Growing flowers for cutting

Alan Titchmarsh explains how to grow cut flowers such as zinnias in a dedicated cutting patch in your garden, in this practical video guide.

In this video guide, Alan Titchmarsh explains how to create a dedicated cutting patch in your garden so that you can grow flowers in rows, especially for cutting. He plants out zinnias in late spring for abundant flowers for the house in summer.


Growing flowers for cutting: transcript

You know, there are few greater pleasures in gardening than going out with a pair of snips, cutting an armful of flowers from a bed or border and bringing them indoors. The trouble is, you can’t really bring yourself to do it, because they look so lovely out here that if you take them, your borders will be empty and… There’s a
way around it!

The solution is a small patch of garden where you can grow flowers in rows, especially for cutting – a cutting garden. It doesn’t have to be vast. It can be part of an allotment; it can be a tiny part of your veg patch. But if you do that and you plant things in rows, then you won’t feel nearly so bad about cutting them because you can
simply call it ‘harvesting’. What I’m putting in are zinnias. These summer bedding plants, which absolutely adore sun, they need really good summers, bright weather, an open situation, and then they’ll produce lots of flowers. Now, it’s at this point that Mary Berry and I disagree because Mary hates soggy bottoms. When it comes to planting out things from trays, soggy bottoms are essential. This tray has been really well soaked and if I just push up a plant like that and then put my fingers around it to break it out, unlike a baking tray,
you’ll see that this compost is really quite wet. And that’s what I want. They transplant much more happily if they’re growing in compost that’s just been soaked than if it’s been allowed to dry out, because what they might not do is take up moisture from the surrounding soil quite so easily. One goes in. How far apart? The measure’s in my hand – a trowel’s distance for the next hole.

The soil’s really quite firm, but that’s no bad thing. You don’t want it too fluffy because it dries out that much more readily. Take your next one out. Don’t worry that some of these plants can be slightly smaller than the others. In a couple of weeks time you won’t know. They’ll all catch up because they’ve all got this good sized
root ball on them. I’m not planting them too deeply, I’m being quite gentle because these stems are fairly fragile. But around the roots that compost can be firmed and you just work your way along the line like that. And I can tell you, on a bright day like today where there’s a gentle breeze, there are few jobs more pleasurable than this one.

When I get to the end of the row here, I’ll work my way right the way along backwards, just puddling them in. You don’t need a rose sprinkled on your watering can. This ordinary ended watering can here, just to give a little bit of puddle around them, will settle them in; and what you will find, although they might look a bit sad
this afternoon, by the time you get up tomorrow morning, they’ll all be standing up like soldiers.

Now the time to bed them out like this is late May, early June. Put them out any earlier, the nights are a bit cold and they might succumb to frost. But lots of bedding plants that you can grow for cutting – things like corn flowers, like tobacco plants. There are a whole host of them, anything with a decent sized stem that experience
shows you won’t wilt when you cut it, grow them. You only need a dozen or more in a row and you’ll be so glad you did it because then, your beds and borders can stay looking pretty.

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