Growing flowers is very different from edible gardening. Not only do they have different purposes (beautification versus nutrition), but they require different methods of gardening. While edible gardening tends to require more space and time, flower beds don’t need as much attention, but will captivate yours. This how-to will get your flower garden off to a good start, keeping in mind that different regions and flower varieties will need more distinctive care.
1. Planning Your Space
Think about what you’d like to grow. Are you looking for a pop of color on your porch or some added texture in your backyard? Depending on your vision, window box planters, hanging pots, container gardens, or flowerbeds could be useful. Regardless of the size and shape you’re after, keep in mind how the sun hits areas around your home. Different flower varieties may need less or more sunlight, which could dictate their placement. The generic light conditions are as follows:
- Full Shade: Spots to place plants that need full shade would be those that receive little to no sun at any point during the day, perhaps under a deck or surrounded by large tree trunks. Flowers that thrive here are ferns, hydrangeas, or Lilys-of-the-valley.
- Partial Shade: This lighting is characterized by having access to morning sun – when the rays are less intense – and shelter from the stronger afternoon rays. Flowers to plant here would be bluebells, columbines, and elephant ears.
- Partial Sun: Flowers with this light requirement should be placed in a location that gets a few hours of strong sunshine, usually in the midday to afternoon hours. This could be under a tree or on the side of a house. Plant things like peonies, delphiniums, and daylilies in these areas.
- Direct Sun: As the name implies, these are areas that get unfiltered sunlight all day long. Tolerant of full sun, plants that do well in these areas are hibiscuses, black-eyed Susans, and daisies.
Watch your yard closely throughout a sunny day to see where the light hits and split your garden up into different sections based on available sunlight.
Keep in mind what type of flowers you want, as there are two main types:
- Annuals: These are flowers that typically germinate during spring or early summer, and do not grow back in the years following. These must be replanted each year. So, while they are quick to bloom, their lifespan is fleeting. Examples include zinnias, morning glories, and petunias.
- Perennials: Perennials take longer to grow – sometimes more than one year or grow cycle – and typically grow larger. Because perennials don’t need to be planted every year, they tend to bloom every spring once planted and matured. These flowers take longer to have a bloom-payoff, but last throughout the years. Examples include lilies, lavender, and geraniums.
2. Preparing Your Base
Once you’ve determined which flowers you want and where to put them, you’ll need to prep your space. For planters and container gardens, all you need is the container of your choice and some high-quality potting mix. If starting from a seed, try a seed-starting potting mix to jumpstart your plant’s success.
For a flowerbed, use a hoe or tiller to uproot the grass and turn over the soil. This will reduce the competition for soil space and give your flowers a higher chance of taking root. If you’re using the existing topsoil, you should start by using soil amendments and fertilizers to adjust the ratio of nutrients for your specific flower variety. These products will help to adapt your natural soil to better suit specific flowers using three core nutrient types: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Because flowers require more nutrients than your grass does and because most people are not lucky enough to have nutrient-rich topsoil, these amendments are vital to the health of your flower garden. From there, you can tidy up the look of your flowerbed with easy-to-install edging.
If you’d rather have a raised flowerbed, all you need to do is fill the structure with garden soil. Having an applicable fertilizer on hand can help feed your flowers the necessary nutrients, especially following the initial planting.
Whether an in-ground or raised flowerbed, consider using a landscape fabric under your topsoil and mulch to prevent weeds while allowing beneficial nutrients and water to pass through your soil.
3. Time to Plant
You’ll know it’s time to plant based on your regional growing season. Climate and desired flower variety determine your garden’s start date. Flowering plants benefit greatly from fertilizer, which helps the flower get its necessary nutrients from the start. When planting, mix an organic granular fertilizer into planting holes, or work it into the soil of your entire bed.
4. Tending to Flowers
Just like young humans, young plants grow at a rapid rate and require more direct care. By applying a liquid fertilizer every one to two weeks in the early stages of your plant’s life, you can get it off on the right foot – er, leaf. Over the course of the growing season, your flowers will continuously absorb readily available nutrients. But, just like your snack fridge, you have to restock it. You can do so with granular fertilizer or fertilizer spikes to keep your flowers fed and happy. Regardless of the fertilizer or soil amendment you use, make sure you follow the package dosage and frequency instructions.
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