6 Summer Chores To Keep Your Cut Flower Garden Performing
Once the hustle and bustle of spring are over, a new routine sets in for taking care of a flower garden during summer. Instead of sitting back and letting the garden have its way, a set of regular chores can help keep your garden tidy, healthy, and productive all season long.
With these seven summer chores, you’ll keep your garden taken care of so your supply of fresh flowers never wanes.
Take care of your flower garden during the summer by completing chores such as fertilizing, minimizing weeds, deadheading, and replanting new seeds. These chores reduce competition and stress for your flowers, which increases production.
It’s not hard to take care of your garden throughout the season, but it does take a plan. Otherwise, it’s too easy to cruise through summer with minimal maintenance, and before you know it, you have a tired, dried-out garden in August.
This year, stay on top of your chores and your flowers will reward you.
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1. A fertilizing routine keeps your flowers fed and productive
Even in good quality soil, regular fertilizing during the summer can help cut flowers plants remain productive throughout the season. Cut flowers constantly produce new stems and blooms to replace harvested ones, so their need for nutrients is higher than a landscape plant.
Just how much fertilizer you need to apply will depend on a few factors. If the flower is a cut-and-come-again type, it will need more frequent applications. A cut-and-come-again flower will grow new stems as the currently flowering ones are cut.
So when you pick a zinnia stem, for example, the plant sends out a new one to replace it. These types of flowers will bear flowers for weeks, if not months, on end. Regular fertilizer applications will help them stay productive and delay the inevitable slowdown in production.
On the other hand, one-and-done type flowers like stock or single-stem sunflowers only produce one main stem and one flower. Once you cut them, they’re done and need to be replaced. These flowers still benefit from fertilizer through the season, but they can get by with less than a repeat bloomer.
Many flower gardeners like to use a fish and kelp emulsion diluted in water to spray on their plants. The emulsion is smoothie-like consistency that you dilute in water according to the instructions. It’s usually somewhere around one ounce per gallon of water.
One warning about fish emulsion- it’s smelly! Don’t leave any sitting around in a watering can since it will go rancid quickly, especially in the heat of summer. And if you have pets that are anything like mine, they’ll try to lick up anything you spill, so take caution when pouring it.
Whether you use a spray or granular fertilizer that you apply to the soil, or something else like a compost tea, at least once a month is a good frequency. Some gardeners apply spray fertilizers as frequently as weekly, but for home cut flower production, you might not need to do it so often.
It might take a little trial and error to find the right amount not only for your plants but also for what you can fit into your summer schedule.
2. Your plants get thirsty, too. Don’t skimp on the water
The last thing you want to do during the weeks of hot summer weather is neglect to keep your flowers watered. Too little or infrequent watering is a great way to stress your plants, and stressed plants produce fewer flowers. They also become more susceptible to disease, as shown in this NCBI study about drought-stressed chickpea plants.
Whether it’s a chickpea, a tree, or a flower, water-stressed plants will be more vulnerable. It’s easy to avoid this by ensuring your flower plants get regular water. If you haven’t had to water much through the spring due to cooler temperatures and rainfall, it can be a shift in the routine and responsibilities of maintaining your garden.
Make it easy on yourself by setting up irrigation in your garden with a timer so that you don’t even have to remember to schedule this chore. Drip irrigation might seem complicated, but it’s a straightforward process. You just need a few fittings to bring water from your hose spigot directly to the base of your plants.
A timer will cost around $40, so that’s the highest cost of the whole system. But it’s worth it to automate the watering process and ensure that your plants get the water they need all summer long.
If you aren’t sure how to set up drip irrigation, check out this video from Garden Answer that walks you through each piece of the system from start to finish:
If an irrigation system isn’t high on your priority list, no problem. Just get out to the garden regularly to hand water and keep the soil moist. Watering deeply every few days, or even just once a week depending on your summer temperatures, will be enough to maintain your flowers.
If you question whether you need to water your plants every day during the summer, jump over to this post, Daily Water For The Summer Flower Garden? Not Necessarily to find out.
If that’s not enough, then learn even more in this guide, Watering Your Flower Garden Through The Season: A Complete Guide.
3. Minimize weeds to minimize competition
Like your flower plants, weeds are looking for water and food during the summer. Don’t let them steal those resources from your flowers. By spending a little bit of time pulling weeds through the week to get them while they’re small, you reduce the competition for your plants.
You can get rid of most weeds with a simple hand tool called a cultivator. It looks a bit like a claw, and you use it to lightly rake the top inch or so of the soil’s surface. The tool will uproot small weed seedlings, halting their growth. It can also bring the weed’s root system to the surface, where they’ll dry out and die in the sun.
The key is to get them while they’re young and easy to uproot.
Try pulling them out by hand if you miss this seedling stage, and the weeds get bigger. This can be time-consuming and frustrating if there is a lot to deal with, but it’s vital to get the weeds out of your garden before they go to seed and spread even further throughout your yard and garden.
Keep in mind that you can use certain weeds in your bouquets, so you may choose to leave a few to grow alongside your other plants. Some grasses can look beautiful in a bouquet, especially with seed pods dangling from the tip.
If you do choose to let a few weeds grow and possibly even put on seed pods, once you’ve harvested what you want to use, chop down or pull the rest, so they don’t get out of hand.
4. Mulch your flower beds for hands-off maintenance
The one thing I always have in my garden, even in winter when my flowers are dead, is mulch. The benefits are tremendous, and it’s so easy to apply it to the beds. If you don’t already have mulch in your flower garden, then take care of your garden with a thick application.
Adding much to flower beds will help prevent weeds, retain moisture, and slowly add organic matter to your soil. Using organic mulches such as wood chips, grass clippings, and leaves can keep the cost down and make it easy to source enough mulch for your garden.
If you aren’t sure which type of mulch to use, get a breakdown of several options and where to source them in this post, Best (Free!) Organic Mulches For The Home Garden.
My favorite type of mulch is woodchips. I get them free from local tree-trimming services just by calling and requesting the company to drop off the chips when they have a job in the area. I’ve never had a company say no, but it can sometimes take a week or two before they have a trimming job in my area.
For a long time, gardeners avoided using wood chips in their gardens for fear of the decomposition process robbing nitrogen from the soil. This has since been proven to be incorrect if the woodchips are only on the surface of the soil. You can read all about it here in this article from Washington State University, Wood chip mulch: Landscape boon or bane?
I’ve used woodchips around my vegetable, flower, and herb gardens for years and I’ve never had any problem with it, even when some chips get mixed into the soil during transplanting or weeding.
If you can’t find any woodchips, try saving your grass clippings to put on the flower beds. Take care to not use any grass that has been sprayed with herbicides or other chemicals so you don’t bring any residue into your garden. Leaves are another option, though you’ll probably have to save them from the year before to have them for the summertime.
No matter which material you use, it will all help retain moisture in the soil. Exposed soil dries out more quickly, meaning you need to water more frequently. When a layer of mulch provides a barrier between the sun and the soil, less water is lost to evaporation.
You’ll also get fewer weeds popping up since any weed seeds will be covered too thick to get enough light to germinate. If weed seeds blow in a sprout on top of the mulch, the loose layer makes it a breeze to pull out the weed seedlings.
Apply a thick layer of mulch to help take care of your garden during the summer. It’ll shock you just how effectively those 3-4 inches of insulation will keep the weeds down, reduce your need to irrigate and keep your soil healthy through the growing season and beyond.
5. Deadhead any leftover flowers to maximize blooms
Time spent deadheading means more flowers for harvest, so bust out those clippers!
Deadheading means removing old blooms from a flowering plant. The purpose is to trick the plant into producing more flowers instead of going to seed once it’s done flowering. Regular deadheading can extend the life of your cut flower plant by weeks, if not more.
You only need to do it for cut-and-come-again flowers, since this is the type of flower that will continue to produce new blooms to replace the old ones.
It’s a simple task to keep your garden going strong during the summer. Just use a pair of scissors or garden clippers and snip the stem just above a set of leaves.
If you miss any flowers and you later notice that the flower head has gone partially or even completely to seed, it’s not too late to remove it. You could even save the seeds for next year, especially if it’s a flower such as zinnia, cosmos, calendula, or marigold since seeds are all easy to remove and large enough to be easy to handle.
It might seem counterintuitive to deadhead flowers you’re also harvesting from. If you have questions about it, check out this post, Should I Deadhead My Cut FLowers, Too?
6. Avoid the summer slowdown with new sowings
A fresh sowing of seeds midsummer will help stagger production for continual blooms. As the first plants start to slow down growth or show signs of disease, the second sowing will be ready to replace the older plants.
Some flowers, such as zinnias, are susceptible to powdery mildew toward the end of the summer, no matter how well you take care of the plant. If you replace the first planting with the second round of seedlings, you can pull out the older plant at the first sign of disease.
For example, say you planted out your zinnia seeds in early May, and by the end of July they are blooming in full. Try popping a few extra seeds directly in the soil sometime in late June or early July and you’ll get a second wave of healthy plants to produce all the way until the fall frost.
This process is often referred to as succession sowing. If you’re familiar with vegetable gardening, you might already know about it. Many veggie gardeners use this technique for short-season crops like lettuce or radishes so they can stagger the harvest.
You can use it with many of the quick-growing summer annuals, such as calendula, basil, and sunflowers. When choosing a location for your second sowing, make sure that the new seedlings won’t get shaded out by other mature plants. The seedlings will also need regular irrigation since they won’t have spring rainfall to keep them watered.
Plan on sowing the second round of seeds sometime between June and August, depending on where you live and what your garden zone is. If you get busy and July comes and goes without a new planting, don’t worry. There are still some flowers you can plant even late in the season and still get blooms.
To get some ideas of when to plant, check out this article, Too Late To Plant A Flower Garden? A Guide To Summer Plantings.