Gardens - Specialty Gardens

Plan and plant a cutting garden

Beckie Fox
Photography by
Roger Yip

Devote some space to beautiful blooms that you can snip for homegrown bouquets


Most flowering annuals require full sun to grow straight and sturdy and produce masses of blooms. Because a cutting garden is a high-production enterprise, well-drained, nutrient-rich soil in good tilth is needed. Each fall, I spread some eight to 10 centimetres of shredded leaves on top of the empty beds and follow with a layer of compost. In spring, this is dug into the soil and the beds are raked smooth.

My four raised beds are bottomless boxes made from untreated 1x8 cedar boards and metal hinges. Soil in raised beds warms up more quickly in spring, which enables me to plant or seed slightly earlier. It’s also important to locate a cutting garden away from greedy tree roots and on a fairly level site to avoid runoff; make sure your garden hose can reach the area.

Design and layout
Two 90-centimetre-wide paths lined with landscape fabric and topped with shredded cedar mulch cross between the four beds. A 1.8-metre-tall wooden obelisk acts as a focal point; short, clipped boxwoods surround the perimeter of the area and camouflage the boards. The obelisk and boxwoods also provide winter interest when the beds are bare. I don’t recommend a planting area wider than 1.5 metres—it’s impossible to reach into the middle to weed, stake or cut without stepping onto the soil.

Well-defined beds also visually rein in what can become an avalanche of colours and shapes by the end of summer. To avoid a mishmash of competing hues, I concentrate on a few combinations each year, which makes it easier to design floral arrangements as well.

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