Growing flowers is one of the most purely aesthetic hobbies in existence. Unlike vegetable gardening, which produces visible, edible results of your time and attention, flower gardening is much more ephemeral. We grow flowers simply to enjoy their fleeting beauty.
Here's how to start planting flowers.
- Prepare your soil. Whether you are direct-seeding an outdoor flower bed, transplanting seedlings, or starting seeds indoors, you need to prepare your soil thoroughly. To start seeds indoors, this may be as simple as buying a good quality potting soil and scooping it into little compartments in a seedling tray. For an outdoor bed, you'll need to remove the sod, if necessary, then dig (and double-dig) the soil until it is fine and loose. Next, add a generous amount of compost or organic fertilizer and work it into the top few inches of soil. This step is particularly important for perennials, because they will be living in the same soil for many years.
- Know the requirements of your flowers. Some flowers become quite large, and so you must space them some distance apart in your flower bed. Others don't mind being crowded, and can be planted very closely. Flowers also differ in the amount of sunlight they prefer. Plant impatiens in a flower bed that receives direct sunlight for eight hours a day, and you'll have very unhappy plants. On the other hand, plant sunflowers in the same spot, and you'll have eight-foot-tall giants in a matter of weeks. Some flowers may also have preferences regarding the type of soil in which they are planted -- clay vs. silt, silt vs. sand, etc.
- Plant, or transplant, carefully. When you've chosen an appropriate spot for your flowers and have prepared the soil, dig a hole that is slightly bigger and deeper than the rootball of your plant. Gently tease out the roots of the plant if they are root-bound. Place the plant in the prepared hole, then fill in the reserved soil around it. Tamp it down firmly, but don't pack it. Add more soil, if needed, until the rootball of the plant is planted just a bit deeper than it was in the pot. If you're planting seeds, dig a hole that is the recommended depth, then place the soil over the seed and firm it slightly. If the seeds need light to germinate, do not cover them with soil -- just press them into the soil lightly.
- Water thoroughly. Once you've planted your seedlings or seeds, give them a good drink of water. A watering can with a rose attachment is ideal for this task. It delivers a good amount of water, but doesn't dislodge the seeds.
- Fertilize regularly. If your plants are heavy feeders, they may thrive with a regular application of a liquid or powder fertilizer. Most fertilizers that are formulated for flowers are heavy on nitrogen, which promotes top growth. If this doesn't seem to help your plants, try a general purpose fertilizer.
- Deadhead when necessary. In order to keep your flowers looking tidy and blooming for as long as possible, you'll need to deadhead them - this means to remove spent flowers. If the dead flowers are left on the plant, it will signal the plant to begin producing seeds, which terminates the flowering process.
- Troubleshoot. If your plants are not growing well, the first step is to look for pest or disease issues. You can usually see pests or at least, the evidence that they leave behind. If your flowers have holes in the leaves, or you see a sticky residue on the undersides of the leaves, it's a sure sign that you have a bug problem. There are many organic pesticides on the market, which are very effective at eliminating pests. Diseases also leave obvious signs behind -- deformed stems and misshapen leaves usually signal a disease problem. For severe disease problems, you may need to remove the affected plants. If the leaves on your flowers are yellow, it usually means that they have been overwatered or received too much nitrogen. Try watering less frequently and reducing the strength of the fertilizer you use.
These tips will help you create a beautiful flower garden. Once your flowers are in bloom, don't forget to step back once in a while and admire their beauty. After all, that's the whole reason for planting them!