10 Steps to a Dreamy Cutting Garden
Growing a dedicated cutting garden sounds difficult, but it isn’t. In many ways, it’s similar to growing a vegetable garden, but instead of picking tomatoes, you gather cut flowers. For the last six years, in addition to my perennial and vegetable gardens, I’ve grown a flower garden simply for the pleasure of bringing blooms indoors.
Here are 10 steps from planning to harvest.
Zinnias love hot weather and will produce flowers all summer long. They can also be sown directly outside. Photo by Dee Nash
1. Choose your location. It should be sunny for at least for six to eight hours a day. Many annual flowers require conditions similar to vegetable growing.
2. Build raised beds, or till the earth to create a garden area. If you build raised beds, they should be 4 feet wide and 12 inches deep. You can make them 4, 8 or 12 feet long using precut lumber. I line my raised beds with landscape fabric to help deter Bermuda grass. Speaking of Bermuda, if you till, you’ll need to remove all Bermuda from the space and keep an eye out for it all summer.
3. Purchase soil for raised beds, or improve your existing soil with compost and possibly manure. A soil test will give you the most accurate information on how to proceed.
4. Plan how you will water. My cutting garden is in full sun, and I use soaker hoses on individual timers for each bed. We tapped into our water and ran pipes underground. You could, instead, use a sprinkler on a timer set at night or early morning.
5. Order seeds that can be direct sown. Oklahoma has a long and fruitful season. Zinnias, bachelor’s buttons (cornflower), celosia, nicotiana, sunflowers, cosmos, and Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican sunflower) are all annuals that can be sown directly outside, love hot weather and will produce flowers all summer long. ‘Oklahoma Pink’ and ‘Queen Red Lime’ zinnias are beauties. ‘Envy’ zinnias and Nicotiana langsdorffii are popular fillers for bouquets.
6. Sow seeds according to package directions after the last freeze in spring, keeping in mind that plants will grow quite large over the season. Thin as necessary. Growing cut flowers in rows makes them easier to harvest.
7. Pull weeds, water and mulch throughout the growing season.
8. Cut spent blooms to increase flowering. Remember these flowers are annuals and their goal is to make seeds. If you don’t remove spent blooms, your plants will quit producing flowers.
9. Cut as many bouquets as possible. Don’t forget to bring your flowers inside and enjoy them. Watch for crab spiders and other small creatures, blowing them off before you bring in flowers.
10. At the end of the season, gather seeds from your flowers and save them for the following year. They may not come back true if you planted more than one variety of zinnia for instance, but saving seeds will save you money next spring.
This is the easiest way to grow a cutting garden. You can also use space within your vegetable garden to grow cut flowers. Interspacing vegetables with flowers also encourages pollinators.
Get your seeds!
» Burpee Seeds has numerous varieties of zinnias. Try growing hard-to-find ‘Queen Red Lime’ and the Zinderella series. They also have several varieties of sunflowers including their exclusives, ‘Strawberry Blonde’ and ‘Crimson Blaze.’
» Chiltern Seeds is a company from England specializing in unusual seeds including three different varieties of N. langsdorfii.
» Swallowtail Garden Seeds is another good seed source. Just stick to hot-weather selections.
» Johnny’s Selected Seeds has ‘Oklahoma Pink’ zinnias and other zinnias of the ‘Oklahoma’ series separated. They also have separate ‘Benary’s Giant’ zinnias.