Back to basics: planning your cut flower plot

The foot of a gardener is seen pushing a spade into soil to be dug.

Whether you have a garden, an allotment, a small plot or a large area of land that’s destined to be a flower farm, you need a plan to get started.

This two-part blog post will cover the basics of planning your plot.  For step-by-step tuition on setting up a cutting patch, our 7-month Seed to Vase course will run again from February 2024 – join the Seed to Vase Wait List here. For more advanced growers looking to set up or expand a cut flower business, Blooming Business (starting January 2024) focuses on scaling your growing, marketing, pricing and sales. Join the Blooming Business Wait List here.

Got a notebook handy?  Here are some of the factors you’ll need to consider when planning your cut flower plot:

What do you want from your plot?

For the coming season you might want to grow just for yourself or to have enough cut flowers to gift to friends or family.  Or you may be growing for a special event such as a wedding (some of our most enthusiastic Best Bunch members started their cut flower journey for just that reason).  If you have space to expand in future and/or ambitions to make money from your cut flowers, think ahead to how you might make this happen and whether, with this in mind, your first ideas for your plot are still the right ones. Some of our Seed to Vase course participants aim in their first growing season to try new varieties and give themselves space and permission to try and for it not always to work out. Factor this in!

How much space do you have?

If you have a small space within your existing garden or a smaller allotment, you’ll need to make it as efficient as possible. You may choose to concentrate on half a dozen varieties of annuals (see part two of this post) or pack in more varieties but less of each.  Look at what flowers when and try to plant a selection of flowering plants that will mean you have blooms of some sort from April through to October (at least).

If you have a larger plot, think about how you might access your plants for watering.  Planting a long way away could mean installing a watering system which can be an unwanted expense when starting out.  Also consider that you may want to just ‘nip out’ to cut flowers 10 minutes before visitors arrive…

Layout

Reflect on the aesthetics of your future flower plot. You could arrange flowers in rows, clusters, or mixed beds, depending on preference and practicalities. If possible, position the plot where you can see it from the house and get joy from your blooms even when you’re not out amongst them.

Do you want to use raised beds?  The no-dig method has popularised raised beds but you may find that this method doesn’t maximise the space you have.  If you do choose this route, remember to factor in space to walk between, weed and cut from raised beds.

Three images: seedlings growing in small pots in a row, small plants outdoors with irrigation hoses running in between them, Cosmos plants fully in flower.

Sunlight/Aspect

Most flowering plants require at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Choose a location that receives adequate sunlight throughout the day.  If you have a south-facing wall that you can plant alongside, reserve this space for plants that enjoy warmth or those you want to be able to plant out early in the spring.  If your plot is particularly exposed, it will be worth installing or planting windbreaks, either semi-permeable fences or hedges that will provide a natural windbreak.

Know your Soil

Carry out a soil test to determine the pH and nutrient levels in your soil. Most cut flowers prefer well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You may need to add compost or other organic matter to improve its quality.

Watering

As mentioned above, watering needs to be a key consideration.  Give yourself as little work as possible. If it turns out to be a hot summer and you’re regularly watering, you don’t want to be running up and down a long garden with a watering can.  Irrigation systems are covered in more detail in our Seed to Vase course.

Sustainability

Environmentally friendly practices should be a prime consideration. These include: using organic fertilisers, eco-friendly pest control (such as biological control), incorporating native plants to support local pollinators, and installing a compost heap and water butts (as many as possible!).

Seeds and Tender Plants

Lastly (for now), have you considered where you’re going to sow and germinate seeds?  If you don’t have a greenhouse or polytunnel, a light conservatory or even a windowsill or table situated next to a window in a draft-free room will suffice.  Once seedlings grow bigger, you may need more space, and if they’re tender or half hardy (ie. won’t survive outside in frosty weather), you may be nursing them indoors until late May (or early June in some areas).  Think about this – and the sanity of anyone you share a home with – before you plant more than you can house!  Having said this, we always sow more than we need to allow for those that inevitably fall by the wayside before planting out.

In part two of this blog post, we’ll look at plant choices, spacing and soil preparation.

For regular cut flower advice, workshops, talks and discounts, join our Best Bunch Membership group – details here.

Roz

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