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Garden Help Desk: Finding the best flowers for beginning gardeners

By Usu Extension garden Help Desk - | Jan 17, 2021
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Parsley sprigs can add interesting greenery and filler to bouquets, but the flowers are also lovely in cut flower arrangements.

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Cosmos reseeds easily, so it's not uncommon to see volunteers in the area where the flowers grew the previous year.

Question: I planted my first vegetable garden 3 years ago, and so far, I’ve been pretty successful. I’d like to try growing some flowers for vases in my house. Since I’m a beginner gardener, what are the easiest flowers to try this year?

Answer: You’re sure to be successful with a variety of cut flower options if you’ve been successful with your vegetable garden, but there are a few really reliable and easy flowers you can start with this year.

Zinnias are one of the most popular flowers for new gardeners. You’ll find varieties in many different sizes, shapes and colors. Any nursery or seed catalog that offers flowers will have a nice selection of zinnia seeds or plants. Grow them in full sun and space them so that they will get good air circulation once they’re mature.

Cosmos is another easy flower. If I were only growing one kind of cutting flower, it would be cosmos.

There are varieties available from seed or as transplants in white and all the rosy shades, and once they start blooming, they’ll produce flowers until frost. Cosmos reseeds easily; if you don’t want them in the same place next year, simply pull the seedlings or smother them with mulch. Otherwise, enjoy your volunteer blooms.

Sunflowers are another popular and easy cut flower that you can grow from seeds or transplants. You’ll find varieties in many different sizes that are suitable for cut flowers. If you’re looking for sturdy, bright, warm blooms in your vases, you can’t go wrong with sunflowers.

Snapdragons come in many colors and will add some nice vertical accents to your bouquets. Unlike cosmos and sunflowers, snapdragons are easier to grow as transplants instead of starting from seed. You’ll find snapdragons as solids and bicolors in white, yellows and many rosy shades.

Consider adding curly-leaf parsley or dill to your flower bed for a double-duty plant. Not only will you have something edible, you’ll also have some nice greenery with a fun texture to mix into your bouquet. Plus parsley and dill blooms will provide you with delicate, airy sprigs to add filler and vertical structure to your vases.

Here are four tips for keeping your cutting flower garden healthy and productive.

  • Keep the foliage dry to reduce problems with fungal leaf diseases. Drip irrigation is the best way to give your plants a deep, infrequent soak, but it you must use a sprinkler, do your watering first thing in the morning so that the foliage can dry out more quickly in the sunshine.
  • Water deeply, less frequently and cover the soil with mulch. A deep soak about once every five days or so in the summer is better than a light watering every couple of days. With a nice layer of mulch over the soil your plants will do just fine with less frequent watering.
  • Cut your flowers in the morning to get the most out of your blooms. Wait until the morning dew has dried and then gather your flowers before the day warms up and they’re in the full sun.
  • Deadhead your plants. If there are faded flowers on your plants that you didn’t use, make a habit of removing them at least once a week. This will keep your plants looking better and also encourage them to keep putting on fresh blooms.

Question: It appears I have Bentgrass in my lawn, mixed in with my Kentucky Bluegrass. Are there mowing or watering practices I can do to eliminate the Bentgrass over time?

Answer: Bentgrass is a common grassy weed in our area. It grows in uneven patches that expand in size as its stolons (above ground stems or runners) creep along through the lawn. There isn’t a weed killer that will kill the bentgrass in your lawn without also killing some of your Kentucky bluegrass.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to completely eliminate the bentgrass; it seems to show up again pretty easily even when a patch has been sprayed with an herbicide like glyphosate. That said, there are some things you can do to slow it down and make it less noticeable and easier to live with.

Bentgrass is a little bit of a wimp. It likes plenty of fertilizer, lots of water and short lawns where it doesn’t have to compete for sunlight. You can take advantage of all that by going easy on the fertilizer (only what’s needed and nothing extra), watering deeply, but not frequently and mowing your lawn about three-and-a-half inches tall.

You could also add pre-emergent fertilizer to your lawn care routine to reduce the number of bentgrass seeds that germinate.

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