but the latter were obviously not completely dry when packaged and have rotted but the Ruby Eclipse seeds are doing well. Most seeds germinated within 3-5 days on my ‘contraption’ next to the Aga and were immediately moved to the greenhouse, and there have been virtually no failures – although it IMG_4500took about a fortnight before nigella seeds began to show in any quantity. Seeds sown in quarter trays have been pricked out as  soon as they have their first pair of true leaves, usually within 2-3 weeks, and keeping records of these timings will be helpful in future. The slowest progress is from antirrhinums which germinated promptly but are still not ready to be pricked out, despite being sown in early February. Perhaps someone can tell me if this is the norm?

Having just sown larkspur seeds today for the first time I note from the packet than they can also be sown in late summer for earlier flowering – looking into what else can be sown then or in autumn is a definite must, as my late 2014 sowings have been very successful. Last year, with no real plan at all and some very dodgy compost the cutting beds were far from productive. This year, with half a plan and better compost things are looking more promising and my knowledge and experience are growing. I wonder how other bloggers are getting on with their cutting beds? Do have a look at Julie’s blog where they will be leaving links in due course and to see her progress too – there is something for us all to learn from these shared experiences.


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26 Responses to A Cunning Plan?

  1. Christina says:

    Good to hear you have completely resolved the compost issue. Perhaps it was too rich, seeds don’t like that. I’m probably going to be out of action for the next few days; a house full of visiting friends and family and a big birthday to celebrate for my husband. I will be doing vases this weekend but I’ll probably have to share them on Tuesday.

    • Cathy says:

      Hope you have a lovely time with family and friend and that your husband enjoys all the Big Birthday fuss! Re compost, The Consumer Association’s Which? team have done an even bigger investigation into composts and variation across brands and are pushing for dated bags. Mine (meant to be a Best Buy) was definitely not at the rich end of the spectrum! So far so good this year, and I am using the same compost I used for my autumn sowings which have thrived.

  2. rusty duck says:

    Looking good Baldrick 🙂

  3. Julie says:

    Cathy that is such an organised plan – far more detailed than anything I have done. You are going to have so much to cut this year and such a lovely variety of shapes and colours. I can see that you have included the quaking grass and both red and green amaranthus – all great additions to a vase. Also Bells of Ireland – a favourite green filler of mine. Don’t worry about the anthirrhinums – although they are a half hardy annual, early sowing is recommended because they are so slow to get going.

    • Cathy says:

      It just means that I won’t be shoving things in anywhere, which is what would have happened otherwise – definitely no real foresight! And there’s still a long way to go so there’s no guarantee there will be plants in every section- but I would be thrilled if there was!! Thanks for the reassurance about the antirrhinum

  4. Brian Skeys says:

    That is a very comprehensive plan. We gardeners always seem to desire more plants than we have room for. A plan should help solve that!!!

    • Cathy says:

      Not quite like that though, Brian, as I had acquired all the seeds already with no thought of where I was going to put them – but yes, planting out will now be organised when the time comes!

  5. susan troccolo says:

    Your seedlings look so healthy! With the book writing, I’m not able to start my garden from seed this year, but certainly have in years past. Brian is right, we gardeners always have too many plants! Our eyes are bigger than our space…Your plan is brilliant.

  6. rickii says:

    I am in awe of anyone who can actually come up with a plan and stick to it.

    • Cathy says:

      I can be quite methodical when needs must, rickii, but my planting tends to be a bit ad hoc so I have taken myself in hand with these cutting beds

  7. Pauline says:

    This all looks terribly organised! I’m sure it will all look wonderful in the summer, I will look forward to the photos!

  8. hoehoegrow says:

    They all look so lovely and healthy, especially the cerinthes. Mine always look a bit sad and straggly and I have very mixed results from them when they are planted out, depending, I think, on the warmth of the summer. You are going to have some fabulous colourful beds, and armfuls of cut flowers to enjoy!

    • Cathy says:

      previous years my cerinthe has been quite leggy because I didn’t move them into the light early enough; last year was a better start but they suffered from the compost debacle and didn’t thrive 😦 Like most gardeners I am optimistic and full of hope that everything will be better this year, hence the hopeful plan! No guarantee of colourful beds and armfuls of flowers, lovely though the idea is! 🙂

  9. Excellent looking plan, look forward to seeing the results! It will be an observational activity with me this year, too much going adjusting to work to invest in cutting garden with any degree of focus, I’ll be happy if I can keep on top of the weeding and manage to grow some salad leaves and broad beans!!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks – I hope the results justify the belated plan! At least if you are able to accept the needs of the work adjustment focus, then it will be easier to just stick to the basics – do find time to still walk round your garden and enjoy it

  10. Anna says:

    Such industry and organisation puts me to shame Cathy. You cutting bed is going to have the wow factor come summer. I will peruse your seed sowing list later. My seed sowing is still in single digits but I have some compost warming up to make some sowings this afternoon. It’s a most miserable day here but the greenhouse is almost a leap from the back door 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      Did you manage to leap to the greenhouse, Anna – or perhaps a gust of wind blew you there?! And believe me, no shame is required, as it was really a case of putting some order into what would otherwise have been a dog’s dinner!

  11. I agree it is good to start with a plan even if we change it….I still have no idea where I am planting my flower seeds…I think I will stick mostly to containers this year as I work on making some cutting beds in the garden.

    • Cathy says:

      I would have been in danger of just shoving things in anywhere otherwise, like I have done in the past! What sort of containers will be using?

  12. wellywoman says:

    All looks very exciting. Antirrhinums can be slow but mine sown in mid Feb have a couple of sets of leaves now and have been pricked out and potted on. Your seedlings look healthy though. Are they in the greenhouse and if so is it heated? Mine are on my kitchen windowsill. Perhaps the cold nights have held back growth. It’s still chilly for the time of year. Maybe bringing them in somewhere warmer for a few weeks will get them growing. Larkspur do very well from an autumn sowing. 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      Hmm, don’t they get a bit lanky on the windowsill? Of the 3 colours of the twinny ones I have the pink ones are just getting their first true leaves but the white and yellow are very tiny. I was just a little concerned as the ones I sowed last year did not thrive but they are still alive and although only small look quite healthy. I haven’t grown larkspur before but have just sown some last week – will do an autumn sowing this year. Thanks for the advice.

  13. jenhumm116 says:

    Ooh I do love a plan. It’s something I haven’t yet done for my cutting flowers, and yet I keep sowing the seeds…..
    I’m hoping I’ll have access to the area in my neighbours’ walled garden again, but I haven’t spoken to them recently. I think a coffee invite and some tasty cake is in order – fingers crossed!

    • Cathy says:

      Even though the plan was made after all the seeds were purchased and planted It will really help me be sensible about planting them out when the time comes. Oh, and I do hope you get to use your neighbour’s garden again too – I suppose you can’t just take it for granted.

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