Grow your own flowers at home
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In my early flower gardening days there wasn’t a lot of planning that went into my garden “design”. I would typically buy seed packets on impulse at a garden store and then plant them without much forethought. The garden would grow and look like a 5-year-old had planted it.
All the elements were there; soil, water, seeds, and sun. There is a lot of sun in Florida. I also had hope, lots of hope. Where did it go wrong? Why do seeds sprout and then die? Why doesn’t it look like the package?!
The short answer is lack of planning. My father used to tell me when things went wrong that I hadn’t followed “Pete’s 6 P’s”. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I think I was an adult before I realized that he didn’t coin that phrase himself. It’s good advice just the same.
The best thing I ever did for my flower garden was buy a gardening journal. It’s nothing special, just a blank journal to keep records in. Journal writing is a big thing these days and there are a lot of beautiful journals to buy. You can also find journals that are specifically for gardening.
Begin your journal with a sketch of your garden beds. Be neat, try to make it to scale by measuring the dimensions outside. It’s important to know how much space you have when planning.
Another thing to take into account is the amount of sun your garden gets. Take note how many hours of sun falls on your garden, this is important in regards to plant choice. Take notice of where and when the shadow falls across your flower garden.
The next important factor in growing a great flower garden is the soil. Does it drain well after rain or do you see puddles? You’ll want good drainage in all cases unless it’s a water or bog garden. Amend your soil before starting a flower garden.
I use a variety of plant starters in the garden. I love to grow from seeds or bulbs for the sheer satisfaction of start to finish results. Seedlings from a garden center are a quicker way to get started with a ready made plant. The downside is cost as a seedling plant for Basil may cost $2-$3, while a packet of 50 seeds is $1.50. You can also save the seeds you don’t use for next year, share or trade them with a friend.
I usually start with a list of what I want to plant. I always try to mix edibles in my flower garden. Herbs make great companion plants as well as tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, you name it. Once you have your list, you need to know the sunlight, soil, and watering requirements for your plants and group them accordingly. For example, Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant that likes well-draining soil conditions and lots of light. You wouldn’t pair that with a plant that needs rich soil and shade.
Now you have your groups, take note of the expected height of each plant. You don’t wants some flowers to block the sun from others. Grow your shorter plants in the front of the beds and the taller in the back. This is why it’s important to know where the sun falls in your garden.
Remember that gardening journal or notebook? It’s time to pull that out and figure out plant spacing and layout of your flower garden. Sketch it out and make a plan based on recommended plant spacing. I like to over plant because you will always need to thin seedlings, some may fail, some may get eaten by wildlife. I don’t go crazy here, but I put seeds a bit closer with the knowledge they will be thinned out.
Prepare your garden beds by removing any grass or weeds. Use a shovel, hoe, or tiller and break up the clumps and get it workable. Remove rocks, debris, and weeds. Leave the worms intact! You are going to need these guys. Work the soil to a depth of about 6-8 inches. Rake it out flat and water it deeply. At this point, you can apply a plastic sheeting and stake it down to kill off any weed seeds. This requires 4-6 weeks of sunny days and the heat under the plastic will kill the seeds.
After you remove the plastic, only dig up the areas you need to plant your seeds. Do not rework it too deeply, you might bring up new weed seeds. Now you are ready to put the seeds in the dirt!
Alternatively, you can skip the plastic all together and just deal with the weeds as they come up. I usually skip this because I count on last year’s flower seeds that dropped to grow for free!
You should always follow the instructions that come with your seeds, bulbs, or plants. Get friendly with your area’s USDA Zone. Your plant’s information will tell you if it should be grown where you live. Also, figure out your frost dates so that you know when it is safe to plant outside.
My cut flower garden last year consisted mostly of zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, and wild flowers suited for my area of the country. All of these plants are great for outdoor sowing directly into the soil. Put your frost date on your grow calendar and be ready! The sooner you get started after the danger of frost has passed, the sooner you’ll be picking flowers for your table.
Now that your frost date has passed you are ready to dig in the dirt! Follow the instructions on your seed’s package regarding depth of planting. Take a ruler or tape measure to the garden so that you can accurately dig and space your plants. Have your garden journal at hand so that you can follow your plan. At this point you can place garden markers to indicate where you have placed your seeds. This is an extra step if you are already using a journal.
Gently water in your seeds being careful not to wash your seeds away. Water your plants as directed on the package. You may want to invest in an inexpensive rain gauge to keep an eye on how much water your plants receive as they grow. Make a plan to water your plants, put this on your grow calendar. Be sure to set aside the time for this step. It would be a shame to lose your garden to a drought!
The next step is to grab a cup of coffee, plop down in a comfy chair, and open your journal. Next to your flower garden sketch, write in the date you planted each group of plants. If you plant it all in one day, you can just write the date at the top. Leave room next to it as you will need to write down the germination date soon. The germination date is when the plants break through the dirt.
This is important for a few reasons. First you can see how well this particular seed performed in germination rate. If half of them didn’t grow, that is poor germination performance. I would make a note to not purchase that brand of seed in the future. Secondly, your seed package will give you an idea of how long the seed takes to germinate. That way you have an idea of what to expect.
Growing & Feeding
“The waiting is the hardest part.” Tom Petty
I’m the crazy garden lady that is out staring at the dirt everyday in some questionable outfit. Be patient and diligent in your documentation. At this point, you really shouldn’t try to pluck up any weeds unless you can surely tell the difference from a seedling. Now watch and wait and as those seedlings emerge. Be sure to take pictures and post to your social media!
Once your seedlings are about 2-3 inches in height, your should thin them out if you planted them closer than recommended. Your plants will need to have good air flow and root space. Crowding can invite disease and inhibit your plant’s growth.
At this point I love to give the plants their first feeding. I use Miracle Grow for flowers in the powder form and reconstitute it in a watering can according to the instructions. I also log it in the gardening journal and make a plan to feed them every two weeks through the growing season.
When you are purchasing a fertilizer you will notice that they all have three numbers indicating the amount of each nutrient. The first number is the amount of nitrogen. The second number is the amount of phosphate. The third number is the amount of potash. Nitrogen is for green growth and phosphate is for blooms. For example a fertilizer with 10-30-10 would be great for a flower garden. It would give you less green growth with more blooms.
Now that your flowers are growing and thriving, be sure to protect them. Pull weeds from your garden regularly before they crowd your flowers and take the nutrients! It’s a battle that you can win however, if you take five minutes a day to patrol.
I like to do this by hand and avoid chemical weed killers. I’m also growing edibles in this garden and do not want my food exposed to the poison. It is also harmful to your bees and butterflies. Just say no.
When you see a weed, grab it at its base and gently pull it from the dirt. You want to pull up the entire root so that it doesn’t return. If you find them early, they are easier to pull up without breaking the roots. Otherwise a plastic or old fork would do the trick nicely.
What a cute little snail! Is what I used to say before I found out that snails love to eat dahlias. My first year growing dahlias was a constant battle of the snails. One snail could eat a whole branch in one night! I learned that weeds were the least of my problems.
Not all bugs in the garden are harmful however, the snails in my garden only ate the dahlias. So this year I will put my dahlias in pots where I can better ward off the snails. Alternatively, you can put a snail trap in the garden. This is a DIY project involving a plastic container and a bottle of beer. It works. But as I was saying, watch for bugs, identify them, research them, and get them out.
Natural pest control
One year our vegetable garden had a terrible aphid problem. We purchased a container of praying mantis eggs. We hatched baby praying mantises into the garden. There were hundreds of them! They gobbled up all the aphids and moved on. Best $5 I’ve spent.
The idea is to fight your pests in a natural way that isn’t harmful to you, your plants, or your wildlife.
Cutting Flowers in the Garden
The moment of truth has arrived and your first blooms are dancing in the sun! Sweet victory! Now get your garden snips and get cutting. Most flowers benefit from cutting the blooms. The plant sends the extra energy to creating more blooms. This is a beautiful cycle that continues to replenish your garden.
Fresh cut flowers give your life that extra sunshine, I highly recommend starting yours today! Choose flowers that have sturdy stems and grow tall. Plant a color theme or a variety. Then sit back and enjoy your garden with the bees and butterflies.