Do you love to arrange flowers or love having beautiful bouquets on the kitchen table?
If so, then you are in the right place and a cutting garden is the perfect thing for you.
I have outlined 10 simple steps to have a cutting garden of your very own. We will go over: location, size, soil prep/amendments, flower picks, purchasing seeds, starting the seeds, caring for seedlings, harvesting, and succession planting.
Let’s get started
Step One. Pick out a spot that gets full sun (6-8 hrs of sun daily). If your location of choice gets any shade, afternoon shade will be the best.
Step Two. Garden size….don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of room, a small area is fine to start out……because you are going to pack these flowers in.
Step Three. Preparing your site for planting. If you are growing straight in the ground (which I suggest if you have decent soil) you’ll want to shoot for your end product to be loamy, healthy-looking soil with good drainage. While it may be more work breaking up the sod, it is definitely less expensive.
To do this you will need to grab a shovel, you can use a tiller of course but speaking from experience, using a tiller is only easier if the ground is already pliable.
What you will want to do, is shovel in as far as you can go and kind of lift and twist, so that the huge grass clump is sort of sideways, and continue this the length of your bed.
Next, take the shovel and break up all the clumps. This is also when I break everything up the rest of the way with my hands and my mini pick/mattock (my favorite tool), to get all the dirt I can out of the grass clumps.
Next, add your compost….at least 3″ – 4″ Keep in mind you will want your plants to have a depth of at least 12″ growing room (the more the better). So, figure out how far your shovel goes in and add the rest with topsoil and compost.
Now, is when you will also want to add a dry Organic fertilizer ( I use Espoma). Follow instructions, I think it says to let set for like 2 weeks before planting, so as to not burn the plants ( I don’t always do this…I just add the fertilizer then add more compost on top…so in theory, my plants are going into the top layer while the fertilizer cools down).
If you need to do a raised bed then just construct and fill. I would use good organic soil and compost and make it 12″ deep at minimum.
Step Four. One of my favorite parts – what are you going to plant? What are some of your favorites?
While perennials are amazing, if I were you I would fill my first cutting garden with annuals. Annuals will go to bloom faster and put out the most blooms in their short life.
If you have the room I think a separate perennial bed is a great idea. This way they have their own area, one that will not be disturbed by pulling spent annual plants out to start new ones.
Don’t get me wrong….Perennials & Natives, in my opinion, should dominate every landscape and in time can become a wonderful cutting garden but for your first small cutting garden, I would go with annuals.
Here are a few of my favorite seed companies: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, here is the link – http://www.johnnyseeds.com and The Gardener’s Workshop – http://www.thegardenersworkshop.com
If you decide to buy some at a local store, which I have done and is fine, just make sure on the packet that the variety you are picking will get tall enough for you to even cut from. I usually don’t choose anything under 18″, although if you love short arrangements, many short varieties make lovely bouquets.
Here are some suggestions (my favorites): Zinnias “Benary’s giants, Cosmos, Celosia “flamingo feather”, Strawflowers, basil, mint, and Sunflowers.
If you do not have the space or time to start from seed then you can purchase a lot of beautiful flower varieties at your local nursery.…(but one plant will cost more than a whole pack of seeds).
Step Five. Ok, so you have your spot picked out, and ready and you have either just bought your seed packs or your potted plants from a nursery.
Now if you’ve gone the potted plant route then you are ready to put them in the ground. I like to plant mine in the early morning….water them in well. If you planted something that will benefit from being netted, I would go ahead and do that. I’ll attach a pic so you’ll know what I mean ( if you look in the pic below, the row of flowers in the back is netted).
If you decided to go with seed starting, some flowers prefer to be started indoors and some outdoors, I would follow the seed preference…no need to fight nature.
In my experience starting seeds indoors is easier (also addictive & rewarding but I digress) and even though it cost more upfront for the equipment you will need (heat mats, lights, seed blocker (optional), seedling food (optional), plug & bottom trays, potting soil, and or blocking mix) it is worth it.
Sunflowers, celosia, and zinnias do pretty well starting outside. Sunflowers are pretty tough and can be started sooner than the other two. For the celosia and zinnias, you will need to wait till the nite time temps do not drop below 60 degrees.
Make sure your sunflower seeds are covered, they need darkness to germinate and the birds will gobble them up if they see them.
Step Six. I like to provide my seedlings with a little protection and I do this with “Row Cover”. It can work as a layer of protection from the sun, cold, wind, beating rain, and critters. I use it on cool nites or if it is super hot during the day. I raise the sides during the day and lower them at nite. I also find these “wire hoops” (pic above – the hoops are supporting the row cover) a necessity with the row cover. In my experience, if your soil is tough then you will have a hard time getting these guys in the ground. I’ve posted a link below for the hoops. https://thegardenersworkshop.com/product/pre-arched-76-inch-plant-support-wire-hoops/.
If you are a DIY’er or just trying to save money you can make your own hoops (I’ve used rebar and pex piping.)….I’ll post a pic at the end of this post.
Step Seven. Harvest Time….it is time to cut and enjoy. All your hard work is now rewarded. You will want to cut your flowers at least once a week to keep them healthy and blooming.
Be sure and use a clean bucket, clean clippers, and clean water when you are harvesting. Place the bucket in the shade and either harvest in the morning or the evening. You never want to cut in the heat of the day, the flowers will struggle to recover if you do this.
Now let these flowers sit for a few hours before you start messing with them. Store them out of direct light and somewhere coolish.
Remember, the more you cut the more they bloom (except for sunflowers).
Step Eight. Succession planting – this is planting every week, every other week… however you want to space your blooms but this is more for the “indoor seed starter”.
If you succession plant anything, it should be sunflowers. Single-stem Sunflowers are one and done (you just pull these suckers out and start more). Pro-Cuts (bi-color, gold lite, and horizon my favorites) are the best because they go to bloom the fastest 50-60 days from the day you start the seed.
Good Luck with your first Cut-Flower Garden!