A cutting flower garden is an attractive addition to any backyard. Once in place, your family will enjoy a stunning array of colors from its beautiful blooms and delight in all the pollinators buzzing about flowers blooming during the growing season.
Whether you have limited space or ample room in a backyard, designing a cutting flower garden is a fulfilling project that requires thoughtful planning and attention to detail. This article outlines simple steps for planning, creating, and maintaining a cut flower garden so you can enjoy a continuous supply of fresh flowers in your home all season long.
How Much Sun Does a Cutting Garden Need?
Cutting gardens need at least six hours of sun a day. Besides a sunny spot, the growing space also needs well-drained soil and easy access for watering and harvesting. If planting a cutting garden around a structure, avoid areas under rooflines so plants don’t get crushed from the runoff of heavy rain. Also, consider planting your cutting gardens within a fenced area to prevent critters like deer from feasting or trampling on your gorgeous garden.
Consider the Different Types of Gardens
Flower gardening is flexible! Garden plans should accommodate any limitations. Using the same type of flower bed or different ones might make sense. Here are some great options for various needs:
- Raised beds: An excellent choice because it offers better weed control and accessibility.
- Elevated beds: Same as the raised bed, imagine it smaller with legs that make it table-height. Makes for a lovely look in flower houses, near entrances, or on porches.
- Tiered beds: The prettiest display of all raised beds. Great for a tidy herb or flower garden right outside your kitchen door. They accommodate shallow and deep root systems.
- Row garden: Best for a small flower farm or the traditional look of a regular flower garden. Offers the biggest bounty of blooms in even the smallest of yards. Instead, you may prefer the beauty of natural-looking gardens and landscaping.
- Landscaped flower bed: The most common approach and natural way to intersperse flowers around your yard for a lovely landscape and serious curb appeal. Plots are super flexible in size and shape.
- Container and vertical gardens: Convenient for a small space and adding pops of color anywhere you’d like, but requires frequent watering. You’d need several to serve the purpose of a cutting garden and would be limited in the types of flowers you can grow.
Determine Your Garden’s Design
Assuming you’ve picked a sunny plot, it’s time to decide your garden’s size and shape. While this step is unique to every individual and their own garden needs, consider the effort, available space, mature flower sizes, how many flowers you’d like to grow, and your budget. It’s recommended to start a small cutting garden and expand it later.
Next, plan the layout. Arrange plants in groups, with taller plants in the back and smaller flowers for garden borders. This will create a sense of depth and balance.
Cutting Garden Design Tips
Here’s a list of things to think about when drawing up your garden plans:
- Solve Water Problems – Make sure the hose can reach! If not, rain barrels are great solutions.
- Plant Enough – If your garden(s) will serve as curb appeal, make sure to plant enough for cutting too. Bare spots are unsightly.
- Use Markers – Otherwise, plants may accidentally get mowed, trimmed, or trampled.
- Try Curves – Design with them in mind. It adds a touch of elegance and a more natural look to the yard.
- Make Access – Provide plenty of room for harvesting.
Have a Plan for Weed Control
You can always count on weeds, so plan for their prevention! Landscaping fabric is the best long-term weed growth option. But please purchase cautiously, as weeds will grow through the cheap stuff.
Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of brands to cut costs, but most fail the first season. The one product that does the job is Sta-Green Ultimate Landscape Fabric, and after seven years, it’s still holding up as a barrier under rock pathways, flower beds, and gardens. Over time, this is the cheapest method and the most effective. But, of course, you’ll still need to pull it up to amend your soil occasionally.
In some places, I prefer using mulch alone…and lots of it! However, it takes an extra thick layer to block weeds. Also, mulch breaks down quickly, even in a year, so it is a recurring expense.
You’ll get the best deals on mulch from your local landscape supply yard. They will deliver it for a fee, or you can pick it up. A large truck bed full will run about $30-$40, which is hard to beat.
If you’re tempted to rely on weed-control sprays (organic or not), consider their short- and long-term effects, costs, and the time needed for consistent applications. Fabric or much is healthier for you, the plants, the soil, and beneficial insects.
Get Landscaping Supplies
Here’s a general list of supplies to consider depending on the type of garden:
- Raised Beds
- Weed Block or Landscaping Fabric
- Mulch, Stone, or Straw
- Edging for In-Ground Flower Beds
- Soil & Compost
- Digging Fork
- Drip Lines (if going big)
- Beautiful Flowers or Seeds
- Support (Netting or Stakes)
- Organic Plant Food (Fish & Kelp Fertilizer)
Choosing Plants for Your Own Cutting Garden
When it’s time to select cutting flowers, consider the following:
- Purpose – Do you want edible gardens, butterfly gardens, cottage gardens, rose gardens, dried flower types, fragrant flowers, or just your favorite flowers?
- Bloom times – Plants that bloom at different times throughout the season will keep your garden colorful all season long. For example, annuals such as cosmos and zinnias provide early summer blooms, while asters and dahlias bloom later in the season.
- Zone – Read the plant labels and every seed packet to confirm your planting zone aligns with the plants’ so they can thrive with less care.
- Color – Will your plant collection look good together? Will the colors look good in your home?
- Size – Plant flowers of varying heights for interest in the garden and arrangements.
- Texture – Remember to grow fillers like baby’s breath and foliage plants.
- Fragrance – High-scent varieties smell lovely in the home and garden.
- Pollinators – Attract beneficial pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to help keep your garden full of energy and life. You’ll want to collect free seeds later!
- Floral Arrangements – Choose plants that evoke emotions and create visual interest. Explore different species and combinations, considering factors such as seasonality, personal preferences, and the intended purpose.
- Low-Maintenance – Incorporate some easy keepers like native perennial plants, but take advantage of vibrant annuals too. You want your garden to work for you more than you work in it!
What Makes a Good Cut Flower
A good cut flower to grow is one that has a long vase life and flowering season which will allow for more harvesting. Some flowers can last days or weeks in a vase, especially native wildflowers.
Cutting Garden Favorites
The best perennial and biennial flowers for cutting are Shasta daisies, Sweet Rocket, spring bulbs, roses, hydrangeas, peonies, lavender, and coneflowers. These always deliver show-stopping beauty.
The best annual flowers for cutting are tall snapdragons, globe amaranth, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, stock, poppies, and vining plants like the sweet pea. I love them primarily for their color variety and showy blooms.
Sweet peas are one of my favorites. Try growing them! Their bright green vines and sissy blooms really draw the eye up in the garden. In addition, sweet peas are incredibly easy to germinate. They are also quite popular with our Bumble Bee buddies, and kids enjoy growing them too!
Can I Grow Cut Flowers in a Vegetable Garden?
Yes. Flowers and vegetables can be planted in the same beds. Many annuals are fantastic for their bright colors and cheery vibe. But more important, flowers attract necessary pollinators and provide protection. So as you do the succession planting for your vegetable garden, you can do the same with some flowers too.
Dig the Beds for Your Cut Flower Garden
Our best advice is to use a digging fork to quickly break up the soil to a depth of about 8 inches. If you need to remove grass first, use a flat shovel to skim the surface only. If this is too difficult, use a small tiller that will only remove the first few inches…then go deeper with the digging fork. This will help to protect valuable earthworms and still make quick progress.
Add Compost and Cover the Soil With Weed Block
First, mix in organic matter such as compost, then cover. Remember, quality material matters here. It needs to block light yet let water drain through. It should be rated for at least 25 years to last you for two. On a budget, go with cardboard or a thick layer of newspaper.
Not only will this prevent weeds, but it will also protect flowers from not-so-beneficial insects as they emerge. As a bonus, covering also helps to retain soil moisture.
Last, cut or burn holes in the fabric according to your garden plans. Take into account their recommended spacing in the plants’ care instructions.
Plant Like a Master Gardener
Plant your cut flowers into the holes and gently firm the soil to finish your garden plan. Follow the recommended planting instructions for each variety. Be sure to water them well after planting and add a top layer of mulch, straw, or other preferred material.
How to Maximize Production
Here are tips for growing flowers efficiently. First, grow prolific bloomers! These are often cut-and-come-again types, which are excellent performers. You will only get big yields if you’re growing flowers that typically produce abundant blooms.
You can often double or triple production with a few simple methods like pinching young plants and deadheading spent blossoms. Both encourage branching and, therefore, more flowers.
As you trim the dead flowers, sack them away for next year. Saving the seeds in little paper bags will dramatically cut the costs associated with buying many plants. You can also start seeds indoors so flowers bloom early. Depending on the flower, this allows for succession planting for a constant supply from your garden throughout the growing season.
Last, if you’re growing from seed indoors, save your money and skip the cell plugs and pots. Instead, make soil blocks! Soil blocks prevent any chance of transplant shock and make for stronger, healthier seedlings.
Maintain the Garden
Regularly water, weed, and fertilize the plants. Prune them as needed to keep them healthy and promote growth. For an easy and affordable solution, feed with a foliar spray that’s an organic blend of kelp & fish. One application every 3-4 weeks is plenty; you can use it to feed your entire garden.
How to Harvest Cutting Garden Flowers – The Right Way
The best time to harvest flowers is early morning before the day’s heat sets in. This will help to prolong their vase life.
When you cut stems, only use a super sharp knife or a tool with a single blade. Snips, scissors, or pruners can squeeze and crush the capillaries inside stems. Damage to stems hinders the flowers’ ability to soak up water and stay hydrated. Immediately, place them in a bucket of clean water to encourage capillary action and begin recovery.
It does not matter if you cut at an angle, but how much water you put in the vase does! Therefore, you want the water line to be as high as possible to increase pressure and influence flowers’ recovery. It will immediately improve water intake and air dissolution in the vessels.
This method best affects stems cut closest to the ground or base because the vessels are larger. Higher cuts with smaller vessels readily recover regardless.
Other experts say homegrown flowers should rest for an hour or so before making indoor arrangements, but it offers no benefit. I start arranging flowers right away. The sooner the flowers can begin recovery, the better.
If your flower’s vase life is shorter than expected, change the water more frequently and add a drop of bleach each time. Sometimes, you may notice a particular flower wilt early because you’ve mixed it with other cut flowers or foliage plants that are toxic to them. Unfortunately, not all flowers make good companions in a vase.