As edible gardening becomes more mainstream, its benefits point to another niche market landscapers can capitalize on – designing and installing cutting gardens.
The farm-to-table idea is popular for several reasons, such as economic savings and a nearby supply on demand, and those are the same reasons the flower-to-table concept is growing too. Why drive to the store to buy a bouquet when you can step outside and create your own?
If you are considering offering this as a service for clients come spring, here are the basics you need to know to create a cutting garden.
First and foremost, you need to consult with your customer about what plants they would like to see in their cutting garden. As they are the ones who will be decorating their home with the cut flowers, you need to make sure you plant the flowers they prefer. If your client doesn’t have any preference, suggest a mixture of perennials and annuals so there is always something blossoming regardless of the season.
Some spring-blooming options include snapdragons, clematis, bleeding hearts, Shasta daisies, gypsophila and perennial scabiosa. There are plenty of options for summer beauties, such as zinnias, delphiniums, asters, statice and garden phlox. Some of the spring bloomers will come back in the fall and other late-summer flowering varieties like dahlias and celosia can last until the first hard frost.
Cutting gardens should be placed in a sunny, well-drained location, as most of the cutting flowers perform best with six hours of sun or more. The size of the garden plot will depend on the size and amount of the flowers selected.
The area should be planned with an eye toward functionality; in other words, there should be enough room to fertilize, water, deadhead and harvest the flowers.
Flowers should be grouped by similar needs and blooming times for efficiency. Ensure that taller plants do not overshadow shorter plants.
If the soil is favorable, add compost, chopped leaves or peat moss to further enrich it. If the soil is mostly clay, sandy or rocky, a raised bed may be far easier than trying to improve the site. About 20 plants can fit into a 3 foot by 6 foot raised bed if space is a concern. Before planting the seedlings, add a granular, slow-release fertilizer, which will provide a boost during the growing season.
Once you and your client have agreed on the placement and number of each variety, it’s time to get them in the ground. Water the plants thoroughly and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to keep weeds downs and water in.
“During peak production time, apply periodic doses of dilute liquid fertilizer, such as an organic product like seaweed extract, to heavy bloomers,” says Dr. Leonard Perry, extension professor at the .
Once the cutting garden is set up, the rest should be left to your client. The garden needs about an inch of water a week if rain is not abundant.
Tell clients that in order to get the most out of their cutting garden, they should cut flowers often. The more the client deadheads, the more flowers the plant will continue to produce.
Early morning is the best time to cut flowers for vases. The flowers should be placed in water immediately after snipping to prolong their vase life.