Cambo Tulip Festival via Largo Baywatch.
Creating a cutting garden can seem intimidating, but like all gardening, planning will prevent you from wasting valuable resources like space, time, and money. Here’s a simple plan for creating a cutting garden:
- Research. Research cutting garden plans online or at a bookstore. Ask an experienced gardener. Take a class at a local nursery. Gardening isn’t the type of hobby that you can just pick up and be an expert at. The mythical “green thumb” doesn’t exist! People that are great at growing plants typically spend a lot of time learning about their hobby. How big will your garden be? How many types of plants would you like? Do you want a raised bed system or edged bed? What kind of flowers do you want?
- Pick a location. Before you start, choose the location of your cutting garden. Measure how much sun it gets. Full sun all day? Late afternoon sun? If you want to grow a variety of plants, you might want to choose several locations with different levels of light. Fillers like ferns and ivy can be grown in hanging baskets on a porch. Poppies need a dry and sunny location. Hydrangeas need lots of room and afternoon shade. Sunflowers do well against a fence.
- Layout the beds. Choose a bedding system (raised, edged, container, etc.) and create the beds.
- Prep the soil. The easiest way to do this is by sending a soil sample in to your nearest testing center. Most agriculture universities have a center where this can be done at low cost. Call a local nursery and they’ll usually know the name of local testing centers. Add nutrients and chemicals as needed.
- Order plants. Local nurseries are my first stop as they are intimately acquainted with what grows in your specific zone. They’re locally owned, and are usually willing to answer all the little questions you have about gardening. I’ve yet to meet a nursery owner who isn’t deeply passionate about what they do. Most will have long conversations, in person or on the phone, with customers about the minute details of gardening. They’ll help you choose and order the plants you need.
- Plant. Follow the guidelines for planting, making sure each plant has enough room to grow and is in the appropriate location.
- Water, fertilize and weed as needed. Keep a journal or document to record what you need to do and what you have done.
- Harvest. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Clip, snip, and party. Take your clues from Martha Stewart, who has a giant peony garden at her estate and throws an annual party when they bloom.
- Plan for all seasons, choosing flowers that bloom in every available month in your zone.
- If you want a lot of bulb plants (tulips, hyacinth, etc.) most are planted in the fall.
- Make beds long and narrow. You don’t want to struggle to reach the flowers.
- Create a five year plan, adding features and flowers each year. For example, start with a single bed of three or four flowers for the first year. Add on beds and fences as the years progress.
- Group flowers by need and species.
- Plant as compactly as possible.
- Deadhead the plants regularly. This will promote growth.
- Pull annuals as soon as they stop blooming and replace or replant.
- Include plants to use as filler like ivy, ferns or herbs.