Assess and Define your Site sun/shade good drainage easy water source good soil or amendable soil not too many rocks considerations: raised beds, microclimate and wind protection measure the space you are thinking of using use a dedicated garden notebook to keep notes in this year and years to come Design Your Plot easy access on all sides permanent walking paths beds 32-48 inches wide Small Scale Intensive Cut Flower Garden Goals: 1. to grow as many blooms as you can in the space you have 2. to grow the longest stems possible Spacing for cut flowers fits into 1 of 3 categories Figure out what will fit in your space
6” X 6” a 4’ X10’ bed fits about 140 plants using 6-8 rows Best plants for this spacing include: anemone, babies breath, cress, dill, flax, ornamental grains, lisianthus, pansy/viola, stock, sunflowers (single stem)
9” X 9” a 4’ X 10’ bed fits about 65 plants using 4-5 rows This is the most common spacing. This spacing works for just about any annual cut flower and some perennial flowers Best plants for this spacing include: bachelor buttons, black-eyed Susan, bupleurum, calendula, cerinthe, china aster, Chinese forget-me-not, corn cockle, feverfew, foxglove, ornamental grasses, larkspur, love-in-the-mist, mignonette, orlaya, scabiosa, poppies, sea holly, snapdragons, status, straw flower, sweet William, yarrow, and zinnia
12” X 12” a 4’ X 10’ bed fits 40 plants using 3-4 rows Best for branching/bulkier plants like amaranths, bells of Ireland, cosmos, dahlia, delphinium, Queen Anne’s lace, sunflowers (branching), and sweet rocket
Decide what to grow and order take notes of what you see that you like growing in friends’ gardens or farms take notes every year on what grew well, what you really liked, want to increase/decrease the following year Goals: 1. choose a good mix that includes flowers and foliage (50/50)- include tried and true as well as experimental choices 2. choose plants that provide cutting materials in each season (may/June, July/August and September/ October)
Cutting Garden Plant Types
Annuals are plants you sow in the early spring and bloom during in the summer months and die off when either after the first frost (tender annuals) or first real hard frost (hardy annuals). annuals make up more than 60% of all of the cut flowers at Teton Full Circle Farm. Perfect for beginners, annuals are by far the easiest, cheapest and fasted group of plants to grow. Growing annuals is a great way to get started on your flower growing adventures.
Tender Annuals are best started indoors (to get a head start) and transplanted out after any risk of frost or earlier if protected with a low tunnel, hoop house or greenhouse. Easy to grow and great for cutting in this group includes cosmos, China asters and zinnias. Hardy Annuals are the best choice for high elevation growing and can be direct-seeded in the early spring when the soil is workable. They can also be started indoors ahead of time and planted out in May after they have been hardened off. Some of our favorites in this group include: bachelor buttons, cress, cerinthe, larkspur, love-in-the-mist, mignonette, orach, orlaya, scabiosa, poppies, queen Anne’s lace, snapdragon, stock, sweet pea.
Biennials are a bit trickier and take a fair amount of forethought to bring into your cutting garden fold. Biennials need to be established the year before they bloom. Some bloom for two seasons. We start our biennials indoors in June, transplant in September and enjoy blooms the following spring and early summer. They fill a nice blooming niche between early bulbs and perennials. Some cutting garden favorites are Canterbury bells, foxglove and sweet William.
Bulbs, Corms and Tubers are a great next step after annuals for the beginner cut flower gardener. They produce a lot of bang for the buck! Typically planted in either the spring or fall they sit underground developing their roots for several months and then burst forth in all their glory, definitely making it worth your effort to get them in the ground. Our favorites include anemones, daffodils, dahlias, lilies, ranunculus, and tulips.
Perennials have their place in any committed gardeners cut flower garden. They take vision, forethought and a long view. If established in a well prepared bed and maintained well, perennials can provide years of cuts to add to your quiver of materials, filling out your season of flowers. They take a couple years to get established and will produce more abundantly as the years pass if well tended to. There are many hardy perennial to choose from that will do well in high elevation gardens. Some of our favorites are delphinium, eryngium (sea holy), globe thistle, sweet rocket, columbine, yarrow, and echinacea.
Vines add interest and character to any cut flower garden and the arrangements that follow. Vines like hops and climbing honeysuckle are a few we like.
Shrubs can help you span the season with interesting blooms and foliage but take several years to get established. If you have the foresight to have flowers in your life for many years ahead, get planting these longterm value components! Some of our favorites include ninebark, lilac, raspberry, snowberry, rose hips, and Siberian pea.
Flowering/Foliage Trees like shrubs, not only add dramatic cuts but provide a beautiful landscape to garden among. Many bloom in early spring, adding to your springtime available materials. Many offer unique foliage, berries or fruit in the fall to explore using in creating unique arrangements. Some of our favorites which we have/ are establishing are amur maple, crabapple, serviceberry, hawthorn, mountain ash and aspen.
The process of sowing multiple sets of annuals several weeks apart so that you have continuous blooms for that flower throughout the season. For example you may start your first round of forget-me-nots in May, your second round in June for blooms through mid September. Other good options for succession planting include babies breath, bachelor buttons, bells of Ireland, bupleurum, calendula, corn cockle, cress, flax, honeywort, larkspur, mignonette, orlaya, scabiosa, and stock. When deciding what flowers to succession plant, consider the following categories that all flowers fit into.
“Cut and Come Again” Produce loads of flowers for a long period of time. These include cosmos, marigolds, sweet peas and zinnias.
“Medium Producers” These are similar to cut and come again but have a shorter bloom window. These include larkspur, honeywort, mignonette, orach, bells of Ireland, calendula, and forget-me nots
“One-Hit Wonders” These blooms grow fast and put on a great show, but then they are done. They include several good fillers like bupleurum, flax, babies breath, ornamental grains and cress. Also in this category are some favorites like single stem sunflowers, and stock.
Maximizing Small Spaces
You don’t need a farm to have many beautiful blooms all summer long and there are a few tricks to packing a lot of blooms into a small space. These practices can maximize your time and space whether you live in a tiny home with a postage stamp garden space or if your have a spacious back yard.
Choose your plants wisely Choose the “Cut and come agains” and the medium producers over the one hit wonders. Focus 75% of your time and garden space on growing annuals. They are easy to grow, very productive and cheap. Leave the other 25% of your garden and yard for biennials, perennials, shrubs and trees. Go Vertical Choose trellis and vine plants to grow up and create a beautiful impact with a small plot. Vines like sweet peas (annual) and hops (perennial) can really bring a lot of magic and character to your garden.
Use Containers Container planting can be great for folks with no ground to plant in or can be used well with specific plants. A beautiful garden can be created out of large containers and wooden boxes and will add a get feel to a porch or patio.
Soil and Sight Preparation
Organic and Biodynamic Feed the Soil Water source and irrigation Weed Management (More information on this topic coming soon)
Bulbs, Corms and Tubers
Tulips and Narcissus (daffodils) Purchase bulbs in the spring, they will ship to you in the fall, plant and leave in the ground over winter, they will bloom in the spring. Keep well cultivated, companion plant with a later blooming perennial like day lilies, cat mint, echinacea, speedwell/veronica, or flowering shrubs like forsythia and spirea.
Ranunculus Purchase corms in the spring, they will ship to you in the fall, keep in a dry, dark, cool place (40-50 degrees) in your house till the spring. Get them out in April, soak for 3 hours then place in a flat bottomed tray and cover with moist potting soil for pre sprouting. Put in the basement or crawlspace or cool (50-55 degrees) closet for 10-14 days. Once you see a sprout from the top of the octopus legs and hair like roots coming from the underside you can plant outdoors about 2-3 inches deep. Mark it with a stick and water weekly. In about 90 days your plants with begin flowering. If left in the ground over winter the corm may survive. You can also dig it up and let it dry in a dark warm place for 3-5 days and store again till the following spring.
Lilies Order lily bulbs in the summer and plant them immediately. Dig a trench 6-8 inches deep. Place bulbs in the trench roots down twice the bulbs width from each other. Fill the trench with soil and compost. Once new growth emerges in the spring, water regularly and keep area weeded. Lily bulbs can stay in the ground over winter. Be aware that voles do like to nibble on these bulbs so plant enough that you can be sure some will come back the following year.
Peonies Once established peonies are a great addition to a high elevation cut flower garden and will produce abundantly for many years to come. They are extremely hardy and the voles don’t like them! They do take time to establish, but if you plant and care for well, they will reward you for waiting with prolific blooms. Dig a whole two or three times the size of the root. Amend the soil generously with compost and organic flower fertilizer. Give these guys plenty of space because they will grow large over time. Space them about 3 feet apart. Compost and mulch your peonies every spring. Snip the buds of at the bass of the stem for the first two years to stimulate root growth. On the third year you can let them bloom. They should produce more and more blooms every year. After 8-10 year you may want to consider diving the roots in the fall to propagate them.
Site preparation Amend soil with compost and a general organic fertilizer for fruits and flowers. Prepare raised beds as good drainage is important for health dahlias.
Soil temperature Dahlias do best in soil that has warmed to 60 degrees. Use a soil thermometer to evaluate whether it is time to plant your tubers. High Altitude tip: We start our hoop house grown dahlias in small pots ( 4" pots for small tuber and 6" pots for large tubers) in our hoop house nursery in early March to be planted out in the ground in another hoop house by Mid April (protected from frosts with low tunnels and a small propane heater). We start our field grown dahlias similarly in pots by mid April to be planted out in the field (protected from frosts with a low tunnel) in early June.
Location Dahlias grow best in well-drained soil in full sun (at least 8 hrs).
Spacing Plant 12 -24 “ apart and 4” -6 “ deep
Watering If you are starting your tubers in pots indoors, water lightly letting the soil dry out for several days before watering again (watering about every 3-4 days depending on how sunny and warm it is and whether you are starting them in your house or in a greenhouse). Dahlias tubers are sensitive to over watering in the beginning of this growth. Starting tubers in pots in the greenhouse can lead to over dry conditions if you don't water at all. If you are starting you dahlias in the field or backyard you will want to wait till the soil temperature warms to 60 degrees and not water until you see the first green shoot poking up through the ground. Over watering before shoots are visible can lead to tuber rot. Once dahlias are up and growing you will want to water on a regular basis. They will need a good soaking several times a week. Deep watering is best.
Pinching Once the plants are between 8 and 12” tall, snip the top 3-4 inches of the central shoot or terminal bud just above a set of leaves. This will encourage branching, increase stems and stem length. Our general rule of thumb is to snip the top once there are 3 sets of leaves on the plant.
Cultivation Keep dahlia plants weed free. Take extra care around the base of the plants because dahlias grow many surface roots. Avoid using tools to weed around base of plants for this reason.
Insects Pest pressure can be variable from year to year. Sometimes the grasshoppers are prolific other times thrips, earwigs or aphids can be a problem. The healthier the plant the less pest problems you will have (the stronger your immune system the less likely you are to get sick). To keep thrips and grasshopper off the blooms, put a small mesh bag (Organza) over the bud before it breaks open. Keep it on until harvest. Move the bag to a new bud.
Planting in Pots Chose lower growing varieties if possible. Plant in a 15”x 15” pot. Use at least 2/3 garden soil in pot. Potting soils can be too porous and will dry out to quickly if you are planing to keep your dahlias in pots for the entire growing season. They can be started in small pots and then moved to a bed in a greenhouse or the field (see above).
Corralling/Staking Tall healthy plants will require corralling or staking so that your stems don’t flop and you loose valuable cut flowers to the wind.
Havesting and storing tubers Before your last hard frost be sure all your plants are labeled. After the first killing frost it is hard to tell what color the blooms were and it is time to harvest the tubers. Use a digging fork to gently dig up tuber clump. Being sure not to dig into the tubers themselves. Brush most of the soil off. Storage is best with some soil left on the tuber clump. Store tuber clumps in a breathable container ( we use large nursery buckets which have holes in the bottom) and cover the clumps with slightly dampened sawdust, peat or vermiculite. Ideal temp for storing is 40-50 degrees. Tuck your tubes into a dark cool area like a basement, or crawlspace with a tarp over them till it’s time to divide them. Check on your tubers a couple times through out the winter to be sure they are not drying out or rotting. Dividing When you are ready to divide your dahlias you will need a place outside where you can hose them off (ideally with a high pressure stream of water) and get all the soil out of the nooks and crannies. Once they are clean and dry they are a lot easier to divide. You will need some sharp garden snips, lopers and a nice work space. Dividing tubers can be tricky and takes experience. Dive in and give it a try. We will provide a skill sheet on dividing in the early spring.
Trellising and Other Supportive Techniques
Consider supporting your tall flowers that are gown outside of a greenhouse by either trellising, netting, corralling or stalking. (More on this topic coming soon)
Many summer annuals are encouraged to branch by using the practice of pinching. This technique increases the number of flowering stems per plant and help produce longer stems. Be sure you know which plants benefit from this action. Once the plant is well established and is about 8- 12 inches tall use a pair of snips to cut about 3-4 inches off the main stem and above a leaf nod. Common flowers we grow that benefit from this action include: amaranth, cosmos, dahlias, snapdragons and zinnias.
Location 325 E 7750 S, Victor, ID
Teton Full Circle Farm
Healing the land and connecting people to the earth through organic/biodynamic farming.