It’s been a week when the local markets have been flooded with flowers but have you considered growing your own cut flowers? Not just to fill your garden with colour, perfume and beauty but for a focused harvest? While it can be difficult to lop off the stems in your garden design, if you set up purpose-built gardens, just as you would for say veggies, then it becomes a whole lot easier to cut down bunches of flowers. Don’t get me wrong, your harvestable flower crop will still add interest and colour to your garden!
Just as you would any garden, you will need to make a plan. Factors to consider before deciding on which flowers to grow on your site include soil composition, light, access to water and possible environmental challenges such as wind and visitors that may become pests. You may find you will need to adjust the soil to suit the flower type you have your heart set on growing but as a baseline, a rich, loamy soil that is high in organic matter and free-draining will be required. Using raised garden beds, no dig mounds or just areas set aside for your cut flower growing adventure.
Cut flowers are just plants with purpose other than hanging out in your garden so a good idea is to plan for succession planting. Popular with veggie garden growing, it involves planting out the same type of seed every couple of weeks for a period of time so that come harvest you have a continuous crop and are not overwhelmed with too much of one flower. Starting seeds off in planting cells rather than directly into the ground can help protect them from pests and environmental factors. I’ve found it impossible to direct plant sunflowers for example as the birds and ground creatures simply dig them up in my garden. Getting your flowers to a sturdy seedling stage while under protection saves time and resources.
All plants have different growing requirements so do your research to ensure that feeding, watering and general care are maintained. You will also find that certain plants will need support via staking or a trellis and that light requirements will vary. For your own and the environment’s health, use only organic methods of pest and disease control. Following the advice for individual plant spacing, planting and care ensures healthier plants that are more resistant to challenges.
How do you encourage your flowers to grow lots of blossoms? Well one way that is popular in the commercial industry is ‘pinching out’, but it can be more than a little daunting. Only suitable for some multi steamed annuals, it encourages the plant to produce more branches from its base and flowers that will also have longer stems. When your plants are over 20cm in height, take off the top 8cm just above a set of leaves. Flowers that this method is most suitable for include dahlias, cosmos, branching sunflowers, snapdragons, amaranth and zinnias. Double check first to see if this method is suitable with your flower selection.
Picking your flowers at the right time will mean that they last longer which is especially important if you are planning on giving or selling them. Harvest most before the flowers are fully opened as this will mean a longer life. Of course, it is good garden practice to leave some of your crop standing for the pollinators and for seed saving. Harvest in the early morning when flowers are most hydrated. Remove all foliage that may sit below the waterline and place them straight into a bucket of cool, clean water. Let them sit for a few hours before arranging or bundling for sale.
What to Plant Now
As we are coming into autumn the following are suggestions of what can be planted now. These are by no means the only flowers but will get you started. Plant seeds of Amaranth, Asters, Black-Eyed Susans, Chrysanthemums, Chinese Lanterns, Japanese Anemone and Sunflowers. Spring flowering bulbs can also be planted such as tulips, daffodils, jonquils, freesias, iris and hyacinth.
Growing Flowers Locally- Suzie German
One person who is growing cut flowers successfully is local Permaculture Gardener Suzie German of Hidden Valley Harvest Edible Flowers. She has a passion for edible flowers and this season is growing zinnias, marigolds, dahlias, cornflowers and snapdragons to name just a few but Suzie also reminds us of another source, “We often forget that our herbs and vegetables have flowers as well and these can all be used.” While it will depend on the season right now Suzie suggests that sunflowers can be planted now as can Zinnias. “Coming is all sorts of colours and shapes including the flashy double pom-pom zinnias or there are lower growing varieties. Just two of many that grow well here on the Central Coast” All flowers are important in the garden she says whether for eating or pleasure as that they provide an important role for the environment, especially for our pollinators. You can find Suzie on Facebook: Hidden Valley Harvest Edible Flowers.
Bell’s Killcare Garden Tours 11.00am - 12.00pm. Friday 24th February. We invite you to meander through our abundant kitchen gardens with Megan, whilst learning about our organic growing techniques, Closed Loop Composting System, and see what we have growing and why! $15 per person includes a coffee/tea & pastry from Bells Bakery on arrival. Bookings essential and numbers limited to small groups. For further details or to book: email [email protected] or phone 4349-7000
Come and Share My Garden, Niagara Park. 10 – 11am Saturday 25th February. $15 per person. Join Carin Clegg, Dietitian and Eco-Warrior in a short tour of her permaculture designed garden. There is a lot to see and talk about so discussion will be guided on the group. You will get a few packets of seeds and plant cuttings of your choice. Bring your own jar if you would like to take home some plant cuttings. A share table will be available so please bring any garden related items you wish to give away, share or swap. Plant sales will be available by cash sales only. Address will be emailed to you prior to the event. Info and booking call Carin on 0407 492 278
Woy Woy Produce Swap 10 – 11am 26th February, Woy Woy Peninsula Community Garden. 85 -87 Moana Street Woy Woy. It is a very casual affair and nobody keeps score. By bringing your produce you are saying that you are happy for other swappers to take what they need because it is excess to your needs. It is simply a way of sharing the food you have grown with the fellow growers in your neighbourhood and a great way to meet local gardeners.
Late Summer Temperate Gardens
This week you could plant: culinary herbs, beans (dwarf), beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, cress, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, onions (spring), parsnips, peas, potatoes (tubers), radishes, rhubarb (crowns), salsify, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, turnips, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, cineraria, coneflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, lupin, nasturtium, nigella, pansy, poppy (Iceland), primula, statice, stock, verbena, vinca, viola, wallflower
Cheralyn Darcey is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3, on air locally or streaming by asking ‘play coastfm963’ Archived articles: florasphere.com
Send your gardening questions, events, and news to: [email protected]