Pop the kettle on and settle down – today’s post is a biggy!
One of the most frequently asked question I get is “How to create a cut flower garden?”. I’ve been working my garden for nearly eight years and over that time it’s changed every summer depending on my time and requirements. With the help of my husband I’ve taken it from an overwhelming shrub and weed filled wasteland to a glorious and productive flower farm. What started as a few hobby cutting beds has turned into a proper business and one that I can’t wait to see grow in all ways.
There is a lot to cover in this area and I plan to talk in more detail about growing flowers as the season unfolds. For this post I want to cover the basics of getting cut flower beds up and running as spring is the perfect time to start.
Before you even put your wellies on the most important thing to think about is how much time you have to dedicate to tending a garden. Flowers need watering and weeding regularly so if you have your weekends fully booked until September or a demanding job/childcare be realistic about what you can give. To get started one or two 100cm x 120cm beds might be enough – it’s amazing how much you can get from a small space – that’s how I began.
Last year when I decided to take growing flowers seriously, I created two large flower beds as I wanted to see how much time managing that space would take alongside raising my small children. Circumstance has changed again for the season ahead and as I have more childcare I’ve gone for it and added even more beds. Roughly, I have about 10 solid hours per week to manage the garden but can normally squeeze a few more in as the summer gets going. I am really protective of this time, this is my work and I treat it as if I was going into an office everyday.
Building flowers beds is actually really easy, for time and ease I followed the “no dig” method pioneered by Charles Dowding. I really recommend his book – No Dig Organic Home and Garden – Grow, Cook, Use & Store Your Harvest – as some great bedtime reading. Because the back part of the garden is on a relatively steep slope I decided to edge my beds with scaffold planks to stop the soil washing away. They have been great however, they can be a slug paradise so be prepared to be ruthless with the slimy ones when you see them. This year I have covered the paths in bark to try and stop them lurking.
When choosing a position for your cut flower beds you ideally want them in a sheltered, sunny position away from a fence. Anything that can cast a shadow will cause the stems to grow out rather than up. As any flower farmer knows, long stems are the holy grail of flower growing.
If using planks, decide on the width and length. The first two beds I created were 5ft x 14ft but I think 4ft wide would have been better. The third bed I put in this year is 3ft x 14ft which seems better. Once happy with placement screw the planks together at the corners. I got my scaffolding planks from Facebook Marketplace, they came in precut sizes (which is why I’ve started using feet as a measurement!) .
If placing on lawn make sure it the grass is cut really short and layer the inside of the bed with cardboard making sure there are no gaps, weeds and grass will creep into any free space. Water the cardboard and then add soil. I got mine in bulk bags from a local supplier – I used an organic manure and topsoil mix, I’m not 100% convinced it was the best stuff but everything grew…
What I did do was add a layer of my own homemade compost to the base of the beds to save a bit of money and nourish the beds the best I could.
I start a large portion of my spring flowers in the Autumn, when these beds were ready it was time to plant out the first spring seedlings. When your seedlings get to this point really take some time to think about staking and irrigation. Staking is so important as it gives the plants the support they need to grow tall and strong – a heavy summer shower can topple a whole crop. Last year I used metal stakes and netting I found on Amazon (we were in lockdown so getting to shops was hard), they weren’t great and both broke really easily. This year I found some great stakes and netting in Wilko (in store) which seem to be holding up a lot better.
With a bigger area to garden, I decided to add an irrigation system around all the beds with the help of my Dad. It did work really well but last summer was SO wet I only used it a few times! I will make amendments to it this year but only intend to use when absolutely needed.
When it comes to planting, I use a really tight spacing between plants to maximise the space, they seem much happier this way plus it makes the amount of weeding needed minimal.
There is so much still to talk about…plant choices, succession planting…but for now i’ll let you enjoy the summer garden. It’s hard to believe it’ll be bursting with colour in a few months time. If you have any questions please drop me a note, until then, happy gardening! x