collection of flowers

Late winter blues? Start your cutting garden now!

With spring so close and yet so far away, plant- and petal-lovers, are dreaming of vases brimming with flowers. And if you live on a budget, you might not be able to spend as much as you wold like at the florist to procure these armfuls of flowers. So why not DIY? Start your own cutting garden this spring and enjoy abundant blooms for months to come–with some to spare!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary–where does your garden grow?

Before you purchase your seeds for your cutting garden, you need to decide where you will be growing your cutting garden. Next to your house? On your balcony? Sure! But before you can start your seeds and bulbs indoors, you need to think about where they will go and how you will organize your cutting garden.

For years people have been told to put their cutting garden in an out of the way spot that ins’t being used anyway. While this is fine advice and pretties up an otherwise bare spot, you might enjoy looking at your cutting garden. So, since most flowers need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, find a sunny spot with good drainage. Most gardeners recommend at least a 3 by 6 square foot area (you can get about 20 plants in this much dirt). But if you have the space, go big!

How does your garden grow?

Knowing where you will plant your cutting garden leads you to the next thought–what will you plant and when should you start the seeds and bulbs? Many gardeners use a planting grid, which is exactly what it sounds like–so grab some graph paper and a pencil! Think about when your favorite flowers bloom and how tall they grow. Usually you will want to put the late bloomers and the taller plants towards the back of your cutting garden. And give yourself some walking room, especially if you are going to plant a bigger cutting garden. You don’t want to trample anyone who may still be working their way up through the soil or still be a delicate little infant plant.

seedlings in cups

‘Cause I’m easy like a sunny morning

We know, it’s a mis-quote, but as you choose which plants to grow, make it easy on yourself, especially if you are just getting started. Perennials are probably the easiest flowers to get started and to grow and tend to last longest in a vase. So head over to your local greenhouse now to pick up some seeds. Some choices that are both pretty and good for pollinators (which means good for your garden and good for your health) are:

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Calliopsis
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cosmo
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtium
  • Poppy
  • Purple coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragon

And why not throw in some silver bells and cockle shells for good measure?

And with your perennials, don’t forget about some of our favorites–dahlias, peonies, zinnias, and ranunculus!

a basket of flowers

Work indoors now to enjoy your cutting garden outdoors later

Most of the country is still prone to frost this time of year, so unless you live in the southern states, you will need to start your plants indoors. So find a sunny place, grab those seed packets, and let’s get started–provided you are about 6 to 8 weeks away from your last frost!

Like any plant, you will want containers with good drainage and a rich, organic potting mix. Feel free to re-purpose containers from the recycling like cans and bottles, as these seedlings will be going outside anyway. Empty egg cartons work well for this, too. Or you can go to your local greenhouse and purchase specific containers made just especially for starting seeds indoors. But be kind to Mother Earth, and look for the containers you can throw in the compost heap. Moisten the potting mix and then fill your containers. Sprinkle a few seeds on top, and barely cover the seeds with more soil. Set your containers on a pebble tray, as you will want to water them from the bottom. Seeds need water, but not too much. What they really need to get started is warmth and plenty of sunlight. Once they sprout, turn them once a day to keep them from bending toward the sun.

Nurture your seedlings; nurture yourself

As winter starts to loosen its icy hold over us, take some lessons from nature. Stay warm, get plenty of water and sunshine (there is more now than there was six weeks ago), and take the time to think about what you need in order to grow while you are tending your seedlings and dreaming of flowers. Next week, we’ll tell you what to do with those seedlings as they grow!