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One Room Challenge: Planning A Cutting Garden

by - Thursday, May 20, 2021

Week 3 of the One Room Challenge is upon us. Catch up on Week 1 and Week 2 if you missed those posts.

If you're new to Rambling Renovators, welcome! My name is Jennifer. I help people create functional and beautiful homes, I help brands create digital content strategies, and I've been writing this blog since 2007. I live with my husband and daughter in Toronto, Canada in a centre-plan, mid century colonial style house that we've infused with the fresh traditional style we love. We DIY all our renovations and have a fondness for architectural details, built-ins, and classic decor.  

Last week, I shared with you the garden plan and if you caught my Instagram stories, you saw some of the work we've done in the front yard. 

front garden plan
The Front Garden Plan

I'll be honest - I didn't want to be too ambitious with this ORC project because my city (Toronto) is STILL under it's third lockdown. That means that places like The Home Depot are open for curbside pickup only, places like the Dollar Store aren't allowed to sell non-essential goods (including all the garden items like garden gloves or wood plant stakes) and places like the garden centre are open but there are looooooong lines to get in there.

Mentally, it's a bit draining to try and accomplish anything home-related with those constraints. We'd love to get working on a lighting plan and a watering system, but shopping for parts on a website and not seeing them in person feels impossible.

But enough of my pandemic whining! Let me get back to what we have done.

The Back Garden

With the prep work on the front garden pretty much done (we're just waiting for plants to arrive!), we decided to to use our extra time to tackle part of our backyard as well. 

Our backyard is large but needs some work. We haven't done much with it as we tend to be at our cottage most of the summer. This particular area though, beside our garage, desperately needed attention.

back garden

As you can see, this tragic area is home to a fig buttercup infestation, one lonely hosta, and an abundance of rocks. 

We originally had hostas running along this wall, but we moved those to the front yard last summer when we relaid the walkway. That left big gaping holes in the dirt and a complete lack of definition. 

back garden before

And so we spent one morning pulling out those weeds and redefining the area. We used a string line and spraypaint to outline the new border and cut into that with a shovel. With a bit of effort, we were able to turn this...

back garden before

back garden after

...into this. It's already so much better!!

The shrub on the right was transplanted from the front yard. It's not looking great, but I thought we should try it out here and see if it does any better before we decide to dispose of it. The plant in the middle is a Magnolia tree. It was in a shadier spot in the backyard and has never done well. Again, we've transplanted it and see how it will do.

back garden dragon urn, ceramic garden ball

At this end of the garden, we have a few treasures! The large Chinese dragon pot was inherited from my mother-in-law. I don't anything about its provenance or age. What I do know is that I finally have a use for it! I'm debating whether to create a water feature inside it, or use it to hold a display of flowers and trailing plants like creeping jenny.

The garden ceramic ball was also from my MIL. It has a 70's vibe that I'm totally loving and it seemed only appropriate that we surround it with a 70's feeling rock garden. I'll have to play with this area a bit, add in some plants, perhaps some succulents, but for now I've just got the rocks in place.

For the right sided of this area, and I'm going to push myself and try and create a cutting garden.

cutting garden book

The Cutting Garden

I've long loved the idea of having a cutting garden. I've watched friends like Cynthia and Londen share their garden expertise and thought I would love to have their green thumbs. First step was to buy this book written by the Queen of cutting gardens, Erin at Floret Farm. Of course you've seen her Instagram with dreamy photo after dreamy photo of the most gorgeous flowers. Who wouldn't want that in their backyard?

Given that it's near the end of May, I do realize I'm late to be creating a cutting garden. So this will be a summer of experimentation! I'm not great at gardening but the only way I'll get better is through trial and error. Since this spot is in the backyard and will be seen by no one, it presents an opportunity to try my hand at growing different plants.

back garden plants

back garden plants

So what will I be planting in here? Had I known I would be doing this, I would have planned out the different plants, ordered seeds back in the winter, and tried growing my own seedlings indoors. Instead, I'll be putting a makeshift garden together using a variety of sources. 

In no way do I endorse this haphazard way of starting a cutting garden that I'm about to tell you about! I'm inexperienced and probably doing a million things wrong... but I'm just going to go ahead and do them. 

cutting garden plan

Selecting Plants

I sourced a variety of plants for this season. This includes:
  • poppy and zinnia seeds that I'll grow direct in the ground
  • dahlia tubers from Dahlia May Flower Farm
  • seedlings from local farms and the garden centre
Is it best to restrict your garden to just a few varieties of plants? I don't know. 
How much of each variety should you plant? I don't know.

What I do know is that I've picked what I like and I'm going to see if I can make it grow, lol! Ideally, I would have put seeds into the ground earlier and used plant varieties that grow tall and are ideal for cutting. 

I'll have to reset my expectations a bit and instead of aiming for lovely, bountiful plants, my goal is to learn about growing plants from seeds, plant care and maintenance, and hopefully have one or two blooms to show for my efforts.

How To Plan A Cutting Garden

My next step was to measure and plot out the garden. The area between the Magnolia and the shrub is about 6'x4'. I created a grid (each square represents 6"x6") in Excel and created shapes that I could move about the grid.

The two things I needed to consider when plotting out the garden were:
  • how much space each plant requires, and
  • how high each plant grows

I researched each plant and found the grow height. Since I would only have access to the garden from the front, all the taller plants need to be planted in the back.

I've also tried to keep things orderly. I'll be staking out the area for the poppies and zinnias. My plan is to do succession planning: plant some of the seeds and a week later plant more of the seeds and so on. The idea is that I'll have flowers blooming at different times and will have more to enjoy throughout the entire summer.

Our front garden plants are set to arrive this weekend so I'm hoping for no rain and we can get everything into the ground. And then, its all on us to keep these plants growing!

Head to the One Room Challenge blog to see what the other guest participants are doing on their projects!

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