Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
If you are planning a large cutting garden, it may be worth your while to grow your own plants from seed.
Chances are this will save you money despite the fact that the price of seeds have gone up in recent years. When you consider that the plastic packs of transplants now cost $1.50 or so, it is often worth it to grow your own.
There are two ways to grow your own plants for the cutting garden. One is to direct sow the seed in the garden. I use this method for quick blooming, fast growing kinds of cut flowers. Among these are the various kinds of cosmos, coreopsis, sunflowers, and zinnias. Marigolds would be in this category as well.
Very tiny seeds and those cut flowers that tend to be slow growing may need to be started in plastic packs, small pots, or plastic flats. Typically, I do some of this indoors about six to eight weeks before the expected last frost. However, I also do some of these in pots outdoors once frost is past.
Certain kinds of flowers resent being transplanted. So, you will want to direct sow these. Examples would include all sorts of poppies and sweet peas.
When planting seeds for cutting gardens, there are several things to keep in mind. First, there is the planting depth. This is partially determined by the size of the seeds. The usual depth is twice the thickness of the seeds. However, certain kinds of seed should not be covered, or should be covered very lightly. Look at the seed package or seed catalog to see what the instructions say. Some seed companies like Renee’s Garden provides all the details you need. For Shirley poppy, for example, Renee’s says to barely cover the seeds. In addition, Renee’s tells when to plant the seeds.
So far as timing is concerned, ones needing higher temperatures, such as the ornamental peppers that are used in floral design, are best started early indoors or in a greenhouse. When starting seeds in packs and pots, I can’t stress proper hygiene enough. Clean isn’t enough if you are reusing containers from the previous year. These should be disinfected with a solution of household bleach.
For seed-starting, use either a commercial seed mix or sterilized potting soil you have mixed yourself. This must be sterile. Seedlings are very prone to damping off. That is why sterile media and clean containers are needed.
Before you transplant your seedlings into the cutting garden, harden them off first. This gives them a chance to adjust to outdoor conditions prior to transplanting.
By the way, one of the best sources around for seeds of cut flowers is Renee's Garden. These are available year-round at garden centers and from the secure website. Local stores should carry Renee's Flowers for Bouquets assortment, which contains six packs of different flowers for the cutting garden. Renee's offers high quality seeds of much-loved heirloom varieties as well as the latest international introductions from Europe and elsewhere.