New England gardeners are some of the luckiest people I know. I realize that might sound overly optimistic since most of us haven’t seen bare ground in a solid month but consider the fact that many south shore suburban gardeners often have a minimum of ¼ of an acre to play with and you begin to understand why I say we are so lucky! Just a quarter of an acre can provide multiple prime growing spaces for specialty cut flowers, herbs and borders filled with flourishing perennials, shrubs, fruits and veggies. All of which can be used in creating lovely home-grown bouquets whether for your kitchen table, sharing with friends and neighbors, or for the backyard gardener (like me!) who dreams of selling market flowers. After all, a simple bouquet of fresh, local, flowers on the table makes every meal taste better, don’t you agree?
A suburban gardener has the advantage of having some established landscaping and borders already but if you’re like me, up until I began growing annuals for cut flowers, I was stingy about cutting from my borders. But, you can’t be stingy with your flowers if you hope to sell them (I have to remind myself of this all the time)!
Old-fashioned annuals like Bachelor Buttons, Snapdragons, Zinnias, Poppies, Cosmos, Sunflowers, Black Eyed Susan’s, and Dahlias make backyard bouquet crafting easy and effortless. As an artisan floral designer, I find that all flowers go together with a little intuitive match-making.
Now that I’ve learned how easy it is to grow large quantities of annuals in my backyard I aim to show you that having access to arm-loads of fresh cut flowers just steps away from your backdoor is within your grasp too!
Let’s get STARTED!
• First, go out and walk your yard during different times of the day from early morning to late afternoon. Make note of where the sun rises and sets in your yard.
• Find the largest open space in your yard (front or back, but not on top of your septic) that gets a minimum of 8 hours of direct sun a day.
• Rather than disturb the ground by rototilling the turf, measure your space for raised beds instead. See how many you can squeeze into your open space!
• Be sure to leave 3 feet in between beds for a lawn mower (if your paths are lawn) and a wheel barrow for easy weeding, feeding and deadheading.
• Annuals are similar to veggies in that they have a lot of growing to do in a short amount of time. Plenty of sunshine and rich, well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter will give them the best possible start! I like a nice loam with some organic matter tossed in to give plants an extra boost of nutrition for a good launch! It took 9 yards to fill all 8, 4 x 12 raised beds which cost roughly $375.00, including delivery to Plymouth.
Currently, we have an area devoted to cut flowers ( and some veggies too) that is roughly 50 x 50 with 8, 4×12 raised beds which my husband and son made out of 2×12’s attached to 2×2 garden stakes and reclaimed 12×12 stone tiles. Like most sustainable gardeners we love to recycle any time we can. Using stone tiles is just one way to create raised beds on a budget but there are limitless ideas on Pinterest and the web.
I’m a big fan of Botanical Interest Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Both companies offer a large selection of organic and heirloom flower selections and in my experience, have a near perfect germination rate. I like to support local businesses so I purchase most of my seeds, gardening supplies, dahlias and poultry needs from Morrison’s Home and Garden Center in Plymouth, MA. I also enjoy shopping at Katsura Gardens in Plymouth and Sunshine Gardens in Kingston, MA.
Once the frames were pounded into place we simply leaned the individual tiles against the inside of the frame to create the walls. The best natural way to kill off the lawn and deter weeds inside your raised beds is to lay newspaper or cardboard directly on the ground. Dampen it with water, or let the rain do it for you until you are ready to fill your beds with soil. You can also spread a layer of leaf mulch or chipped wood trimmings on the bottom before adding your soil. This will attract earthworms to come calling sooner, rather than later and add a rich layer of decaying organic matter on the bottom of your beds. The earthworms will love it- and so will your flowers.
Once your beds are filled with soil, and the danger of the last frost has passed the real fun begins. Now it’s time to direct -sow seeds and plant any seedlings you may have started indoors, or purchased.
Long about mid- June your flower beds will be bursting with new growth and it won’t be long before you’ll be making your own arrangements straight from your backyard flower farm!
Join me next time when I’ll share how and when to feed your flowers and rid garden pests the natural way.
Keep the faith! Spring is coming!
Debbie Bosworth writes from Dandelion House in Plymouth MA. She lives with her sweet husband, a teenaged son and daughter, and her mother. Max, the Corgi is her constant garden companion (and chief cherry tomato thief) and also watches over his small flock of backyard chickens. Debbie is a contributing writer for MaryJanesFarm Magazine and Community Chickens.