Happy New Year! Winter is often a time when people are starting to plan their garden for next growing season. I have been busy doing just that and came up with these 5 things to keep in mind while you plan your 2016 cutting garden...
1. How many plants to buy.
This was a big one for me! I would get so excited about buying my new plants or seeds but I wouldn't really know how many would fit in my garden. Instead of punching in the numbers, I would just guess - sometimes it was ok, but sometimes I was really off! Knowing this formula will give you confidence while deciding how many plants or seeds you will need to order or while buying your plants at the garden center.
Measure how long your row is (in inches) and then divide by the spacing recommended on the tag (or you can look this up online for an individual flower). For instance, if you are planting zinnias and you want to plant them 8 inches apart, and you know your row is 5 feet in length, just multiply 5’ by 12" to get the amount of inches of your row (60 inches) and divide by 8 inches. The answer is 7.5". So you will need about 7-8 plants for that row. I know this is an awfully close to math class but, hey, it comes in handy!
(Note: If you are planting seeds , I recommend planting them much closer together and then thinning them out as they sprout to get the correct spacing. That way if some don't come up, the others can fill in.)
2. Don't be afraid to get out there early!
Some cut flowers actually thrive in the cold weather of very early spring (think pansies!). For these guys, you want to get out in your garden as early as possible to give them a chance to enjoy and grow in the cool, damp days of early spring. Bells of Ireland, sweet peas, larkspur, poppies and Queen Anne's lace are in this category. Order or buy your seeds in the dark, chilly days of winter so that you’re armed and ready when you get a decent day in March!
3. When planting seeds, plant in rows.
Oh the agony of seeing things sprout in the area you sowed but you are not sure if it's a weed or precious flower! When you plant in rows, you can see the pattern and it's easier to identify your friends just popping out. Weeding will also be a breeze, you can just take your hoe right between the rows!
4. Never leave bare ground after planting.
You will throw a party for yourself later in the season because of all the headaches and time you will save not weeding. Plan now to figure out your mulch of choice; mushroom mulch and regular bark mulch look nice, but you can also use grass clippings, leaves, or straw if you have access to them and are not so concerned with appearance.
5. Be hopeful but conservative! Daring but wise!
When trying a new flower, learn all you can about it, but don't buy too many until you have tested it out. This is another hard one for me, but the truth is some flowers are just more tricky to grow and you will be glad you didn't get the 1,000 seed packet when you realize that it has to be grown by stratification, takes 3 weeks to germinate, under lights, in a greenhouse, and watered two times a day!!! (Can you tell I've done this?!) Winter is a great time to research all your dream flowers and make sure you can actually grow your favorites. On the other hand, you will probably find new, ideal flowers by going beyond your normal choices! And as a very wise flower farmer once said, "Seed is the cheapest investment you will make on the farm."
Hopefully this gives you some food for thought! We hope you had a merry christmas, a happy new year, and may this growing season be your best yet!!!