The presents have been opened, the boxes broken down, and now it is time to start thinking about the garden. What will you grow? When should you start planting? These are all questions that should be addressed well ahead of actually planting your garden, especially if flowers are involved. It can be easy to focus on the vegetables and get wrapped up in starting those on time to be transplanted in the spring. But what about the blooms? Flowers play a central role in attracting pollinators and beautifying your growing space. Don’t forget that many flowers need to be started anywhere from 6 to 14 weeks before transplanting. That means…its time to start planning now! Follow along as we guide you through each step needed to successfully grow bright healthy blooms all season long.
Step 1 - Plan for Your Sunlight
The first step in a successful garden is good planning. Start by taking note of which areas of your garden get full sun (6+ hours of light), partial sun (3-6 hours), and which get shade (3- hours). This sun map will help you determine what flowers and vegetables you can grow. Keep in mind there are different types of shade as well. Dapples shade/sunlight means the light is diffused through plant matter. This type is often helpful in protecting partial sun plants from harsh direct sunlight. Moderate to Heavy shade can cause problems for many plants trying to display blooms. Knowing what type of sunlight your flowers like is imperative to a prolific flower show as sunlight plays a key role in signalling bloom development.
Step 2 - Design your Garden
Once you understand how much light you have to work with you can proceed to the design phase. Create a mock-up of where you will be planting and make note of the types of things you want to see. The Hortisketch Garden Planner can be extremely helpful in creating a visual representation of your garden space. I love to make note of the colors I want to see and height variations throughout the garden. This also helps to keep the mature growing measurements in mind to maintain healthy plant spacing. Also, keep in mind the type of flowers you want to grow in each location. Do you prefer perennials that come back year after year? Or would you like to mix things up each year with annuals? Either way, the design phase is where you can really get a feel for what your garden will look and feel like.
Step 3 - Purchase Seeds and Schedule Planting Times
Now that you know what you want to grow, it is time to actually purchase the seeds and schedule out your planting schedule. Growing flowers from seed can take plenty of planning and patience. Most flowers do best when started indoors. Be sure to do your research on how many weeks ahead of time your flowers should be sown indoors, or when to direct sow them. Be sure to also schedule time for the indoor starts to harden off. This is the period where the new starts spend time adjusting to the changing, open outdoor conditions that will test their strength and allow their cell walls to thicken. Leave them out for increasing amounts of time over a 1-2 week period to adequately adjust.
Step 4 - Start Your Seeds
When it is time to start your seeds, utilize a light growing medium like a seed starting soil mix or Minute Soil Coco Coir. Then, get your trays ready. Many people find using netted seed starter pellets helpful to save space as you are first getting started. Netted seed starter pellets can also be helpful if you are planning to utilize the prolific Bloom Master Planter Baskets. These pellets can then be transplanted into larger tray inserts later on. Be sure to sow each seed at the listed seed depth on the packet or seed information page. If you aren’t sure how deep to sow, you can also follow the general guideline of sowing your seeds at a depth of twice the seeds diameter (width). If sowing difficult to handle seeds that are very small, try using a toothpick for easier handling. I also find it helpful to pick tiny, dark colored seeds up from a white paper or bowl to better see what I am doing.
Step 5 - Care For Your Seedlings
When starting seeds indoors it is important to provide constant care. Be sure to use indoor growing lights to ensure strong growth. If your seedlings are not getting enough light they may appear leggy in growth and lack color development. In addition to light, you should also apply fertilizer throughout the growing experience. Not having enough nutrients will lead to stunted growth, poor coloration, and unhealthy plants. Generally a fertilizer regime should be started when your seedlings have started putting on true leaves. These are the leaves that develop after the initial cotyledons that emerge from the seed.
Step 6 - Harden Off and Transplant
At the appropriate time for your chosen flowers and local growing conditions, begin hardening off your seedlings. Start by setting them outside during mild conditions for an hour or so. Don’t panic if they appear sad looking when you bring them in the first day or two. Moving from an indoor, protected growing condition to the vast outdoors can be shocking to their systems. The seedlings will take in information about their surroundings during the short period they spend outdoors, strengthen their stems and leaves, and return stronger each day. Increase the time they spend outdoors gradually to adequately prepare them for transplanting. With each passing day they will strengthen their cell structures to better handle the changing temperatures throughout the day, withstand moving air, and adjust to varying levels of humidity. When the hardening-off period is complete and local conditions allow, transplant your seedlings into their final growing location. In the event of late winter weather, consider utilizing tools like greenhouse cloches, row covers, or winter grow tents.