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Sowing & Growing Update - 14th August 2023



What a month, rain, rain and more rain. I feel like this cut flower season has been one of two halves, the seeds we sowed last autumn and planted out in the spring benefitted from the good weather at the end of May and throughout June so during that period we had lots of lovely flowers to pick. Then the rain came and now the seeds we sowed this year are running late and we are still waiting for many of them to come into their own and flower . Of course the other problem that comes with rain is slugs and they have munched their way through many of my plants, including dahlias, cosmos, rudbeckia and sunflowers. Let's hope we get some sunshine soon and the second half of the cut flower season starts to be more fruitful.


In this Sowing & Growing Update I have focused purely on the seeds we sowed for the 2023 season (i.e. the seeds sown between August 2022 and May 2023). I will be starting a new set of Sowing & Growing Updates for the seeds we are sowing from August 2023 onwards for the 2024 season.


In the first section of this update I have included some information on maintenance of your patch and then some advice around cutting & conditioning your flowers. In the second section there's a feature on each seed that we've sown and is grouped by the month the seeds were included in our Cut Flower Patch seed boxes. For the purposes of comparison, for each plant I specify the number of weeks since sowing as I am aware that not everyone is sowing their seeds at exactly the same time. I have also indicated in which week the crop of a particular flower came to end (The Final Cut) and I removed the plants from my patch. However I have left in the information about 'When to Pick' as I know we can all be on slightly different timescales depending on when we sowed the seeds and the area of the country we live in. The photographs were taken on or around the day of writing this blog.




Maintenance


Support

Providing some form of support for your cut flower patch is important as it will need protecting from the wind and rain. However even if your patch is in a sheltered spot many of the flowers will grow very tall and the stems snap easily. Last year I left it too late to add supports to many of my plants and I promised myself I wouldn't make the same mistake this year, I've had a slightly better year in that regard but could do better. There's always next year!


Probably the most popular and effective method for supporting cut flowers is to stretch jute netting over your patch at around 45cm high, you might find this Sarah Raven video useful if this is something you are considering for your patch.


As my cut flower patch is in the front garden I want something that is more pleasing to the eye so I simply use canes and a plastic gardening ties which seems to do the trick. Sweet peas need more of a structure using either a wigwam or tepee of bamboo, hazel or willow secured tightly with twine.


Watering (just in case we get a dry spell)

Your plants are at their most vulnerable when they are first planted out as they grow new roots and become established. It is therefore essential to keep them well watered. It is better to give your plants a good soak occasionally rather than little and often, as, with the latter, the water often just evaporates and doesn't reach the roots.


Water early in the morning or evening and water around the roots as this is the most efficient use of water.


For more information on watering your patch, check out this blog https://www.thecutflowerpatch.co.uk/post/top-tips-for-watering-your-cut-flower-patch



Feeding

Certain flowers (I have indicated which ones alongside each entry below) will benefit from feeding every two weeks or so. A diluted liquid tomato feed or comfrey feed is ideal for cut flowers. I've got lots on comfrey growing on my allotment, in fact it's a bit of a problem, there's far too much of it, but that's another story. I made a liquid comfrey feed by stewing the leaves but it smelt revolting. So now I simply chop up some leaves and add them to planting hole.

Weeding

Yes, I'm afraid so, inevitably you will need to do some weeding.


Cutting and conditioning your flowers

Funnily enough when I first created a cut flower patch in my garden, the thing I found most difficult was cutting and harvesting the flowers. I was so use to growing flowers in the garden and watching them come and go each year, cutting them before they had reached their prime, seemed counter-intuitive. As a result I often left it too late to cut the flowers as many flowers are better cut when they are just starting to flower rather than in full bloom. However I'm over that now as I soon realised that it's pure joy to have flowers in the house that I had grown myself and, also, having enough to share with family, friends and neighbours.


When to pick

For maximum vase life some flowers are better picked before they bloom. I cut the poppy opposite when I could just see the colour of the petals peeking though and within 15 minutes of being inside and in water it had flowered.


To help to work out what to pick and when, I have added a 'When to pick' section to each flower entry below.


Our top tips for picking and conditioning cut flowers

  • Cut your flowers early morning or evening as they will be under less stress

  • After picking your flowers they will benefit from spending a few hours, or overnight, somewhere cool and out of sunlight

  • Cut long stems but leave some stem so new flowers can develop

  • Always cut a flower stem above a leaf joint so new growth can form

  • Use secateurs or flower snips to cut, and keep them clean and sharp

  • Enjoy every moment!


The August Seed Box - Corncockle, Cornflower, Iceland Poppy, Nigella, Larkspur


Corncockle


Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: no


Over the next month: I picked my last corncockle flowers at around week 46, dug up the old plants and put them into the compost bin.


When to pick: I tend to pick corncockle when it first flowers and I cut above a leaf joint towards the base of the stem (but try not to remove the whole stem from the plant so new stems and flowers can develop). I usually cut some stems that are in flower and some that are still in bud. For general advice on cutting flowers please see the section above 'Cutting & Conditioning'.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's now too late to sow any further corncockle for this season. However Cut Flower Patch subscribers have received a fresh packet of corncockle seeds which we are sowing this month ready for the 2024 season.


Cornflower


Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: yes when about 15cm tall.


Over the next month: I picked my last cornflower at around week 48, dug up the old plants and put them into the compost bin.


When to pick: Pick them when the colour starts to show on the buds. Cornflowers need to be cut constantly if you want them to flower continually. If you pick them too early the flowers may not open, if you harvest them when fully open, they will only last a few days in the vase.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's now too late to sow any cornflower seeds for this season but in the August/September Seeds Boxes subscribers received a variety of cornflower seeds called Black Ball, which we are sowing this month.


Iceland Poppy

Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: no


Over the next month: My Icelandic Poppies have had a bumper year, I must have picked at least 10 poppy flowers, if not more, from each plant. Reluctantly I called time on my poppies at around week 46 and pulled up the last of the plants.


When to pick: For maximum vase life pick poppies when the floral casing has started to split and the first petals are visible. If you wish you can gently pull away the casing as the bud starts to open.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's now too late to sow any further poppy seeds this year but subscribers will be receiving fresh, new Iceland Poppies in their October/November Subscription Seed Boxes.


Nigella

Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: do not feed


Pinch out: no


Over the next month: I picked the last of the nigella and removed the plants from my cut flower patch at around week 50.


If you'd like to save some nigella seeds for planting next year collect the pods as they turn brown, leaving a bit of stalk so they can be tipped upside down making it easier for the pod to shed seeds. The pods will naturally start to split when ripe. Seeds are best stored in a paper envelope to keep them dry.


When to pick: Nigella should be picked when the petals start to unfurl.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It is now too late to sow any further nigella seeds this season, however a new packet of fresh nigella seeds (this time we'll be suppling a variety called Miss Jekyll) will be included in our October/November Seed Boxes ready for sowing in October..


Larkspur

Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: yes, pinch out the growing tips when around 10cm tall


Over the next month: After a great flowering season my larkspur came to an end and I removed the plants from my patch a few weeks ago..


When to pick: For the longest vase life pick when the lower flowers first open.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's too late now to sow any larkspur for this season but we've included a lovely variety, Limelight Light Pink, in our August/September box and we'll be sowing them in September.


The September Seed Box - Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Ammi Majus, Calendula, Orlaya


Scabiosa - Week 48

Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: no


Over the next month: My scabiosa are still going strong and am harvesting them most days so they'll be staying in my patch for a while longer.


When to pick: Scabiosa can be picked at any stage, the flower buds look great in a floral arrangement but please be aware they may not fully open if picked at this stage.


Second sowing/successional sowing: Again it's too late to sow any further scabiosa for this season but they'll be fresh scabiosa seeds (a variety called Fama) in the December/January box ready to sow in December.


Snapdragon (Rocket Mixed)- Week 48


Classification: half-hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: yes, pinch out the growing tips when they have four sets of true leaves


Over the next month: I've been cutting lovely tall snapdraons for several weeks now and they are still going strong with lots more to come.


When to pick; When two thirds of the flowers are open.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's too late to sow snapdragon for this season but if you have any spare seeds you can sow them in September ready for next year. Also there will be a variety of snapdragons called Potomac White in our October/November boxes which we will be sowing together in November.


Ammi Majus


Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: no


Over the next month: I picked the last of the ammi majus this week, they definitely earned their space in my patch this year providing lots of fillers for the vase.


When to pick: When one third of the flowers on an umbel are open.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's now too late to sow any further ammi seeds for this season but we'll be sowing fresh seeds from our October/November boxes in October ready for next season.


Calendula

Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: yes, when they reach around 10cm tall


Over the next month: I pulled up the last of my calendula at around week 45 but my goodness they were another flower that more than earned their space in my cut flower patch.


When to pick: When they start to bloom and continue to pick the flowers constantly and they will bloom for months.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It's now too late to sow any further calendula seeds for this season but we'll be sowing a new variety called Oppsy Daisy in December ready for next season.


Orlaya

Classification: hardy annual


To feed or not to feed: not necessary


Pinch out: yes, pinch out the growing tips when they have four sets of true leaves


Over the next month: Orlaya is the only sown hardy-annual that has disappointed this year, not many flowers and those that I have harvested have had a short vase life. I probably only managed to cut a handful of stems before all 3 my orlaya plants died. I lifted the plants from my patch at week 43.


When to pick: Pick stems when they are fully open but before there is any sign of pollen drop. Avoid picking underdeveloped buds because they will most likely wilt after picking.


Second sowing/successional sowing: It is now too late to sow any further orlaya this year but if you have any spare seeds they can be direct sown or indoors from August to December. We've decided not to include orlaya seeds in next season's Cut Flower Patch Boxes, however if you'd like to sow any I can recommend buying from Chiltern Seeds, all their seeds are exceptional quality www.chilternseeds.co.uk


The October Seed Box - Sweet Pea Tango, Sweet Pea Mammoth, Achillea, Lavatera, Cerinthe


Sweet Pea, Tango - Week 44