Many gardeners grow flowers for the pleasure of having fresh bouquets to decorate their homes or to give away to friends. But they also enjoy the beauty that the flowers provide in their yards; here is the dilemma--to cut or not to cut. The solution may be to plant a separate flower garden just for cutting. Then you can have your flowers and cut them, too!Because its a cutting garden, you don't have to worry about the design aspect. For ease of use, set it up like a traditional vegetable garden, with widely spaced rows providing plenty of room to move about to plant, thin, fertilize, water, deadhead, and harvest. You can fill this area with flowers and foliage that you like and not be concerned about whether the colors complement each other or the plants look good together. Use this as a place to experiment with new plants and colors.
Get Ready To Plant! Planting can begin after the last frost date in your zone area. Even though plants will be available for sale before then, dont be seduced into buying too earlyunless you have your own greenhouseor else late frosts could wipe out your investment! When shopping for your cutting-garden plants, be sure to read the plant tags to learn about the plants size at maturity and care requirements. Before you plant, mix a granular, slow-release fertilizer into the soil. Many complete organic fertilizers, by nature, are slow release, so these are always an option. This will give plants a consistent boost of nutrition throughout their growing season. During peak production time, apply periodic doses of diluted liquid fertilizer to heavy blooming plants, such as an organic product like seaweed extract. When plants are a few inches tall, spread a two- to three-inch layer of mulch around the plants. You can use straw, chopped leaves, or even shredded newspaper to keep down weeds and retain moisture in the soil. Water regularly, especially when the plants are young and their roots are still shallow. When blooming begins, encourage production and keep plants blooming throughout the summer by picking the flowers regularly. Deadhead to remove faded blossoms so they wont form seeds, which will slow down flower production. As you deadhead or pick the flowers, check for insects, such as aphids, that may be beginning to infest the plants. When production slows and plants stop flowering, pull them, cultivate the bed, and replant with new seedlings. For example, while pansies provide early summer color, they won't bloom once summer days get too hot. Replace them then with marigolds or zinnias.
- Harvest garden flowers during the coolest time of dayearly morning or late evening.
- Remove lower foliage that would remain underwater in the vase or container.
- Cut stems with a sharp instrument, making the cuts underwater if possible. This prevents air bubbles from 'clogging' the stems.
- Place the flowers in clean containers of lukewarm water (room temperature up to 100 degrees F.) Add a floral preservative to provide nutrients and to prevent bacterial growth.
- Always keep cut foliage and flowers in water while making your arrangement. This will prevent wilt due to the loss of water through transpiration.
- Use clean containers that have been filled with preservative water.
- After each use, clean storage containers, vases, liners, and needle point holders with a soapy Clorox7 solution to kill all bacteria.