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How to Create a Cutting Garden

Here’s a step-by-step guide that’ll have you in centerpiece heaven before you can even say “Snip.”

By Madaline Sparks
Flower bouquetsChristina Schmidhofer

 

Step 4: Sketch It Out

You’ll get the easiest and quickest results by purchasing seedlings or small pots rather than starting from seed, but either option works. Before you hit the nursery, create a simple sketch of the bed on graph paper and decide how many of each kind of plant you want. (Don’t forget to allow space for you! There has to be enough room between rows to get in there to weed, fertilize, deadhead, stake, and, of course, harvest.) Just like a trip to the grocery store, being armed with a shopping list at a nursery helps prevent overbuying and impulse purchases. (Trust us, there’s a flower equivalent of Cheetos out there somewhere.) Err on the conservative side: You can always add more plants if you prove to have the room.

Step 5: Shop

Planting can begin after the last frost—sometime in spring, depending on where you live. (Check the website of your local cooperative extension for the average date.) Even though plants will be available for sale before then, don’t be seduced into buying too early (unless you have your own greenhouse), or else late frosts could wipe out your investment. Whether you go to a garden center, farmers’ market, or roadside stand, ask for feedback on your plans from someone knowledgeable. And pack your reading glasses, because plant tags reveal a wealth of information, from size at maturity to care requirements. Even the most experienced gardeners read the fine print to ensure the varieties they choose fit their needs. (No tags on offer? Pepper the staff with questions.) You’ll also need to assemble a cutting kit that includes sharp, pointed scissors; by-pass pruners; a small hammer for smashing woody stems; and a pair of lightweight gloves. Store it all by the door closest to the cutting garden with a supply of three-foot bamboo stakes and a roll of garden twine for supporting top-heavy stems and propping up foliage that could be broken by rainstorms.



Step 6: Plant Away

Just before you plant, mix some granular time-release fertilizer (such as Dynamite; dynamiteplantfood.com) into the top few inches of soil. This will help keep nutrition consistent during the growing season. For easier maintenance, group together flower varieties with similar sun, water, and drainage needs. Tall plants should be placed in the back of the bed so they won’t shade out their shorter neighbors.



Step 7: Water and Mulch

Once everything is in the ground, water each plant carefully and thoroughly to settle it and eliminate air pockets. Then spread a two- to three-inch-thick layer of mulch around the plants. (Use shredded bark, salt hay, pine needles, or whatever else you prefer.) This will suppress weeds and help retain moisture.

 
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