How To Raise Annuals, Biennials and Perennials from Seed

How To Raise Annuals, Biennials and Perennials from Seed

To raise plants from seed is not only a saving of expense, and an interesting hobby, it is also the best way to get strong plants that will make a permanent home in the garden. Everyone who has tried this method and compared it with the method of buying seedlings, discovers how much better the quickly transplanted seedlings from the home seed bed take to their flowering quarters than do the seedlings that come from a distance.

How To Raise Annuals, Biennials and Perennials from SeedThere is, of course, another side to the picture. Except for hardy annuals,. the raising of seeds entails some extra labour, and generally a good deal of extra space, either in the open, or under glass, or both. In the case of perennials, too, there may be some difficulty over variety. Many of the best of our border flowers are sports, i.e. variations of an older and less spectacular flower. Some are seedlings of mixed parentage: the seedlings raised from their seed will not necessarily come true to the type of the plant that produced the seed. In fact, to raise perennials from seed nearly always involves some degree of uncertainty, but there is always, as Compensation, the glorious uncertainty of possibly finding a new, outstandingly good flower among your batch of seedlings.

However, let us look at this question in detail, and perhaps we shall find that the difficulties and work of seed raising are not so great as we imagined. .


Take the easiest kind of sowing first, the kind that most children understand. That is, sowing hardy annuals in spring, in the open garden. All that is needed here is a patch of well dug soil, not necessarily very rich, but not too poor, and preferably in full sunshine. The surface should be raked to a level, stone-free condition.

Annual seeds vary in size. The larger ones, such as Lupins, can be laid out singly on the soil, in the place where the plant is wanted. A group of seven seeds, each about 5 in. from its neighbour, would make a nice display in a mixed border. When the seeds have been spaced out, push each one down into the soft earth, so that when the surface is patted down flat again the seed will have twice its own depth of soil over it: say about I in. to 1 in. of soil. If the seeds are very small, as are Shirley Poppies, they can be sown thinly in lines, parallel to the front of the border, or can be broadcast over a prepared patch of soil. The difficulty here is to sow thinly enough: mixing the seed first with some silver sand is a help, and also shows clearly where the seed has fallen. In addition, the light surface of sand makes it unnecessary to cover the seeds, as they soon wash down with rain into the tiny crevices of the soil.

Annual seeds germinate very quickly, especially if sown during a warm spell. They almost always come up too thick and some of the seedlings must be removed to allow the others to grow to full size. It is best to thin out in successive stages, but as soon as the seed leaves are fully developed, some of the unwanted seedlings can be nipped off at soil level; this should leave one seedling every inch or two. As more leaves develop, more thinning must be done to leave the plants the room they will need, when mature. Use a little discretion here. In poor soils the plants are not likely to become exhibition size, and may be allowed a little less space per plant than on richer soil. For border edgings, dwarf crowded plants may be preferable to isolated large specimens. Flax and Virginian stock are examples of edging annuals that need not be thinned out at all if they are sown sparingly.

Some hardy annuals need stakes, but well-grown plants, not crowded, and grown in good soil, are less likely to need stakes than starved weakly specimens. The lighter annuals, with thin stems and foliage, need only a few twigs set among the seedlings when they are about 4 in. high. Heavier annuals may need several stakes set round a group, with garden string or raffia passing from stake to stake. The outer plants of each group should be tied individually to the outside of the stakes, so that the supports are practically invisible when the flowers are in bloom.


Biennials, the plants that do not reach maturity until the second season after sowing, but, like annuals, are grown for a single season of bloom and then scrapped, are usually not sown in the border where they are to flower, but are grown first in a nursery bed. Wallflowers are a typical example. These can be sown in lines, drawn with a pointed stick, in the surface of well dug and well raked soil. A little lime in the seed bed is welcome, and if there is any doubt about the food supply, a light dressing of balanced fertilizer can be given to the soil before the final raking. Draw the lines for the seeds about an inch deep and 8 in. apart. This will allow for the use of the hoe between the rows, to destroy weeds.

Sow thinly: if seeds are costly, sow each one separately if possible so that no thinning of the tiny seedlings is needed. When the plants are an inch or two high (or larger, if they were sown very sparingly), it may be as well to move them to a fresh position, where they can make good plants. Wallflowers sown in April or May might perhaps be moved, as small plants, to the late potato patch, the plants being set at the bottom of the ridges made in earthing up the potato crop. Here they will remain until the lifting of the potatoes in autumn, when the wallflowers will be ready to set out in formal beds or borders, among spring bulbs.

Perennials, the border flowers that grow on from year to year, are raised from seed exactly as are the biennials, the only difference being that the perennials should, as soon as possible, be set out 3 in. to 6 in. apart in the row (according to kind) in a nursery plot, as soon as they can be handled. It is possible, with many annuals, biennials, and perennials, to thin out and waste the surplus seedlings, or to transplant each one and so avoid waste. With annuals, transplanting is not always a wise proceeding, as the move gives the plant a check, from which it has no time to recover. When raising perennials, however, transplanting should always be the rule, and no seedlings should he wasted. The reason for this is that perennial seedlings are likely to differ in colour and form (unless a fixed strain of seed can be bought), and very often the seedlings that appear to be weakest turn out to have the finest colours or forms of flower. Some perennials flower in the same season as sown : some take several years to reach flowering stage. (Irises, and some of the lilies take a long time!) To stock a new garden, however, it is well worth while to raise a good many hardy perennials from seed. It is cheaper, and because some of the plants may turn out to be extra fine, it pays to raise a quantity, and when they have reached flowering stage to go over them very carefully and take out those of inferior quality. The remainder can then be propagated by other means: division, cuttings and so on.


Some annuals, biennials, and perennials are not hardy enough to be sown in open ground. In addition, the raiser often finds that it pays to sow very early in the season, when open air sowing would be impossible. Another reason for sowing indoors is that some seeds are very rare and expensive, and greater care can be given theria under glass than in the garden, where birds and other pests can attack them.

The method of sowing under glass is the same for all kinds of plants. A pan or box of special seed sowing compost is advisable. The John Innes Research Station has experimented for many years, and has finally announced that the best seed sowing compost for general use is prepared by mixing good loam (sterilized), peat (or sterilized leafmould). and sand, with a little superphosphate and chalk, in the following proportions: 2 parts loam, 1 part peat (or sterilized leafmould). 1 part coarse sand, with 11 oz. Superphosphate and oz. Chalk added to each bushel of the

mixture. This appears to be the ideal for almost every kind of seed raised by amateur gardeners. This seed raising compost can be purchased from any sundriesman, and it is worth its cost to any raiser of good seeds.

The box or pan should allow for drainage: sides and base of boxes generally fit badly enough for this: and pans should have crocks set dome-wise over each drainage hole. The seed compost should at first loosely fill the container: slight even pressure will then bring it down to half an inch or so below the rim, so that watering is easy. A special pressing tool can be made by nailing a small thick piece of wood on to a piece of board. The edge of this board can serve another purpose: to make indented lines on the soil surface, into which seeds can be dropped at regular intervals. A scattering of soil to cover the seeds completes the task of sowing.

Most seeds germinate better in the dark than in the light. A sheet of brown paper and a sheet of glass over each box will make for rapid germination, but the paper should be removed immediately the seedlings are visible. From this time on, the young plants should be allowed the maximum of light possible. Without sufficient daylight, they will become weak and drawn, and will never make strong adult plants.

The question of what temperature to give seed pans and boxes is generally a matter of knowing the plants, but most seed packets or catalogues announce this for the benefit of beginners. It is not wise to keep the temperature up more than-is necessary. Plants become too tender and unable to stand up against weather vagaries when they reach the garden.

The time of sowing must also depend as much on particular conditions of each garden and greenhouse as on the type of plant. Half-hardy annuals are sown in February, March and April under glass, but it is useless to sow so many pans or boxes in February that they need more under-glass accommodation than can be given, for the plants will reach a good size long before the frosts are past.

A cold frame or two, in addition to a greenhouse, makes possible much more seed raising than just the greenhouse alone. As the plants become large enough to be pricked off separately into small pots, or into other boxes, they can be gradually hardened, that is, after a day or two to establish their roots in the new box or pot, they can be moved to the frame, where extra night protection will be given in the event of late spring frosts. The frame lights can later be left off entirely except on cold nights, and eventually the pots or boxes can stand for a few days in the open, before they are set out in borders.

With seedlings on the move in this way, a succession of sowings can be made, beginning with the hardier types of flowers first: antirrhinums, or alyssum, for instance: and waiting until later to sow ornamental gourds and other plants that will need a lot of room very quickly, but cannot stand even a few degrees of frost.

A reminder is needed here to those who own small glasshouses. These could be beautified very much by growing from seed in them a few of the ornamental annual climbers: the Cambridge-blue Ipomaea rubrocoerulea, variegated Cobaea scandens, with mauve flowers, or orange, buff, salmon or coral Thunbergia. Trained to wires or sticks, these need not occupy a vast amount of floor or staging space, yet they redeem the appearance of the greenhouse both from inside and outside.

The following lists should help those who wish to raise ordinary popular garden plants from seed. They cannot be entirely comprehensive, as practically every known family of flowering plants could be raised from seed in a greenhouse, if temperature and atmospheric conditions are adjustable. These are, however, the amateurs’ friends, easy to propagate and to grow on in ordinary greenhouse and garden conditions.


*Alyssum maritimum *Limnanthes Douglasii (”Eggs *Calliopsis and Bacon”)

Calendula officinalis (Marigold) Linaria maroccana Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower) *Linum (Flax) Clarkia elegans Lupinus (Lupin)

Collinsia *Malcomia (Virginian Stock)

Convolvulus Malope

Delphinium (Larkspur) *Matthiola bicornis (Night- scented Stock)

Eschschol tzi a (Californian *Nemophila (Californian Bell- Poppy) flower)

Gaillardia picta Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist)

Godetia Papaver (Poppies)

Gypsophila elegans *Reseda (Mignonette)

Helianthus (Sunflower) Salvia (Clary)

*Iberis (Candytuft) *Silene pendula compacta

Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet Pea) *Tropaeoleum (Nasturtium and Lavatera Canary Creeper)

Dwarf types of these families are suitable for border edging.


Anchusa capensis Lunaria (Honesty)

Antirrhinum Matthiola (Stocks)

Campanula (Canterbury Bell) Myosotis (Forget-me-nots) Cheiranthus (Wallflowers)

Coreopsis glandiflora Oenothera (Evening Primrose) Dianthus barbatus (Sweet Wil- Papaver nudicaule (Iceland liam) Poppy)

Digitalis (Foxglove) Verbascum (Mullein)

N.B. Some of these are perennials, but do best with treatment as biennials.


(to be raised under glass)

Alonsoa Warscewiczii

Amarantus (Love lies bleeding) Brachycome •

Callistephus (China Aster) Celosia (Prince of Wales Feather) Dianthus

Dimorphotheca (Star of the Veldt)

Helichrysum (Everlastings) Heliotropium (Cherry Pie) Helipterum Impatiens (Balsam) Ipomaea

Kochia (Burning Bush)

N.B. Many of these can be sown in the open, late in the spring, in warm gardens.

PERENNIALS EASILY IN THE OPEN (Likely to produce good seedlings if a good strain of seed is purchased.)

Achillea Aconiturn Alstromeria

Althaea (Hollyhock)

Anchusa italica

Anthemis Aquilegia Aubretia Auricula

Bellis perennis (Double Daisies) Campanula

Catananche Centaurea Chrysanthemum

Coreopsis Delphinium

Dianthus (Pinks and Carna-


Doronicum Gaillardia


(Preferably in the cool greenhouse)

These include all the half-hardy annuals in the list previously given, and also : Antirrhinums Begonias Gazania

Cinerarias Japanese Chrysanthemums Meconopsis Dahlias Ricinus

Eucalyptus Canna

Bulbs Planting And Care

Bulbs Planting And Care


Bulbs Planting And Care

Aconite: See Eranthis.

Allium: Ornamental onions, blue, yellow, white or lilac according to species. Suitable for rockeries and borders. Plant in October, 3 in. deep and 4 in. apart in sandy loam.

A. neapolitanum, the white Daffodil Garlic, is good in pots. Use six in a 6-in, pot of sandy leafy loam. Start cool, with a covering of ash or fibre over the pot. Bring into greenhouse (60 deg. F.) when top growth is l-in. High. Water well until flowers fade, then keep dry until next season.

Anemone: Windflowers. Tuberous anemones include the popular St. Brigid and Caen types as well as other species, all of which are suitable for rockery pockets, and for beds or borders, while most do very well in a cool greenhouse. Colours: red, white, blue and purple, according to species. Plant outdoors any time from October to March, in moist, rich, light loam. About 3 in. deep and 4 in. to 6 in. apart. Leave undisturbed if possible, after flowering.

For greenhouse culture use 6-in, pans of good sandy loam, and grow only in the cool greenhouse. A little fertilizer used when the plants are in full growth will keep a pan of anemones in condition for several years undisturbed.

Arum Lily: See Richardia.

Begonia: Suitable for bedding, for baskets and for greenhouse decoration. They may also be grown in bowls of fibre or in pots for house decoration in summer.

Tubers should be started into growth by laying them, flat or hollow side up, in damp fibre, sand or sandy soil, in a temperature of 60 deg. F., in February or March. Pot up when growth begins, in small pots at first and later in larger pots for greenhouse or room decoration. Loam with leafmould, rotted manure and sand is best. Bulb fibre will do for tubers to be grown in bowls without drainage: these do fairly well, though the plants do not attain the perfection of ordinary pot plants.

For outdoor decoration, plant out at the end of May, in well-manured beds, in sunshine.

Begonias are well suited to baskets, and the strain of basket begonias, with small flowers produced in masses, is the best for this purpose. There are named varieties of both upright and hanging tuberous begonias, and colours range from white to red and yellow. All are tender and unable to stand up to frost. All appreciate plenty of water, alternated with liquid manure (weak) while growth is active.

Brodiaea: Suitable for warm borders and rockeries or for greenhouse culture. The flowers are of different colours, according to species, and stand only 6 in. high, amid the foliage. Plant 3 in. deep, 5 in. apart in October and protect during winter. Lift every fourth year.

Bulbocodium: Spring Meadow Saffron. Hardy bulbs useful on a rock garden. Plant 3 in. deep and 4 in. apart in August. Lift every fourth year and replant offsets separately. Flowers are purple-red, somewhat like those of crocus.

Calochortus: Mariposa Lily. Half-hardy. Plant in October in leafmould and sand on warm border, and protect during winter. Or pot 8 or 10 bulbs in a 5-in. Pot of peaty leafy soil, start in cold frame, and move to greenhouse in December. Dry off when the flowers have faded. White, yellow, orange or red according to species. Summer flowering.

Camassia: Bulbs suitable for warm soils, preferring moist but sunny positions in rich loam. Plant 5 in. deep and 10 in. apart in October. Lift every fourth year. C. esealenta, purple, blue or white, is most useful. Height 2 ft.

Chionodoxa: Glory of the Snow. Suitable for sun or shade in the open, on rockery or border, or can be used as a pot plant. Set the bulbs 3 in. deep and 4 in. apart in October and leave undisturbed as long as possible. Colours, blue-mauve with white eye; height about 6 in. to 9 in. Set several bulbs in a pot for greenhouse decoration, in sandy loam with leaf-mould. Start cool in a frame, with fibre covering, move to greenhouse for blooming, and return to frame to die down.

Clivia: Evergreen bulbous plants very useful for room culture. Plant in February in 9-in, pot of rich sandy loam, with well-rotted manure added. Water well in summer, and when buds begin to form use weak manure water twice a week. Plants do not flower well until the roots fill the pots. Increase by removal of suckers in February. Colours red and yellow.

Colchicum: Meadow Saffron or Autumn Crocus. These are poisonous plants, suitable for rock garden or for shrubbery edges. Plant 5 in. deep and 6 in. apart in July or August. Lift every third season. Colours, purple or white.

Crinum: Cape Lily. Half-hardy, but some species will flourish in a warm south border, with winter protection. Pot in spring in a 9-in, pot of peaty loam. Repot every third year. White to red flowers are produced in summer about 2 ft. in height.

Crocus: Dwarf flowering bulbs mostly spring flowering, but some species flower in autumn. Suitable for rockeries, for naturalising in grass, for edging flower borders, and for cultivation in bowls. Plant autumn-flowering species in July or August, 3 in. to 4 in. deep, and about 3 in. apart. The named varieties of spring crocus are best for planting in masses, and mixed colours, purple, white and gold, make attractive groups under deciduous trees, but not in dense woodland. Crocuses make new corms above the old one, and in hard soil may tend to lift themselves gradually out of the ground as the years pass. In congenial soil the anchor roots will keep the corms in place, but where corms tend to rise, a mulch of good compost given each winter will help to protect the corms, and avoid the need for regular lifting. When potting up to grow indoors, use bulb fibre, or merely stones and water so arranged that the base of each crocus almost touches the water surface. Keep the bowls quite cool until the colour of the petals is visible. (N.B. The orange colour of stamens sometimes shows up prematurely, due to too much warmth immediately after potting: do not confuse this with the petal colour.) Then bring the bowl indoors and flowers will open very rapidly, and uniformly. Forcing is not wise, though some (not the yellows) crocuses will stand a temperature of about 50 to 55 deg. F. in late January. Crocus species can all be grown in deep pans of soil in a cool alpine house, if desired.

Daffodil: See Narcissus.

Eranthis: Winter Aconites. Early, yellow-flowered, tuberous-rooted. Plant 2 in. deep and 2 in. apart in autumn, as soon as the tiny tubers are obtainable. Flowers are better when the plants are established. These first flowers of the year can be grown in drifts under orchard trees, in woodland, or on rockeries.

Freesia: These bulbs are only suitable for greenhouse cultivation, though in a few parts of the country they can be grown in a warm sunny border, by planting in August and protecting during winter. Use equal parts sandy loam, leafmould and well-rotted manure, in pots, in July. Stand the pots in a frame for about six weeks, until tops begin to grow. Then set on a shelf near the glass in the cold greenhouse. Provide slender stakes for support, and as soon as the flower buds show, begin feeding with weak liquid manure, twice a week. If several pots are potted up in succession, the latest in December, flowers will be provided from about January to April. Dry off gradually after flowering, and let the pots remain in a frame, quite dry from May to repotting time. Numerous varieties are offered, but for outdoor cultivation only the old near-hardy cream variety should be used.

Fritillaria: Bulbs which include the small Snakeshead Fritillaries, and the very tall Crown Imperials of the border. Both do best in the open, though the small type will succeed in pots in a cool greenhouse. Plant F. meleagris, the snakeshead type, in moist soil of rather sandy nature,

in October, 4 in. deep and 6 in. apart. Leave undisturbed as long as possible. Plant F. Imperialis in October 4 in. deep and 8 in. to 10 in. apart: only lift if very crowded, and replant at once, without drying the bulb.

Galanthus: Snowdrops. Good for naturalizing, and can be grown in pots in a cool greenhouse, but are usually better outdoors. Plant in August or September as soon as the bulbs are obtainable, 3 in. deep and 3 in. apart. Every fourth season, or when the plants begin to crowd, lift in August and replant, using the offsets to increase the stock. For pot culture set the bulbs an inch deep in loam, leafmould and sand in September or October and keep in a cold frame under ashes until growth commences. Then grow in cool light conditions.

Gladiolus: Two types exist, early flowering and late flowering. The late ones, blooming from August to October, are those most common in gardens. Plant in March or April, 6 in. deep and 6 in. apart, preferably in groups. If very early flowers are wanted, start the gladiolus in shallow trays, dry, in temperature of 65 to 70 deg. F. (in similar manner to potato tubers), and plant them in deep boxes in a greenhouse when the corms have begun to sprout. Temperature should be about 75 deg. F. until the growth is a foot high, after which no artificial heat is needed, so long as frost does not threaten. Show blooms grown in the open garden are best given separate stakes as supports, but in a sheltered border they should not need stakes if planted fairly deeply. Early flowering gladiolus can be potted in October or November, covered with fibre, and set in a frame until March, then brought into a cool greenhouse, giving weak liquid manure when the flower buds have formed.

Hyacinthus: Hyacinths fall naturally into two groups: the early Roman and prepared hyacinths, which are grown for winter flowers, and the ordinary bedding types which are grown for February and March flowers in living-rooms, or for March and April flowering in the open. Pot up carefully, burying only the lower half of the bulb in fibre or soil. Early Roman hyacinths will flower by Christmas with the ordinary treatment: a cool start in a dark airy position, followed by a gradual increase of temperature and moisture and light as the tops grow. “Prepared” hyacinths should be potted in the ordinary way, started in the cool, and brought into the greenhouse in the last week of November. Stand in a dark position for ten days, then in half-shade. Increase the temperature gradually up to 75 deg. F., spraying overhead frequently as the flowers develop. “Bedding” size for the garden can be grown without special attention. Indoors they can be potted in bowls of fibre, or pots of sandy soil, or in any container that allows water to reach almost to the bulb base, i.e., special hyacinth glasses, or bowls of coloured pebbles. Outdoors they should be set 4 in. deep and 8 in. apart for bold colour masses.

Hyacinthus candicans is a tall summer flowering member of the family with greenish-white flowers. Bulbs can be planted in March or in October, 4 in. to 6 in. deep, and 15 in. apart.

Iris: Bulbous-rooted species of iris can be grown in pots, in bowls of fibre, in living-rooms, greenhouse and frame, or in the open garden. Plant in early autumn, 3 in. deep and 3 in. to 6 in. apart. Start bulbs for indoor flowering in a frame, or in cool airy conditions elsewhere. Five bulbs can be set in a 5-in, pot, or bulbs can be grown in deep containers of any kind.

Ixia: Half-hardy bulbs, suitable for open gardens only in very favoured parts of the country. Plant in September, 4 in. deep and 3 in. apart, in warm sandy loam, and protect during winter with fibre. In pots, use six bulbs in a 6-in, pot in a compost of two parts turfy loam to one part each of leafmould, farm manure and sand. Grow cool during the winter and increase light, air and moisture as the spring advances..

Lilium: Mostly hardy bulbs, a few rather particular as to soil but some thriving in almost any ordinary garden. Many very good as pot plants. Plant outdoors in October in good soil, with a little sand under each bulb. About 4 in. to 6 in. deep according to size and to the character of the soil. (Deeper on sand.) L. eandidum, the July flowering Madonna Lily, is the white lily of cottage gardens. This should be moved (only if necessary) in August, immediately after flowering, and likes a rich mulch of old manure in spring. Regal lilies: L. Regale: are also useful in the ordinary garden, where they thrive well if not exposed to spring frosts. These can be raised from seed in a cold greenhouse. Tiger Lilies, Orange Lilies, Martagon or Turks Cap Lilies (good for shady borders) and L. Henryi are other useful lilies for ordinary garden culture.

En pots, lilies should be provided with large pots, which should be only about half full at potting time, the bulb or bulbs being covered with an inch of soil. Pot up in autumn, if the bulbs are obtainable then. Keep in a frame, covered with ashes, until the tops begin to grow, then clear away the ash and gradually add more good potting compost until the pot is filled nearly to the rim. For late flowers the pots can stand in the open at first, but if early blooms are needed, they can be brought into the greenhouse in successive batches. Lilies grown for the cut flower market are usually mutilated by having the stamens removed: a pity, since it spoils their full beauty, though it does cause them to last longer and look a purer white. (N.B. L. aura/urn, L. giganteum, and L. pardalinum like a peaty soil, but most lilies like simply a well-drained, neutral soil, fairly rich in humus, and with some sand.) A useful tip to those who plant outdoors is to surround each bulb with a dusting of flowers of sulphur: this is a preventive of disease.

Montbretia: Hardy bulbs that prefer rich sandy loam. Plant in April, 4 in. deep and 6 in. apart. Protect in winter if the garden is very exposed. Lift every fourth year to avoid crowding.

Muscari: Grape Hyacinth. Hardy bulbs, useful for rockeries, border edgings, path edgings under pergolas, and sunny beds. They are also good in pots, though usually not so satisfactory as those outdoors. Plant in October, 3 in. deep and 3 in, apart, in a staggered double row if for edgings. Pot up in October, in pots of sandy, leafy loam; the bulbs set hi in. deep. Grow cool at first, and without much heat later, and dry off the pots gradually after flowering.

Narcissus: A large plant family that includes the trumpet daffodils, short cupped narcissus, poet’s narcissus, jonquils, and various small flowered species suitable for rockeries or alpine pans, such as the Hoop Petticoat Daffodil, Angel’s Tears and Cyclamen flowered. Exhibitors should consult the new literature published by the Royal Horticultuial Society and also trade lists, for information on the classification of these flowers. Arbitrary rules that govern the judging of the various classes call for detailed study. For ordinary garden and home decoration, culture of Narcissus is comparatively simple. Bulbs should be planted, outdoors rather deeply, in early autumn, about 6 in. deep and 6 in. apart for the larger types, or a little deeper if the soil is light and sandy. If they can be left undisturbed, so much the better, though crowding eventually occurs; when this happens, and the bulbs send up quantities of leaf and few flowers, it is best to lift when the foliage turns colour, sort over the bulbs, and replant them in fresh groups, with one size of bulb in each group.

Small Narcissus are planted in the same manner, but with twice their own depth of soil as a covering.

In pots and bowls Narcissi succeed with little trouble. They can be grown in fibre’ in bowls without drainage, or in pots of good soil. They will also do well grown in water and pebbles only, as one grows hyacinths and crocus. The earlier the bulbs are potted the better, and cool conditions at first should be the rule. For show blooms potting up is done in August; for general decoration, plant as soon as possible after the arrival of the bulbs. If it is desired to force daffodils in pots, grow them at first in quite cool conditions, then when the flower bud is well out of the neck, bring them into full light in a warm greenhouse where the temperature can be maintained at 60 deg. F.

Nerine: Bulbs for greenhouse culture. Plant one in a 5-in, pot, in August, in rich loam with cow manure and sand added. When flowers show up, begin to use liquid manure in place of, or in addition to, plenty of water. Keep dry each summer, but when shoots begin to show up again, add a top dressing of good soil, and soak the pots thoroughly to start them into new growth. Flowers open in late autumn.

Richardia : The Arum Lily. Easy to grow indoors or in the cool greenhouse. Pot up in October in light rich loam, with cow manure added. One bulb in a 6-in, pot, which should, after potting, always stand in a deep saucer of water. Occasional doses of weak liquid manure are valued. Stand the pot outdoors in a cool moist position when the flowers have faded, until October, when the bulb should be repotted. Yellow arums are more difficult, and only suitable for a warm greenhouse. These are potted up in February, and wintered in a frame.

Scilla: Hardy bulbs of the bluebell family. The taller types are suitable for garden and woodland. S. nutans is the bluebell of the woods; S. hispanica the Spanish Squill, in white, pink and blue; S. Sibirica is the small blue flowered Scilla suitable for naturalising in grass, for border edges, for rock gardens and for culture in small bowls or saucers. It grows well in fibre or soil, and is one of the best of spring bulbs to grow in flats, as it does not seem to mind warm culture throughout as much as many of the bulbs do. Plant or pot up in September or October.

Snowdrop: See Galanthus.

Sparaxis: Half-hardy bulbs closely related to Ixias. Culture is similar to that recommended for Ixias. The plants flower on slender stems 18 in, or more in height, and of various colours.

Tulips: These include several less common species as well as the different varieties of florists’ tulips, early and late flowering, cottage, lily-flowered, Darwin and so on. Trade lists should be consulted for these. Outdoors, tulips should be planted from 4 in. to 6 in. deep and 6 in. apart. They are excellent for formal bedding, as each variety can be relied on for a uniform appearance, height, colour, etc. For permanent planting the cottage tulips and Darwin tulips are best; these need not be lifted annually. Other types are better lifted and dried off, stored and replanted in November. Certain species should be planted early and allowed to remain undisturbed, but a general rule is to plant tulips in November, as earlier planting sometimes allows the growth to be too forward, and frost may ruin the flowerbuds. If tulips are grown in bowls and pots, treat them exactly as hyacinths, for ordinary room decoration, but choose the early, short-stemmed varieties. Tulips can be forced by placing them in a dark position in temperatures of 65 to 70 deg. F. As the stems become tall, put the pots in a shady part of the greenhouse in temperature of 65 deg. F., and gradually reduce this to 55 deg. F. as the flowers appear.Ventilate freely, and be careful not to splash water on the foliage and so cause spots.

Purpurea is the Scarborough Lily that has strap-like foliage and carries scarlet flowers in August. It is grown in living rooms and cool greenhouses. Plant in July or August, with the top of the bulb above the soil level. Repot only when necessary, in the early summer, and remove offsets at repotting time, potting these separately to grow on to flowering size. Keep a little drier than usual for about three months after the flowers fade, but never let the plant dry out entirely: the strap leaves should remain green all winter. When repotting disturb the roots as little as possible, and allow the pot to become quite full of roots before again repotting.



The professional gardener needs his Latin names, for which he is often criticised, so that he can classify his many thousands of plants not only in books but in his brain. In addition he now has to cope with involved chemical classifications, for hormones which have been isolated and analysed. Much study has been made of these of late years and many significant things discovered.

ARTIFICIAL POLLINATIONBefore the Second World War it was known that such substances could be applied to the cut surfaces of plant cuttings and the production of roots would be stimulated. Now it has been found that the unfertilized flowers of fruit trees may be sprayed with similar substances and fruit will develop as a result. For instance, in an orchard which had been badly frosted at blossoming time, the frozen trusses of a number of trees were sprayed. The result was that these trees carried a large crop of fine fruit while the untreated ones failed to fruit. Similarly any fruit which is not fertilized for some reason can be made to mature.

How To Design And Plant Herbaceous Borders

How To Design And Plant Herbaceous Borders

In popular language a herb is an aromatic plant grown to be dried and used in cooking to give flavour to dull dishes. In reality the name has a much wider connotation and is applied to all vegetation other than trees and shrubs and fungi, in fact all those which produce foliage of annual duration. A perennial is a plant which lives for more than two years, and includes trees and shrubs. A herbaceous perennial is one which has a more or less permanent root or crown and which each year sends up stems and flowers which last only a season. This class of plant contains many exceedingly attractive species and it is little wonder that garden features should have been devised to accommodate them and show them at their best. Bulbous plants which also send up new leaves each year are not classed as herbaceous perennials though they are used in borders.

The Mixed Border

Naturally most of these perennials can be grown alongside many other types such as trees, shrubs, annuals and biennials, roses, etc., and the result can be very effective. In the small house garden this is perhaps the best way, but where there is room a special border or pair of borders will provide a wonderfully interesting and beautiful show. The single border may be straight or curving, but two borders are better made straight and parallel to each other.

The Background

A bank of shrubs and trees makes a good background to the curving or meandering border, and flowering shrubs are usually in bloom while the border plants are only growing. Straight borders on the other hand are much better boxed in with good hedges. Privet or beech may be used or even holly, but by far the best foil to the plants is the yew. It may be slow growing and a heavy feeder but it forms a thick, impenetrable screen and its foliage is not glossy, consequently it makes the ideal background.

How To Design And Plant Herbaceous BordersDimensions of the herbaceous border

A border may be narrow or wide, 2 ft. or 20 ft., according to one’s desires, but the best width in a roomy garden is 15 ft. This allows for bold grouping and large masses of colour are produced. Straight borders must be in proportion to the path between them. For instance, two borders 15 ft. wide will need a path of at least 10 ft. between them, while borders of 10 ft. will need a 6 ft. path. The suburban garden frequently consists of a central lawn and borders either all round or on two sides. The question of proportion in this case is one for the individual owner.

Preparing the Site

Really thorough preparation of the soil is worth while, as it will not need to be redone completely for some years after planting. Digging two spits deep is best, incorporating farmyard manure where possible. If this is done in early winter the land can be left rough for weathering. Dress after Christmas with lime and bone meal and fork down into a good planting tilth.

Planning the Border

Considerable skill is necessary in planning a herbaceous border. In the first place plants should not be dotted about with single plants of various sorts all mixed up. Each variety should be arranged in informally shaped groups. Consequently it is better to design it fully beforehand. This is best done on squared graph paper. The position of individual plants can then be marked by using the small squares. A space of 2 to 3 ft. is always left at the back of the border for purposes of access.

Planning the Groups

Make a list of the herbaceous plants you have and their colours, and of those you intend to buy for the job. Then work out an arrangement according to size and colour of each sort. In general the taller types are placed at the back and the smaller at the front, but it is important to avoid anything in the nature of an even slope from back to front all along the border. The aim should be to get an undulating effect. Consequently some of the medium-sized plants should come right to the front, and a few of the larger ones into the middle, while some of the smaller ones could be set further back. Species like Cimicifuga have light yet moderately tall spikes of flowers and are ideal for bringing to the front edge.

As for the sort of things to plant, that is entirely a personal question. You may want an early summer border which flowers in June or July, or a summer border proper, or an autumn border. Alternatively, you may wish to restrict yourself to one particular group of colours, such as browns and yellows, or reds and oranges, or blues and greys. On the other hand you may decide to lamp them all in and hope for the best. Whatever you do there is ample scope for individual taste and you can always make notes when things are in flower of necessary alterations to produce better colour or foliage effects. When carrying out your design mark the soil with the same shapes as you have on your plan, and label each piece with the plant that is to go there.

In the actual design you need not stick entirely to herbaceous perennials proper but can introduce annuals and biennials to a limited extent, and bulbs and corms such as lilies and gladioli can be included. Sweet peas are sometimes added and occasionally a climbing clematis such as C. Jackmanii. Similarly herbaceous plants which are propagated each year from cuttings such as dahlias, chrysanthemums, pentstemons and violas can be included.


Before giving a list of suitable plants it is necessary to say that cultivation consists chiefly of hoeing in some fertilizer in spring, removing weeds throughout summer and ,providing adequate stakes before the plants are too big. Most herbaceous specimens need a certain amount of support and for some, straight sticks or canes are best, while (or others, twigs and branches are more suitable.


The number from which to choose is enormous; not all are equally good and colourful, but most are interesting and very many are magnificent. Plant only good quality material and don’t use inferior forms; e.g., Russell Lupins are much 3uperior to the old blue ones.

Garden Design And Construction

Garden Design And Construction


After you have made your plan, the next stage is to build the garden. If you find the work is too much for the first season you can easily spread it over two or three years. Do first things first: for example, permanent planting. Fruit trees, flowering trees, fruit bushes and shrubs take two or three years before they either flower well or bear fruit. These should be attended to first.

Screen Planting

In most gardens, especially new gardens, there is the need for screen planting. This might consist of a row of evergreen trees or a tall hedge, or a group of evergreen shrubs. A few suitable subjects for screens are :—Lombardy poplars, but these should only be used where there is plenty of room. They can be pollarded to any desired height. Cupressus Lawsoniana—avoid C. macrocarpa, which dies out after a few years; Thuya Lobbii; Yew, especially for a hedge; Holly, either as a hedge or a thick screen. Where there is sufficient space Rhododendrons make an ideal screen, but they must have a lime-free soil.

Fruit Trees

These should be planted early in the garden scheme. The best type of tree for the small garden is the bush. They need to have a minimum of 10 ft. space all round: planted too close together, they are less fruitful. Bush fruits should also be planted early as they take two or three years before they bear well. Also 5 ft. apart between gooseberries, red, white and black currants. A fruit section of the garden is always best planned by itself so that the soil can receive cultivation and necessary spraying be done without injury to crops around. There is, however, no objection to planting fruit trees in a lawn. The best type of tree for this purpose is the half-standard with a 4-ft. Clear stem, and for a small garden, a dwarfing stock like Malling No. 9. Where trees are cultivated in grass, a cultivated area should be left round each tree, 3 ft. in diameter, for a number of years.

Use Fences and Walls For Garden Design Features

In the small garden much more use could be made of fences and walls for growing trained fruit such as loganberry, veitchberry, cherries, peaches, apples and pears. On a north aspect Morello cherries, red and white currants, and blackberries are suitable. On a south fence or wall, sweet cherries, pears, peaches, nectarines, according to the locality, can be grown. Before any planting is done alongside fences or walls it is important to see that the soil is right. This may mean taking out a semi-circle 2 ft. in radius, digging out the subsoil and importing fresh good loam before planting. It is too late to deal with the soil after planting has been done. Amongst ornamental shrubs that can be grown on fences are: rambler roses, honeysuckle, clematis, wistaria, Forsythia suspensa and winter and summer jasmin. To cover a bare wall without any training after planting, use self-clinging climbers like Ampelopsis veitchii, golden and silver ivy.

Garden Design And ConstructionFootpaths

First step in garden lay-out is to mark out the position of footpaths. If the site is reasonably level all this means is fixing a few marking pegs to define the site. Soil to the depth of 6 in. should be dug out and used for topping up flower borders. Replace this with 4 in. of clinker or coarse ashes, broken bricks or any hard material. On this place whatever surface you prefer: random square paving; bricks laid flat on sand; concrete blocks; crazy paving or gravel. Gravel is often used because it is the cheapest form of footpath. The method of laying gravel is to have a load tipped at the end of the path, then wheel the gravel into position, tipping the barrowload on to the centre of the path. Rake it into a camber from each side. For example, in a 3-ft. Path, the centre should be 1-11 in. higher than the sides. After laying the gravel, roll from the sides first and then down the centre. Should the gravel be dry, sprinkle the surface with water as rolling proceeds. Good binding gravel should set hard if properly laid. A method of treating gravel to prevent lifting by frost and weeds is to spray the surface with cold bitumen over which is sprinkled I-in, granite chippings or gravel shingle. Granite can be obtained in pink or green shades, pleasing in appearance. Drains are not usually necessary in small garden paths. If the camber mentioned above is made, the rain water seeps away into the turf or borders at the sides.

Levelling The Garden

In the small garden, on a sloping site, it is often desired to! Level a section near the house. The easiest method of doing this is to find out the mean level. For example, in a 20-ft. Section where there is a fall of 4 ft., from end to end the mean level would be 2 ft. This means that on the highest section there would be a cut into the ground to fill the lower section. In filling up the lower section, allow 1 in. for each foot for sinkage; that is, the low section would be 2 in. higher than the top section. For ordinary lawns, a slight fall of 1 in 60 is not noticeable and helps to effect drainage. Before levelling a section, the top soil should be skimmed off to a depth of 6 in. and temporarily heaped on one side to re-surface the ground after levelling. The top soil, that is the dark brown layer over the usually lighter coloured subsoil, is always the most fertile, and at all costs top soil must be conserved.

How to Lay Paving

Frequently it is desired to terrace a section at the back of the house as a dry area for open-air meals, sitting-out, etc. This is constructed in the same way as described above for paths. If square pavement is used, it should be set on three or four toggles of cement. This is to hold the stones in position and so prevent rocking.


  • Bricks : 1 load 500.
  • 1 sq. yd. Requires 32 bricks laid flat.
  • Only use bricks that will stand frost.
  • York stone: 1 ton covers 10-11 sq. yds.
  • Welsh stone: 1 ton covers 10 sq. yds.
  • Somerset stone: Rough-faced, 2 in. thick: 8-10 sq. yds. To the ton.
  • Smooth-faced, 11 in. thick: 10-12 sq. yds. To the ton.
  • Sandstone: 1 ton covers 10 sq. yds. (soft).

Edgings to Borders

An important point often overlooked in making a garden is the need for a fixed division between two loose kinds of surface. For example, between a gravel path and a flower border. One method is to use bricks on edge end-to-end (not set saw fashion), bedded on a few inches of concrete. This edging need only be 2 in. above the path or border. The hard edge can be softened in appearance by the use of pinks or similar creeping plants. Another suitable edging is 4 in. by 1 in. board treated with wood preservative. Where the edging separates a lawn from the path, the grass can be laid flush with the top of the edging. The machine passes aver the edge and only a little occasional trimming is necessary.

Grass Paths

Where there is only a little foot traffic, the grass path is delightful but it needs careful construction. An ideal method is to construct the path as for gravel or paving, mentioned above, and over the ashes lay turf. It is important however to give the grass path a camber. This can be achieved by rolling the ashes to form a camber before the turf is laid or before soil is put down on which grass seed is sown. The object of giving the grass path a camber is that the surface should always -be dry.

Garden Steps

Where there is a considerable difference in level, steps are necessary. For easy walking, each riser should not be more than 4 in. and the tread 15 in. There should be a slight overhang of the tread oC 1 in. over the riser. In an informal garden, steps can be formed by the use of logs as risers, with turf treads. The only objection to this type of step is the maintenance of the turf, but it is cheap and picturesque in the informal garden.

Garden Walls

Walls are of three types, boundary walls which are usually set in cement mortar; retaining walls for banks, usually built dry; and k divisional dry walls inside the garden. If possible, select material for the wall that will harmonise with the surrounding buildings. In building a dry retaining wall it is a mistake to place soil between stones. This causes disturbance owing to frost action. The best method is to let the soil wash in naturally from behind. Plant material, however, can be placed in position during building. Retaining walls should have a batter of 1 in 6.


York sandstone: 1 ton builds 4 super yds. Of wall 2-4 in. thick. Used for “dry” wall or formal cemented walls.


  • Limestone, weathered : For small schemes, 15-20 pieces to the ton is a good size.
  • Limestone, waterworn : For bold effects.
  • Limestone, quarried : Cheap, but not so attractive.
  • Sandstone: Red form best.
  • Some Sussex sandstones crumble after frost.

Shaping Beds and Borders

On a virgin site, where the builder has left the surface intact, the easiest way of preparing the border is to take out a trench at one end a spade deep, place this where digging will finish, and then turn the turf and surface rubbish into the bottom of the trench. Dig the next strip on to this and so on along the border. If rotted manure, is available this should be applied during digging. It is important to pull out tap-rooted perennial weeds but annual weeds such as groundsel can be buried in the trench,pLever build the soil up high above the lawn as this causes drying out in hot weather. Flower beds and borders shouldiA. Be on similar level to the surrounding ground.

Existing Trees

Trees in the garden are a mixed blessing. Some types, like poplars, rob the surrounding soil of moisture and nourishment. Oaks and silver birches are less offensive. A tree can often be used in a garden to great advantage. It might form an end to a vista and provide a position for a seat. Trees need as much care as other growing plants. A sickly tree can be restored to health by proper treatment. Pruning of old trees is often necessary in a new garden. Where branches must be cut away, avoid leaving stub ends. Cut back to the main bole and paint over the scar with tar or white lead paint. If roots from neighbouring trees enter your garden, the way to deal with these is to dig a trench where they enter and cut off any roots met with in the trench down to a depth of 3 ft. Slates or sheets of iron would prevent further penetration. This treatment is often necessary where flowers and vegetables are cultivated in ground near neighbouring trees.

Front Gardens

The front garden is seen not only from the house but from the roadway and for this reason needs special care in its layout. More use can be made of flowering hedges. One of the most useful subjects for a hedge is Berberis stenophylla or Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea. Small plants are set out 18 in. apart. They will quickly grow into a thick hedge. All the treatment necessary is to cut back the flowering shoots as soon as the flowers fade; this causes new growths to break out from the base.

The stenophylla hedge is evergreen and prickly. Another useful subject for hedges is Lonicera nitida, but it is important to start with small plants and to prune them well back after planting to encourage basal growths. This makes a good hedge up to 3 ft. high. Vigorous growing roses can also be used for hedges; they only need pruning back each spring about the end of March. Not enough use is made of evergreen and flowering shrubs between front windows and the roadway. A few carefully placed groups would make all the difference.

Where there is only a small plot, it is hardly worth while making a lawn. It would be far better to concentrate on bold groups of flowering and evergreen shrubs. Against the house walls, use vertical growing shrubs like Irish Yew, Retinospora, and erect forms of Juniper. Against the wall itself, climbers of various kinds should be grown. On a north wall, Paul’s Scarlet Climber rose, Clematis montana, golden and silver ivys are suitable. The object in the front garden is to make it as distinctive as possible, and to limit the choice to a few subjects that will thrive in your particular soil, and to plan these in bold groups. Avoid a spotty effect by planting three or five of a kind. There is no need for a row of front gardens to be monotonous in appearance. By choice of a few different varieties of flowering trees and shrubs, character and distinction can be given to the individual gardens.


  • DON’T try to use stone without first reading the Rock Garden Section.
  • DON’T chop a lawn to pieces with flower beds. Design them simply and effectively and make sure all beds have enough green surrounding them to act as a foil to the colours.

How To Plan A Garden

How To Plan A Garden

Your garden is your own to do with as you wish but you will want to know how to plan a garden properly as this opens up a world of creative possibilities, rather than dreams. That is perhaps the essence and value of gardening. In it you can express yourself, and your little plot can have all the individuality you desire. No one can interfere with what you do and what you design, but there is such a thing as good taste in gardening, and at the end of this post are a few “Don’t s” which are intended to help you to decide what is good taste. All this is true whether your garden covers many acres or is just a narrow piece a few feet square under the window. It is not possible to describe lay-outs for everyone’s garden because each one differs and rightly so, but a few general hints can be given.

How To Plan A GardenFirst a garden can be formal or informal in design. By formal is meant that it has something of a geometrical, shape about it. Such things as straight borders and flower beds, rose gardens, sunken gardens, round or rectangular pools are all formal features.

The informal garden is, shall we say, more natural or wild. It contains no straight lines and conforms to no strict pattern. Rock gardens properly constructed, shrub and ‘tree borders, mixed borders of flowers informal in shape, are examples of informality. In large gardens it is sometimes possible for a section to be set aside as a wild garden where, though everything is properly cultivated, it is grown in as natural a way as possible and to appear wild.

Garden and House Should Merge

In general it can be said that the garden and house should merge and be part of one whole. There are two ways of doing this. Either the garden immediately around the house can be laid out very formally with straight lines which more or less carry on and extend the lines of the house, or the garden can be brought right up to the house by growing shrubs and climbers against the walls. A border close to the walls but below the damp-course helps in this way.

The Kitchen Garden

Though a kitchen garden is laid out on formal lines that does not mean it should be near the house. Being utilitarian it is better out of the way and a screen or hedge should separate it from the rest of the garden. The fruit garden should go with it. Nearness to the house is advantageous for the housewife to obtain her own vegetables, but that is no reason for setting the kitchen garden on the doorstep.


This is desired by most people and can be achieved by planting high hedges and trees around the perimeter. These give shelter too. There is a relation between the height of trees and hedges and the size of a garden, for if too high they obscure light and can be badly out of proportion. For small gardens a 6-ft. Lattice or trellis screen is excellent. It is not bulky, does not take up any space and can be used for growing many flowering plants and fruit trees.


In a very small garden there is not a lot of scope for extensive treatment, and it is better designed as a complete unit. An impression of greater space is obtained by having the centre open and narrow borders around the sides. Perhaps a bird bath or sundial can be put in the middle or just a weeping rose. The slightly larger garden can be made to seem much more extensive by having a variety of features screened or separated from each other. It will not seem so large if you can see it all at one glance, as it will if there are hidden corners and surprises around bends.


The treatment depends on the slope. It can be turfed and kept mown, or terraced by constructing a series of retaining walls having flat or slightly sloping pieces between them. Alternatively a rock garden can be laid out. This should be done correctly and not look as though someone had tipped some stones in a heap.


The best path of all will be made of grass when there is little traffic. It holds all the features of the garden together, whereas the use of tarmacadam or concrete tends to separate the parts. For instance, parallel borders divided by grass are one whole, but a hard path makes two separate units of them. Gravel or pea shingle are not so severe as tarmacadam, and stone paving can be made very attractive whether rectangular or crazy. If there is a part of the grass walks which gets badly worn, odd flat stones can be sunk in at irregular intervals to take the tread. Excellent paths can also be made of old bricks set side by side on their edges, but they are better limited to narrow walks, not more than 6 ft. wide.

For the construction of grass paths see Lawns. In making gravel or shingle paths excavate to a depth of 9 inches or more. Put in a good layer of rubble, broken bricks, clinkers or some such, to give a firm base, then lay 3 inches of coarse gravel, finishing with 2 to 3 inches of finer gravel or shingle. Asphalt paths have a similar rubble foundation covered with 3 inches of 11-2 in. tarmac and topped with I in. fine stuff laid I in. thick.

Paths of crazy paving must be carefully laid or later they will warp and settle, and water will stand instead of draining away after rain. A good foundation of rubble is essential followed by some sifted ashes to bed the stones in. If desired they can be laid in concrete, but great care must be taken in this case. Make sure of a slope either from one side to the other, or from the centre to the outsides. This is essential so that water can get away, there being no chance of it draining between the stones.

Brick paths, too, can either be bedded in ashes or in cement and the same points apply. Loose crazy paving, where there is little traffic, can be planted with numerous low-lying plants such as thyme, alyssum, bugle, nasturtiums, acaena and so on. This makes a garden in itself and can be very attractive. Finally it should be pointed out that drainage from paths is of great importance. When deciding on their construction, work out the drainage, putting in proper grids and socketed drain pipes where necessary, before making the walks. In a small garden the paths can often be sloped so that rain drains into the borders, making grids unnecessary.

When constructing a garden put down the drains and paths first, but do not complete the latter. Leave the surfacing until all carting and barrowing has been done. In fact it should be the last job of all.

How To Prepare A New Garden

How To Prepare A New Garden

First Vital Steps in Making Your Garden

TWO things are demanded of a gardener: he must be interested, and he must be inquisitive. If you are both, you will not be satisfied until you get an answer to every question that arises; until you have discovered the cause behind every effect. And that is the way to profit by experience.

Whatever you do you will get results, some good, some not so good, and by trial and error you will learn much.

You must also learn to use your common sense, which is a gardener’s greatest asset. To accept advice from others, and to adapt it to your own individual requirements and circumstances.


Buy Good Tools.

The first thing after taking over a plot is to buy a spade. Do not borrow, buy. Choose a good one with an “all bright” blade if you can find such a treasure. Look after it, keep it clean and sharp and it will last for years.

You can judge a gardener by his spade. The old-time gardener, like the old-time housewife, used to achieve miracles of brightness. Without going to those lengths, we can agree that clean, bright tools mean that the owner believes that a good tool deserves to be kept in good order. He knowS, too, that dirt and rust mean friction, and friction means unnecessary physical labour.

Probably your new plot is covered with rough turf and weeds. How shall we begin? First remove all rubbish, such as bricks, pieces of timber and the like. Next divide the area into halves by putting a piece of string down the middle. Chop out some of the grass to mark the division, so that the string can be removed. Then skim off a strip of turf anything up to 2 ft. wide along the end of one half and lay it on the path opposite the end of the other half.

Dig Wisely

Now comes a word of warning. Do not break your neck over this digging. Digging is what you make it, a painful, back-aching ordeal, or a pleasant recreation, and if you are not used to it, it should be taken like medicine, in small doses. The beginner, full of enthusiasm, on the first good day in March or thereabouts, is apt to rush at it, and find it a lot harder than he imagined. Of course he soon tires, and ends with lumbago, and by calling his spade anything but a spade.

If ever you meet a man or woman who “can’t bear gardening,” it is a thousand to one that his or her keenness was burnt out in a Series of wild rushes of that kind. Nature won’t be rushed:—neither human nature nor the good earth.


When- the digging is proceeding, we can draw up our vegetable garden plan. A cosy fireside during a winter evening is a good time for this. Measure the outline of your garden as accurately as you can and make a small-scale drawing of it at, say, 1/10th in. to 1 ft. Note on it the points of the compass. Next decide which crops you wish to grow.

Now divide your vegetable plot into three main sections. One section you will allocate to green crops; one to root crops; and the third to peas, beans and miscellaneous crops. Some portions of your garden may be set aside for more permanent crops, such as rhubarb, herbs, etc. Having done this, mark on the plan, by means of lines, the positions you wish each particular vegetable to occupy. You then need to work out the distances apart at which vegetables should be sown or planted. There are posts on that here so just have a look in the search bar.

Plan Your Crops

Perhaps it may sound complicated and unnecessary to say “Plan your Crops,” but it is essential. Careful planning is the only way to make full use of land, to know exactly what crops we can grow, and to calculate how many seeds or plants we need to buy. By doing it we shall avoid the common mistake of putting in seeds and plants at odd times when we happen to buy them, and ending with a hotch-potch of crops which somehow does not supply anything we want. It is only too easy to fill a garden, and then find suddenly that there is no room left for half the things we intended to grow.

Your plot may not be a perfect shape, but no matter what its shape, it does not require much ingenuity to plan a crop lay-out. Remember that as a general rule rows are better running north to south. They need not, however, be exactly north to south, but it is better if they can get the benefit of sunshine on both sides.

Growing from Seed.—It is a convenience to set aside a small portion of your ground as a seed bed to enable you to raise plants in advance for planting out in their permanent quarters as the ground becomes ready for them.

Having prepared your plan, you should finish the digging, which should, wherever possible, be done before Christmas, to allow frost and snow to penetrate the soil. Calculate your seed and plant requirements, and order early.

Your Seed Bed

All members of the cabbage family, such as brussels sprouts, kale, sprouting broccoli, and other crops such as leeks, are usually, for convenience’s sake, sown on a seed bed and later transferred to their permanent positions. The piece of land chosen for this purpose should be in good heart, but need not have too rich a soil, as it is better to transplant from poorer to richer soil, not the other way round, starting the plants, like babies, on a light diet and putting them on stronger food as they grow up. The seed bed need not be large; for a small garden an area 6 ft. by 4 ft. would be adequate.

The soil should be well prepared. In early spring, on a suitable day when the ground is reasonably dry and does not stick to your boots, the soil should be forked through. If it has been dug during the winter it will break down into a very fine tilth. Forking will level the surface. Before any seeds are sown the whole should be well trodden. This is done by standing with the feet together at the edge of the piece, then moving them a few inches to the side at a time. As each foot is moved the weight of the body is brought on to it. You just walk sideways, taking very short steps. Cover the whole bed in this way to firm it. Then rake down the surface, giving it a fine finish, and remove hard lumps, sticks and stones.

Raking requires considerable skill to do well, and is worth practising. Any portion of the garden where seeds are to be sown, in addition to the seed bed, should be prepared in this way. Judgment must be exercised as to whether or not treading will be necessary. If your soil is light and sandy, or is old garden soil which has been worked for many years, then the above treatment is essential. If the spring has been very dry, then almost all soils will need to be firmed. But where soils are heavy, and in the wetter parts of the country, treading should be omitted. Raking down will be sufficient.

Raising Flowering Plants.—Such a seed bed is necessary, too, for many flowering plants. For instance, when you have cleared most of the cabbages, etc., from your vegetable seed bed, you can rake the soil over and sow such things as Wallflowers, Forget-Me-Not, Polyanthus, Pansies and Sweet William. This is usually done in late May.

Seed Sowing

On the seed bed, drills can be made by merely laying a , stick on the soil and pushing it down so that it makes a mark half an inch deep. If it is a large seed bed it will be necessary to draw the drills with a hoe, using a line as a guide. Make the drills nine inches to a foot apart, to allow for hoeing, and sow the seeds very thinly. Rake the soil over them and mark the position of the drill with a label at one end and a short stick at the other. It pays to get good wooden labels and to mark everything in the garden. A record should be kept of names of varieties, the merchants who supplied the seed, and date of sowing or planting, and results.

Seeds broadcast

This means scattering the seeds over a patch of soil or in a frame instead of sowing in drills. It is a useful method with early carrots and radishes. The soil is raked fine, and the seeds are sprinkled on it very thinly. They are then covered by sieving and dusting fine, sandy soil over them. This is the way to hold the seeds down and prevent them being washed together into clusters by rain or by watering.

In the open garden, seeds are usually sown in drills made with a hoe. You should use a line or string drawn tight as a guide. Stand on the line as you work, to prevent it being moved out of the straight. Walk backwards as you pull out the soil. V-shaped drills can be drawn either with a special triangular hoe or with, a corner of the ordinary hoe. Flat drills are taken out with the hoe to the required depth, the soil being pulled to the side. After sowing, replace the soil with the rake, using the back of it for shallow drills. When raking, work in the reverse direction to that followed when making the drill. A final very light raking gives the bed a good finish and removes footprints.

Soil, Seeds and Drills

The depth of drills varies according to the vegetable and the soil. Seeds like onions and leeks are sown in drills as shallow as it is possible to make them. Small-seeded varieties such as carrots, turnips, all the cabbage family, radishes, and parsnips, are sown fin, deep, while larger seeds are sown more deeply. The depth of drills for peas and beans, artichokes and potatoes varies according to the soil. The lighter the soil the deeper they are sown, the heavier the soil the more shallow the drill.

A final point. On light soils and in dry seasons it sometimes pays to water the drills before sowing the seed. Allow a few hours to elapse before sowing to permit excess water to drain away.


  • DON’T make a lawn because you think it is easy to look after and then neglect it. Grass needs as much attention as any plant.
  • DON’T completely fill your garden with crazy paving and then stop all the cracks with cement, in order to save yourself trouble. It will always look terrible, and no matter how you bind the earth down it will ultimately burst through. Strong weeds will soon penetrate your cement.
  • DON’T, whatever you do, use pieces of broken stone or concrete flag and push them edgewise into your border. They are ugly, get in the way and show an utter want of good taste.
  • DON’T buy Derbyshire Spar stone, that bright white, rather glittering rock, to dot about your borders. It looks bad and Shows a lack of understanding of the use of stone in a garden. In any case it is rough and tears the skin when weeding amongst it.