A holding bed is invaluable for a variety of garden projects. Here are three of my favorites:
It’s a handy spot for seeds that need winter chilling or that take months to germinate. Sink the seed pots up to their rims into the holding bed, and you won’t have to water them as often or worry about them getting knocked over. If you take cuttings of perennials or woody plants, planting them in a holding bed for a few months after they start rooting gives them a chance to develop a sturdy new root system. The same goes for perennial divisions that are simply too small to go back into the garden right away.
Have you ever come home from the garden center with impulse buys and wandered around your yard with them, trying to figure out where they can fit but having no luck? Instead of accumulating a collection of languishing potted plants, pop them into a holding bed and they can continue to grow until you find the perfect spot for them. How about those mail-order purchases that were much smaller than you expected, or that had a rough trip getting to you? Pamper them in your holding bed for a few weeks or months, where they can recover and bulk up a bit, and they’ll have a much better chance of thriving when you move them to a bed or border. That’s just what I’m doing with all of those perennials in my holding bed above.
Holding beds are immensely useful as test plots, too. If you find an interesting mystery plant while weeding, move it to a holding bed until you can figure out if it’s something special or a candidate for the compost pile. (I admit that I have pampered an embarrassing number of weeds doing this, but at least it has been an excellent way to learn what they look like at all stages, and now I know better than to leave the seedlings in my garden!) A holding bed is a great place to grow unlabeled acquisitions until you find out what their flowers look like. It can also serve as a quarantine area for gift plants, so you can watch them for pests, diseases or creeping tendencies before you let them loose in your garden.
Best products for holding beds
Convinced? Here are some of my favorite tools and products that make building and maintaining a holding bed easy:
Hori hori knife
There are lots of options, but I have gotten decades of use from my plastic corner brackets.
I have a bunch of galvanized-metal beds like these and love them; they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to put together, and long-lasting (no rot!).
I love coir mulch! It’s pricey but worth it for small, special areas, like holding beds. It’s light and easy to spread but doesn’t blow around, and it lets water through readily.