|Candytuft - memories of my childhood
|A new use for my vegetable garden - although I have kept the asparagus plus a few french beans
The most admired feature by this year’s garden visitors has been my big blob of sweet selling gaudy annuals.
Variously dubbed ‘meadow’ or ‘wild flowers’ it is neither. The flowers are all garden hardy annuals (with a few sneaky short lived self seeding perennials such as Verbena bonariensis and gentian-blue commelina). In the old days it would have been called a hardy annual border. Once popular amongst keen gardeners but found to be labour intensive they never really caught on.
|Verbena comes freely from seed
On the contrary this year mine has been no trouble at all. I was exceedingly lucky in that at sowing time in early April the ground was still saturated with all that Winter rain. Better the rain continued for another ten days before the long Summer drought set in. I did not need to water despite in the next four months barely receiving an inch and a half of rain. An inch of that very fortunately came on a single night after ten weeks to revive the flagging flowers.
|Just before raking off debris before sowing (I have allowed a few carrots)
‘Throw to grow’ mixtures now have the image of being naturalistic labour saving garden features. Unlike my experience this year this is not usually so! Many gardeners just can’t handle the weeds that out grow the annuals. They are fine for the first year but in the second they need further soil preparation and with an enhanced bank of self sown weed seed and sometimes strengthening nasty perennial weeds soon run out of steam.
Do not confuse this situation with that of a genuine meadow filled with perennial flowers and annuals such as yellow rattle that have evolved to favour agricultural meadowland. Unfortunately such lovely features reproduced in a small garden can be labour intensive too.
|The corn marigolds in my new border came originally from seed from the farm field
(Such annuals have usually been ‘improved’ and selected by plant breeders).
I have earlier explained how two years ago I took my bat home and more or less ceased to grow vegetables. My 200 square metres of vegetable garden suddenly became vacant. My first pilot year worked reasonably well and this year I decided to go the whole hog and sow the whole plot with a ‘throw to grow’ annual mixture from that excellent seedsman Mole Seeds.
As a no dig gardener my plot was ideal. There was little surface weed seed as my methods don’t bring dormant weed seed to the surface. As a user of glyphosate I have zero perennial weed. Couch, ground elder, mares tail and bindweed does not exist in my garden. My undug plot is settled and cohesive but if disturbed has an excellent crumb structure partly because there has been years of worm casting - not to mention regular surface mulching of charcoal from my bonfires.
My plot is highly fertile, that is something not usually recommended for annual flowers. I thought my eighteen inch high annuals some flopping together looked rather fine.
Early April is a good time to sow an annual mixture. My plot almost weed free, I made sure that any small weed seedlings were totally absent. In my case a quick spray round, although a light hoeing would do. My £20 seed packet was far too much for the site but I used it all anyway. With weed-seed free soil the flower seed was just scattered. As far as I remember I very lightly raked the otherwise undisturbed soil to cover much of the seed.
|A few weeks after broadcast sowing. Note absence of weeds
On my firm cohesive none dug soil I had no inhibitions that the surface was wet and it was going to rain. In fact it was welcome
The only further maintenance was to spot treat the very few weeds on my regular garden spray round. As my plants developed I moved to any necessary hand pulling.
That’s all that was needed.
My reward has been nearly five months of flowers
|The dominant flowers have changed as the season progressed
|I don't know all their names - but white alyssum has pervaded a honey scent throughout
The previous year I had been careless and let the odd fat hen and nettle set seed. Both can seed prolifically, particularly fat hen which as an ancient crop for thousands of years was grown for its grain. I needed to be very alert to pull out perhaps a total of a hundred fat young chickens over the season. I needed gloves for the nettles. At the back a few dense patches of nettle seedlings had to be mass sprayed. A total of about three square metres. The annuals soon covered the gaps
|This lovely foxy grass seeds rather too freely in my garden
The beautiful honey like smell that pervaded this part of my garden for all of five months was alyssum. This was generous in the seed mixture and gave the whole scheme a lovely white backcloth. It was starting to fade as the severe drought cut in but revived strongly when three months into the project it did actually rain.
|I love the name of this calendula variety - Oopsy daisy
There were a few ‘cheats’ where I welcomed a few self sown remnants of the garden's previous life. Verbena bonariensis came in as lovely purple curtains. The lime green flowers of edible rocket looked really nice and a lovely fox tailed grass whose name I don’t know looked superb - but might be a problem next year!
At the back of the border I still have my asparagus. It looked rather nice as escholtzia scrambled up into it
|Late Autumn seeding
A visitor asked what I will do with the prolific Winter dead vegetation. I expect it will more or less collapse and disappear. I am prepared at the turn of the year to rake off strawy remains. There will of course be no soil cultivation! No weed will be tolerated during this Winter period. My regular spray round will take care of that.
|Looking back to July
Perhaps certain seed will not stand the cold of the Winter. I will hold some back to sow in the Spring
|Only from mid August did nasturtiums come into their own
|And annual lupins were pretty late too
You can read about my exploits in the girl’s garden by putting Cathi or Lyndi into my search box. The search box is very efficient at digging out my previous posts such as wild flowers, charcoal, fescue grass, Mole seeds and named plants.
Last year’s article on today’s topic gives more information
Now in mid October my annual display looks scruffy but nice
For those of you returning to my 2020 article which adds another year's experience