For The Answer
Express-News Weekly Article
Saturday, April 29, 2006
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
“Cut Flower Garden”
Managing a flower bed for cut flowers is different than caring for flowers to make your landscape colorful. A cut flower garden is attractive and still attracts butterflies, but it also should have plenty of blooms that can be cut to bring in the house 12 months of the year.
Here are some basic rules to follow if cut flowers are your primary objective.
· Select the flowers that produce blooms that lend themselves to cutting. That usually means they have long lived flowers after they are cut and they have long sturdy stems.
· Select a rotation of flowers that results in color 12 months of the year.
· Be prepared to remove plantings before they have declined completely in order to make room for other plantings that will be at their prime to fill a future time in the schedule.
· All other things equal, select blooms with pleasant fragrances.
· Flowers in the house are usually desirable no matter what the color, but you can give preference to bloom colors that compliment your decor.
With our soil conditions it is usually best to have a raised bed for your cut flower garden. One railroad tie high filled with landscape soil (1/3 each of compost, sand, and soil) works well. If you have a choice, full sun is best. The selection of flowers that prosper in the shade is relatively small. Drip irrigation is essential unless you are really a conscientious hand waterer. Hand water newly planted flowers every day for five days and then water every three days with drip irrigation if it does not rain. I have a drip line every foot across the garden with self-cleaning emitters every foot. Fertilize the garden every six weeks with slow release lawn fertilizer. I use one cup of 19-5-9 spread over each 50 square feet of soil. Control weeds by using live oak leaves placed in the rows two inches deep as a mulch.
Control insects as necessary. Use Bt products for caterpillars, carbaryl for beetles, acephate for thrips, and kelthane for spider mites. Disease control is usually not an issue because the plants are rotated before diseases settle in.
Remember, your primary objective is to cut the flowers for the house, encourage your family to participate. Be extravagant with their use.
The key management tenet is to pull old plants after their prime bloom period to make room for planting the flowers that will provide blooms later in the season. Try a cut flower garden, it is fun.