Growing a cut flower garden has been one of my favorite things since starting our hobby farm. I could spend endless hours strolling through the rows of blooms and tending to the beds. The saying, “vegetables nourish the body and flowers nourish the soul” could not ring truer for me!
If you’re thinking about growing flowers for cutting but are hesitant because you’re unsure how to start or what to grow I hope this post helps you. I’m far from an expert when it comes to flower farming but I have learned a lot over the past couple of years as our garden continues to expand and evolve. And if you experience an ounce of the joy I have during my growing journey it will be worth it!
Determine what growing zone you’re in and when your average last frost is (when you can plant out) and when your first frost is (signaling the end of your season). This will greatly help you determine when you can get your seedlings and seeds in the ground without fear of losing your crop. In Western Michigan, where I live, we are generally between zones 5b and 6a and our average last frost is May 15th.
You don’t need a lot of space to grow a productive cut garden but you should consider things when you choosing your location such as proximity to a water source, amount of direct sunlight, as well as whether it will be subject to wildlife looking for a snack (like deer and rabbits).
Preparing your soil is often overlooked and is the least glamorous task but it’s necessary for decent production. Make sure that your plot has been cleared of sod and weeds as these will compete for nutrients with your flowers. I recommend at the very least adding a little bit of compost (if you have access to it) to the soil.
This is also the time for considering how you will water your plants. Many flower varieties do not like overhead water and it will make their petals dingy. We use drip irrigation lines (under weed fabric) in our garden and it’s a fairly simple system to set up. It works great and ensures our plant roots get all the water they need without ruining the petals. For a great guide and a list of supplies, check out Drip Depot.
Weeds weeds weeds! They will always be something you need to maintain on a regular basis so they don’t take over your garden but we have found weed fabric to work wonders. It comes in large rolls and keeps most weeds at bay and the following year the soil is mostly weed-free. We use a small propane torch and burn holes into the fabric to plant our plants into. Or you can find fabric with holes already in it here.
This step is a little out of order because some seeds should be sown a couple of months before your last average frost date. We use heat mats and grow lights on racks in our barning during this time. You can also start seeds in your home with good natural lighting. However, if this is something you’re not ready to do there are lots of varieties that can be direct-seeded right into your garden. Either way, figure out what you’d like to grow and order your seeds so you’re ready to plant when the time is right and not waiting on shipping or seed availability. I get most of most seeds from Johnnys.
There is an endless variety of cut flowers you can grow but here I have listed out what we’ve grown into two categories. Varieties that I have transplanted and direct-seeded into the garden. Also, note that I do some succession plantings and so some I have both transplanted and direct-seeded.
Sunflowers, Cosmos, Queen Anne’s Lace (Dara), Sweet Peas, Zinnias, Marigolds, Celosia
Lisianthus, Snapdragons, Dahlias, Feverfew, Amaranthus, Zinnias, Queen Anne’s Lace (Dara) – Winter Sown, Starflower, Eucalyptus
There is so much to learn about each type of flower so try and do your research. Some require different spacing, some benefit from pinching early on, most benefit from continuous deadheading, each variety is harvested at different stages, and stored using different methods to extend vase life. I have listed some great sources below. When planting your flowers often times you don’t need to complicate things and can refer to the back of your seed packet for planting instructions (I’ve oftentimes found this to be the best method).