I used to read about cutting gardens in magazines, and while I was attracted to the idea, I felt overwhelmed at implementing it. Creating a cutting garden seemed difficult and out of reach. Maybe I had too many responsibilities like college, marriage and raising children. I could only manage a small garden back then, and that was okay.
I now have more time, but in one of those crazy quirks of the universe, time now moves more quickly, and I don’t seem to get as much done as I once did with a 24-hour day.
Last March when Bill tilled up my vegetable garden, he made it larger than ever. We till this one area because of the nasty Bermuda grass that covers our prairie. Bill also replaced the chicken wire fencing with flat fence panels so we can more easily trim the grass next to the garden. I love this change. However, when I looked at all that red dirt, I felt engulfed by the care a large vegetable garden requires. Many hands would be needed, and I only had two.
In spring, there is so much to do and so little time. My ornamental garden needed to be cut back, prepped and ready to grow. I also replaced over a dozen more roses killed by Rose Rosette Disease. Choosing replacement shrubs took a lot of time.
With some of our children out of the nest, we don’t need such a large space for vegetables either. I could grow most of our food in pots and my raised bed potager except for ‘Glass Gem’ corn and my favorite red okra. These two crops need more room.
Thank goodness Cindy from My Corner of Katy suggested I make half of the veggie space a cutting garden. The thought of bouquets for my table sparked my interest, and I found energy to plan the space anew.
One challenge with any garden space devoted to vegetables is remembering to rotate the crops. Otherwise, you end up with disease problems. On the far right side, I planted four tomato plants that I bought from Bonnie Plants. I then sowed ‘Glass Gem’ seeds. Next to the four rows of closely planted corn, I grew two rows of okra. These were seeds I saved from previous years from the heirloom ‘Bowling Red.’ I love the long, slender red pods, and the plants’ dark leaves with just a hint of red. A hibiscus relative, okra is a beautiful if “stickery” plant.
At the garden’s center, I sowed seeds for two climbing beans. It rained all of April and May, and my bean seeds kept sliding down the hill. I think I planted green bean seeds at least three times, but I harvested very few beans. Some years are like this. Next to the non-existent beans, I sowed flower seeds. These tiny seeds hung on and grew. Celosia, Amaranth, Nicotiana, five kinds of zinnias, including ‘Queen Red Lime,’ ‘Burpee Rose Giant Cactus’ and Zowie! Yellow Flame. My favorite of these, by far, was Burpee Rose Giant Cactus. They were huge and wonderful. My second fave was ‘Queen Red Lime’ with its antique good looks. I also planted a couple of zinnia mixes. It made for a field of beautiful flowers in so many colors. People driving by slowed down just to look, and the butterflies visited all day everyday. In the midst of this butterfly mecca, I planted two yellow, tropical milkweed plants for the Monarchs. I didn’t have much hope that they would come, but come they did.
Next to the zinnias, I sowed seeds of celosia, cosmos, and sunflowers. Then, I did something dumb. I sowed hollyhock seeds which was a freshman mistake. Most hollyhocks take forever to get going, and some varieties don’t bloom until the following year. An exception to this is Alcea rosea ‘Indian Spring’ mix which often blooms the first year in my hot climate. My hollyhocks were a waste of time. If I had somewhere to put them, I could dig and move them to another spot to bloom next year. Perhaps the new side border?
Again, it’s that time thing. I’m prepping for a garden tour on October 17 so that probably won’t happen. Anyway, if you’re going to till and replant an area after the first year, start the hollyhocks indoors first, or buy some plants and transplant them.
Beneath the sunflowers, I grew melons and squash. It took the squash bugs awhile to find these, but eventually they did. Squash bugs are an Oklahoma gardener’s nemesis. I sowed more squash seeds three weeks ago in the potager. I might get a few squash this year yet.
So, that’s my cutting garden. To recap, here are some of the best flowers for a cutting garden:
- Tithonia Mexican sunflower
- Celosia. I grew an old variety.
- Calendula (Plant and harvest early.)
- Amaranth (So many to choose from.)
- Hollyhocks. Buy plants unless you grow one that blooms in the first year from seed, and you have a long season.
- Nicotiana langsdorffii and the purple flowering one are great in the cutting garden.
- Dahlias. I didn’t grow my dahlias in the cutting garden, but a good one for hot summers is ‘Juanita.’ Old House Gardens has a good article on Dahlias for Hot Nights. I’ve grown several of these, and they performed well.
Of course, there are plenty of perennials for a cutting garden too. Shasta daisies, Phlox paniculata, Monarda didyma and black-eyed Susans make great cut flowers. I have these all over the perennial garden. Don’t forget interesting foliage either. Smoke tree is a good filler as is asparagus foliage. Use your imagination and cut beautiful bouquets from your garden all summer long. Pretend you live in an episode of Downton Abbey. I did.