Page 30 - ALG Issue 2 20202
P. 30

 Grow cut flowers and cultivate a nectar bank!
Traditional allotment plots cultivate vegetables and fruit as the main staple crops, with only a few growing some form of cut flower. However, now
more than ever, I feel that plotholders should seriously consider diversifying the range of crops grown to include some cut flowers. We can no longer ignore the alarmingly quick depletion of the bee population; bees that we, as growers of fruits and vegetables, need to help to pollinate our crops. Whilst every plotholder cannot become a beekeeper, we can do our bit to provide nectar banks across allotment sites to provide the bee population with a ready food source and help to boost numbers. Also, we all know stories of allotment sites under threat from developers. Whilst I cannot pretend that growing cut flowers is ever going to solve such a huge potential worry, if a site is well ordered, tidy, productive and colourful, and provides for nature, then perhaps
a stronger story can be put together to save sites.
Whilst a lot of vegetable growers
may think that the growing of cut flowers would be yet another skill to have to learn, I never see this as an encumbrance (after all, surely that
is much of the fun with gardening?). However, it should be known that many cut flower crops are exceptionally easy to grow, a lot easier than a lot of fruit and vegetables crops in fact!
So, where do we start? Well, firstly
we need to understand that generally we divide cut flowers into two distinct groups; perennials and annuals. Both groups include plants that can either be hardy, like the roses or sunflowers that can be sown direct into the open ground when the soil is warm enough, and also plants that can be tender, such as the dahlias that require lifting in the autumn and antirrhinums that really need to be sown and grown on under some form of protection until all risk of frosts have passed. When it comes to selection
of what to grow, this is something of personal choice in terms of what you like, what colours you prefer, whether you would rather have block colours
or mixtures, and so on. Most seed catalogues will now either have a
section dedicated to suitable specimens for cutting, or at least a symbol to help highlight what is suitable; the rest is then up to you! There are a few points to consider for beginners when choosing your cut flower crops. Perennial crops will occupy the same piece of ground for many years, so that must be taken into consideration when planning which area to give over to these. However,
just because these plants will be in permanent residence it doesn’t mean that areas cannot be further utilised. For example, a spring crop of tulips or daffodils can be planted between roses whilst the roses are in winter dormancy to increase the productivity of that area.
Soil preparation for any crop is key, and cut flowers are no exception. I always feel that areas given over to perennial crops are even more important to get right before planting. It is always easier to sort out the ground with no plants
in than to try and amend it around plants without doing damage. Ensure that the soil is thoroughly cultivated and well broken down, adding as much well-rotted compost, manure or leaf-mould as you can get your hands on. Above all else though, ensure
that all perennial weeds are properly eradicated before even attempting to
if a site is well ordered, tidy, productive and colourful, and provides for nature, then perhaps a stronger story can be put together to save sites
        plant. Whilst the annual cut flowers can be grown in a separate part of your plot, they can also be incorporated in with rows of vegetables, making use of spare strips of ground or where early
   30 Allotment and Leisure Gardener

   28   29   30   31   32