I'm completely delighted to share my thoughts on growing an easy cutting garden with you! As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I've been working from home for the past five months, and the ability to walk out to my garden for a few minutes between clients has been quite the lifesaver for me. My garden always restores my peace, fills me with hope, and reminds me of the way God is continuously making things new. I hope gardening will do the same for you if you choose to grow a little something:)
I called this post How to Grow an Easy Cutting Garden, because I don't know enough to make things overly complicated! There are MANY excellent and more comprehensive resources out there. But I think these steps will get you going!
1. Remember to start small. Since you want this to be easy and enjoyable, don't take on too much right away!
2. Acquire raised bed(s). These are mine and I've been very pleased with them. You can always build your own raised beds, but I've found these to be easy to construct, affordable, and they've held up well. You can certainly grow a cutting garden in the ground, or even in containers, but I prefer raised beds for a small backyard garden. I feel this is the easiest way to control soil quality and keep things properly watered. One or two 4x4 beds will be a great, small place to start and will give you MANY more flowers than you expect!
3. Get your soil. To me, this is the most overwhelming part. There are SO many guides to different soil mixes and improving soil quality and this is important. But to get started, I think the easiest and most practical thing is to go to a local garden center (not Home Depot or Lowe's) and see if they make an organic raised bed mix. They can help you figure out how much you need. Then ask for some organic compost to go along with your soil. If you're wondering how much compost to add, the amount is "some". Ask your helper, they'll know the answer:)
4. Order zinnia seeds and cosmo seeds. There are so many cut flowers you can choose from, but I think people largely feel these are the easiest two to grow. They're easy to start from seed, are pretty drought and heat tolerant, plus the more you cut them the more they grow! They've been quite easy for me. Order more seeds than you think you'll need, because you'll certainly kill some and it's fine. Just try again. My very favorite seed source is Floret, but you can always conduct a google search.
5. Choose a nice, sunny spot. Everything you read says gardens need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to grow well. Mine gets much less, about 2-3 hours of very patchy morning sun and maybe 3 direct hours in the afternoon, but somehow it still works in my very hot climate. Even if you don't have the perfect sunny spot, I still think it's worth a try. I also think this is a great reason to start small--no need to spend a ton of money before you find out what works well for you.
6. For the love of all that is good and right in the world, do yourself a huge favor and order a soaker hose like this one here. This is a hose that you put in your garden and it has teeny, tiny holes in it. It attaches to your real hose and when you turn it on your garden magically waters itself. You can even set it to a timer like this one! It is very difficult to keep up with hand watering in the south, so soaker hoses have been a real game changer for me.
7. Head to the Farmer's Almanac and look up your last annual average frost date, then plant your seeds three or four weeks after that (you can certainly wait longer, I just planted a new round this week!). Just scatter these seeds, brush some soil over them, and water them well.
8. For the very best results, you'll need to pinch these flowers when they are about 8-12 inches tall. This sounds complicated, but is actually quite easy. I don't have what it takes to properly describe this process, but you can read all about it right here.
9. Wait for your flowers to grow and delight you!
As I said before, there is MUCH more detailed information available about this process. You're sure to have some questions, but my aim here is to make this info as simple as possible so you can think about getting started. Perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself is to learn from people who know more than you! I have found gardeners to be the most kind and generous people. They love to answer your questions and share what they've learned! I'm going to share some of my favorite gardeners on my Instagram stories and I'll save them under my gardening highlights in case you're reading this later.
I hope this is helpful to you as you start making garden plans for next year! In Part 2 of this post I'm planning to write about Dahlias, which just might be the most magical flower of all:) Happy gardening!