If you are digging into your very first flower garden this year, your first step will be to figure out just how much space you need to have to start growing. Chances are, it’s less than you think.
On average, a 3×6 garden bed provides plenty of space for a cut flower garden. An area of this size has enough room for different types of annual flowers to provide fresh bouquets each week while still being easy to maintain.
Figuring out from the beginning just how much space you need can make planning easier and prevent you from taking on more than you can handle. If you don’t want to have hours’ worth of maintenance chores each week, then a giant garden isn’t for you.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that even with limited garden space you can’t have beautiful flowers ready for picking. You absolutely can!
How much room do I need for a flower garden?
A good rule of thumb is to have a garden space big enough to suit your needs and no larger. For people just starting with a cut flower garden, approximately 18 square feet, or a 3×6 raised bed, is plenty of room.
You can grow a mix of central flowers and supporting flowers to harvest for bouquets with this amount of space.
The central flower, or focal flower, are types such as zinnias and dahlias. These tend to be on the larger side and draw the attention. You don’t need as many of these as you think since a few large flowers will go a long way.
On the other hand, most flower growers need more supporting flowers, or filler flowers, than they think. Filler flowers make up the bulk of a bouquet, adding color and greenery to support the central flowers. Smaller filler flowers include calendulas, sweet peas, basil, celosia, and many others.
Plan to fill half of your garden bed with your choice of focal flower. For the beginning gardener, some type of zinnia will be the best way to start. Fortunately, zinnias are available in every color of the rainbow, so you are sure to find a variety that you like. They’re also very easy to grow and can be sown directly in the garden.
For the other half of the garden, choose three or four types of filler flowers that will compliment your focal flower.
For example, if you were to choose an orange zinnia for your focal flower, your filler flowers might be a copper celosia, a cream marigold, and a white-flowered basil. The shapes and colors are all a little different but also complementary.
With this breakdown, you can see how you don’t need much room for a cut flower garden. Just be selective when choosing varieties to grow so that you have a cohesive plan.
You don’t want to end up with only one shape of flower, or colors that clash and don’t go well together in the garden or the bouquet. Just as the collage of flowers above shows, with just four different flower varieties you can have four complimentary colors in a variety of shapes.
All it takes is a little bit of planning and dreaming of your summer blooms. If you’d like to see a couple of examples, check out this post with sample layouts, Small Cut Flower Garden Layout: How To Plan Out A 4×4 bed, or this one, 3 Cut Flower Garden Layout Ideas (Plus Tips For Your Own).
How much garden space can you easily maintain?
Another thing to consider is how much maintenance you are willing to do. The more space your garden takes up, the more chores you’ll have on your list. Watering, weeding, replanting, and harvesting might be fun chores for some or annoying chores for others.
If you don’t want to set up an irrigation system right away, having a small garden is wise for hand-watering. Even in the middle of summer, when your plants need an extra drink of water, an 18 square-foot bed should only take 10 minutes or less to water by hand.
As for weeding, you can keep this chore to a minimum by spacing your plants close together. As you read above, the standard cut flower spacing is just 9 inches apart. As the plants mature and fill out, they create a canopy that shades the soil.
This means that weed seeds won’t get the light they need to germinate or grow very big, minimizing the amount of time you need to spend pulling errant plants. But, even with this system, some will sneak through, especially early in the season while your flowers are still small, so weeding isn’t completely avoidable.
With a small garden bed, you just need to breeze through the plants once a week to catch any weeds while they’re still small.
Finally, keep replanting in mind. Some seedlings won’t make it in the spring. A bug might eat the leaves, or a squirrel could uproot the plant, and it withers in the spring sun. It’s not a big chore to replant, but it’s a task you should do if you want to maximize your space. If you’d rather not fuss with it, then staying small is a smart choice for you.
How to space plants to get the most out of your garden
To take full advantage of your garden space, plant your flowers closer together than you think you should. Nine inches apart is the most common spacing for cut flowers, and it means you can grow a large number of plants in a small amount of space.
Since these flowers are being grown to cut blooms regularly, the plants don’t need as much room. So instead of giving a zinnia plant a lot of space to stretch out, you’re going to pack it in about 9 inches from its neighbor. You’ll be cutting stems from the plant frequently, so it will still thrive in this amount of space.
If you combine tight spacing with cut and come again flowers you will be swimming in flowers this summer.
Having consistent, close spacing also makes it easier to harvest, as you have all the ingredients for your bouquets right there in one bed.
To read even more about how to maximize the number of flowers you can plant in any given space, dive into this blog post, How To Space Annuals For Cut Flower Production (With Chart).