Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
A lot of floral designers are interested in having a cutting garden, but have limited time for this endeavor. When that is the case, the solution is to create an easy care cutting garden that requires minimal attention.
For easy care cutting gardens, the first rule of thumb is to choose plants that are undemanding with regard to watering, fertilizing and general care. For example, choose ones that you know to be drought tolerant. A number of annuals that are commonly grown as cut flowers fall into this category. Unfortunately, most roses are too demanding to describe as easy care. However, the drought tolerant varieties require less attention than others.
Choose cut flowers that are well suited to your particular growing conditions with respect to sun or shade, climate, drainage, soil type, and pH level. As an example, my soil is heavy clay that is on the acid side. If I try to grow plants that need a light, sandy, well drained soil I am only asking for trouble. Such plants will languish, and I will get very few usable stems from them. This would simply be a waste of my effort.
One easy care way of growing cut flowers is to use raised beds. I make mine narrow enough so that I can sit on the edge and reach into the center to cut the flower stems and weed the beds. If you decide to use raised beds, remember they will dry out quicker than the surrounding soil, which is what I want with my clay.
Mulching is recommended for easy care cutting gardens. This helps to conserve moisture and minimize the need for weeding. I prefer to use bark mulches of some sort. For annual cutting gardens, many people like to use plastic mulch, which is most likely black. There is also a fabric-like mulch, which is more permanent. This is often referred to as landscape fabric. I donít like to use this for perennial cut flowers because the fabric prevents the clumps of plants from increasing in size. It is fine for annual varieties.
Whenever possible, try to install some sort of permanent irrigation system in the cutting garden to make watering easy. Dragging hoses around takes a lot of time and hard word. Many irrigation systems are automatic. Generally, these use a minimum of water. This is especially true for drip irrigation. Sprinklers waste a lot of water, so I donít recommend those at all.
When it comes time to apply fertilizer to the cutting garden, the easiest method is to use a time release type. There are different brands and types. The label will specify how long the fertilizer is effective. Typically they are for about three months or so, about a normal growing season in colder areas of the U.S. Apply it in the spring, and you need not bother again until next year.