The activity of gardening is gaining in popularity since it is being viewed as an extremely rewarding pastime that provides plenty of fresh air, exercise, and “beautiful” results. But most people are not content with just a garden full of ordinary plants, but wish to create a landscape of extraordinary flowers! And so the entry of “flower gardening”!
But wait a minute! There should be no mistaken belief that creating a garden full of flowers is an easy task. It involves tough physical labor and demands dedication. Only then will you be able to produce a “work of art”.
Any outdoor activity should be acceptable to the surrounding ecosystem; so also flower gardening. The suggestions listed below should help you to grow healthy plants–
(1) It is important to know the “hardiness zone” of the area you are located in. The USA and lower Canada have been divided into various hardiness zones by the USDA, according to a 10-degree Fahrenheit difference in the average minimum temperature. This division will allow you to note which plants can survive in which zones (seed packets or flower guides carry this information), and you can purchase the appropriate flowers for your garden.
(2) You have a vast range of flowering plants to choose from, including butterfly bush, butterfly weed, foxtail lily, African lily or the lily of the Nile, lantana and delphiniums. Nice insects like butterflies and bees will feel like visiting your garden!
(3) If you are unsure about the type of plants you need to pick for your flower gardening, take the help of garden guides and catalogs. They can provide you with all the information you want, including useful tips.
(4) Some of the tips given concern having a mix-and-match garden that displays flowers and plenty of colors all year round! There are early bloomers, late bloomers and mid-season bloomers to choose from. The “early” ones and “late” ones can grow in side-by-side rows, to exhibit alternate blooming times. So also perennials and bulbs. Many more combinations can be tried out, depending on your creativity!
(5) Though most plants have green leaves, there are some with silvery-colored leaves. Some exhibit burgundy-colored leaves. These can become “space fillers”, to make up for those flowers which have not yet blossomed/finished blooming.
(6) Before actually starting on your flower gardening project, keep aside a book as a gardening journal. This is what seasoned veterans do, and recording their earlier mistakes have helped them to do better the next time round.
Start off by preparing a sketch or plan of your new garden. Fill in all the details like–the location of your garden, its proposed shape, the flowering plants that you wish to have, a rough arrangement of the plants, and so on. Place pictures too, as you go along. Record your successes and failures. Over a period of time, this journal becomes a “chronicle” of your flower gardening efforts!
(7) Are you planning to have a container garden or a purely outdoor garden? If it is containers that are going to hold your plants, then ensure that the soil conditions are just right inside them. Also, you have to get only those plants that can tolerate temperature changes and exposure to sunlight, because all plants cannot face environmental changes. Again, all plants cannot be grown inside containers.
(8) If it is going to be an outdoor garden, the soil has to be tested first with the help of a soil testing kit. Many local gardening supply stores stock it; in case they are not able to supply one, they can always refer you to a place where the kit is available.
Even without a kit, you should be able to judge the quality of the soil in your yard with the help of your hands. Take some soil in your hand, and rub it back and forth. If the soil comes apart, it indicates the presence of too much of sand. So it cannot store nutrients. Sticking together, indicates that there is too much of clay in the soil. This type of soil does not drain well, and does not allow roots to penetrate easily.
Loam soil (equal amounts of clay and sand) is the best for flower gardening.
(9) Now that you chosen the spot for your garden, start digging. When you have gone about 8 inches to 1 foot in depth, extract the rocks and other unwanted debris that you can find there. Use a rake to split up clods of earth and level the area.
(10) The next step is tilling. About one inch or more of manure or compost is to be added to the dug-up soil. Add even more if it is of poor quality. Grass cuttings or peat moss help to increase water retention capacity if the soil has too much of sand in it. For acidic type of soil, add lime.
When you mix the soil and all the organic components that you have added to it, turning the whole thing over and over a few times, you have “tilled” the soil.
(11) Use the rake again to level the new bed. Some more ammendments have to be added to the soil. Compost goes into the top soil (about 6 inches), along with a general-purpose fertilizer (10-20-10).
(12) Do not start planting your flowers as soon as you have finished adding ammendments. Give them time to enter the soil and spread all across the plot designated for your garden. A few weeks of waiting is necessary. Meanwhile, you can browse the books again so that you are thoroughly prepared when it is actual planting time, with the plants as well as all their requirements.
(13) Now that the time has finally arrived, start sowing the seeds, or planting the seedlings. Smaller ones should take the front seats, while the bigger ones should be placed at the back. Ensure a distance of 3 feet between the plants and any buildings/fences. Also, there should be at least 20 feet of space between your flowers and large trees. Large bushes should maintain a distance of 5 feet from your plants. Other trouble spots to look out for are–steep slopes, places where water tends to stagnate and shallow and rocky soil.
(14) Now that you have come this far in your flower gardening project, it is time to put down a layer of mulch (indicates compost that has not completely decayed) over the garden. A word of caution–ensure that it does not come in contact with the stems of the plants. A layer of 2 to 3 inches of mulch should remain around the plants all the time, especially during the growing seasons.
Weeds can prove detrimental to your garden. As an added precaution, keep layers of wet/damp newspapers under the mulch.
Why mulch? The benefits it provides to the soil include–stabilization of temperature, increase in water retention capacity, addition of nutrients and prevention of excessive growth of weeds.
(15) Do not go in for synthetic substances or chemical pesticides, despite advice from some professional gardeners. You have been “organic” so far; no point in going back to “inorganic”! All that you need to do to make a success of your flower gardening project is to keep the soil quality in top condition. Try to combine plants so that one acts like a “pesticide” for the other. For example, plants like rose and garlic are beneficial to their companions in the garden.
(16) If you are in a hurry to start growing your flowers, there is another option available. Get some jiffy pots that are made from compressed peat moss. Put in potting soil or starting mix. Sow the seeds. Place the pots inside the house in an area where they can can get sufficient sunlight.
Once the plants have attained a height of 4 inches, place the jiffy pots outside in a pre-designated location. The pots rot away and the plants get “attached” to the natural soil by their roots.
In addition, you can look for tips and information about seeds on the backs of seed packages, such as–when and how to sow the seeds, distance to be maintained between plants, etc. Seedlings of course, should be planted as soon as possible.
(17) Like many others, you may not really have an idea about compost or how it is prepared. So, here is some information about this “organic manure”.
How is organic matter different from inorganic materials? When there is decaying of the dead remains of animals and plants (remains of any living things, in fact), the decomposed material returns to the soil. The soil therefore gets enriched with vitamins and other nutrients. Its fertility is enhanced, enabling plants to grow healthy.
Thus, when soil is of poor quality, it can be “ammended” with the addition of natural manure or compost. Being totally organic in nature, it causes no harm to your garden or the surrounding environment.
Since compost is easy to make on your own, you save on costs as you do not have to pay for readymade manure purchased from the local gardening supply store. You save on time too. The environment will be thankful to you as you are taking care of the large amount of material collecting in landfills!
If your garden soil contains too much of sand, compost will help to retain water. If there is too much of clay, the compost enhances the soil’s capacity to drain well. And of course, plenty of nutrients get into the soil with the help of this organic manure.
(18) Finally, how do you prepare your own compost for your flower gardening project?
Dig a pit. Fill it with whatever organic wastes that you can get–lettuce leaves, tea leaves, coffee grounds, banana peels, grass clippings, shredded branches, hay, chopped leaves, garden plants that are free of disease and have finished their season, straw, weeds, shredded papers and newspaper. No bones or meat are to be put in. Whatever is put in, should be small in size–so use a lawn mower or a shredder to reduce the size of some materials.
Once the pile has attained 6 inches in height, use finished compost or soil or manure to cover it. The covering layer should be about 3 to 6 inches thick. Repeat the process of alternate layers of organic materials and finished compost/soil/manure. The final height of the entire pile should be 3 feet.
The compost pile should be started in a shady location. Whenever it seems to go dry, sprinkle water on it; enough to keep it damp, not to make it soggy. There is heat generated that helps to sterilize the forming compost. Keep turning the pile to ensure circulation of oxygen.
When there is no more heat being produced, the pile is ready for use. This compost has to be mixed with soil before planting flowers. It can actually be used in any way possible–as mulch, soil ammendment or potting soil. But use it as quickly as possible since the nutrients in it tend to get dissipated.
Thus, your flower gardening project has been entirely “organic” in nature!