How to Start a Cutting Garden: The Beginner’s Guide

Not everyone loves zucchini, but everyone loves sunflowers.

And if you love the beauty and romance of gardening, a cut flower garden might be just the thing your backyard needs.

Having a cut flower garden brings a special type of beauty to your life by making a simple day at home more fun. Even children who are less than excited to go get cucumbers will be truly thrilled by cutting baby’s breath and purple coneflower.

Flowers are generally easier to grow than vegetables, suffer fewer pests and diseases, and bring joy to your life in a way that nothing else can.

And unlike those fussy flower beds like some gardens you might have in the front of your home, a cutting garden is made to enjoy. It’s quite literally there for the taking.

close up of pink cosmos growing outside

How to start your own cutting garden

Now, starting any garden is quite a task, and creating your cutting garden is no different. But get excited. This will be fun!

There are a number of things that go into the beginning of your new cutting garden.

Step One: Pick the Spot

Planting a cut garden in the front yard for all of your neighbors to see might not be the best idea, especially if you take great pride in your yard.

Instead, cut gardens are usually planted in the side or back yard. Even beside a vegetable garden is a great choice. Both gardens being planted in a crop-style formation helps both gardens be successful and healthy.

You don’t need super-rich soil for homegrown flowers, but look for well-drained soil. If you have drainage issues, consider raised beds.

Choose a sunny spot with easy access to water. You’ll thank yourself later if you don’t make maintenance difficult for yourself.

Step Two: Prep the soil

man in jeans tilling field with hand powered tiller

Before you do anything with your soil to get it ready for planting, do a soil test. Performing a soil test determines soil moisture and what is needed to make your soil healthy.

Most garden centers will help you test your soil and advise you on the next steps. Or you can purchase a soil testing kit online.

The simplest way to make your soil healthy and prepped for planting is by adding organic matter. Compost and leaf litter are the easiest to find.

If you’re not able to find compost, mix good quality potting soil and garden soil.

Don’t forget the importance of well drained soil. If it’s compact, do some tilling or digging. If that’s beyond your abilities, consider raised beds.

If you’re interested in starting your organic vegetable garden soon, here’s a guide on how to prepare the soil for it too.

Step Three: Pick your flower varieties

There are so many different types of flowers that can be grown in a cutting garden, the possibilities are endless.

Luckily, the best way to pick them is simple.

Pick the flowers you enjoy. The whole purpose of this endeavor is to create something beautiful. All you have to do is pick out what you love.

Some practical tips for picking out your own flowers:

  • The very best choices for your cutting garden will produce flowers with good vase life, straight stems, and will make attractive cut flowers (meaning they will look good off the plant.)
  • When in doubt, pick the best cutting flowers for beginners: sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos.
  • A mix of perennials and annuals is an excellent start for a beginner. (The perennials will return every year, and you can change the annuals out each season to experiment.)
  • Pick a mix of heights so you can have tall plants in the back, smaller flowers in the front.
  • Think outside the usual choices: herbs can double as beautiful greenery for your arrangements while also helping prevent unwanted infestations. Don’t dismiss the shrubs, such as hydrangeas and lilacs. And when you already want to create your herb garden, here’s a guide you can check.
  • Cool seasons have beautiful blooms too! Don’t worry if you get this idea to start in Fall or Winter. There are select flowers that like the cooler temps. (Look for sweet William and sweet peas!)
  • Don’t forget about old-fashioned varieties of cut flowers. You’ll need to start most of these from seed, but they are super charming.

It’s always fun to walk the plant nursery and choose spring bulbs, baby’s breath, and other flower varieties. Please don’t choose more flowers than what you will actually use. Otherwise, it’s a waste and could be a possible deterrent for you if you get overwhelmed.

Your local nursery will have the best advice on what is easier to plant in your climate and when in the year you should start.

Or you can take on the task of planting seeds inside with grow lights until your last frost if you live in a northern climate.

Step Four: Plant your flowers

dark soil with hand planting large seed

Plant your seeds or blooms in a crop style with rows. Many plants thrive in that formation, especially for a cut garden.

Keep in mind you want to be able to easily reach every part of your garden comfortably. That means no straining to reach the middle of a flower bed. You might be tempted tto squeeze in more plants with bigger beds, but you’ll never regret having a cutting garden that’s easy to work in.

Your seed packet will also have more detailed instructions for growing space and specific maintenance.

If you want to have a year-round cut garden, consider staggering your planting of different varieties so you can keep blooms all year round.

Take the time to plan it out and arrange your cut garden keeping all these factors in mind. Do you want hot pink zinnias in the summer? Burgundy sunflowers in the fall? check your seed packet and do a little counting.

To suppress weed growth, spread a thick layer of mulch around plants.

Make sure you label your cutting garden, either with plant markers or a gardening journal. Different plants have different requirements: some need constant moisture, some need light to germinate, and some need to be buried deeply.

Step Five: Care for your garden

You should water your garden in the morning hours before the heat of the day when they can be the most stressed. Keeping the soil healthy and fertilizing your plants is also a priority. You can add a granular fertilizer before you plant, or add a liquid fertilizer as the plants grow.

Research the good bugs from the bad that might take residence in your garden.

Avoid chemicals when you can to protect your flowers from aphids and other pests; allow Mother Nature to do her thing.

Some insects, for example, ladybugs, are more friend than foe.

Remove weeds and dead flowers as soon as possible to keep all the growing flowers healthy.

Step Six: Cutting your beautiful flowers

pink and orange zinnias in bucket

Besides watering, cutting your flowers often is your primary maintenance task. Even if you don’t particularly need anything from the cutting garden, it’s important to keep snipping, or the flowers will stop blooming. (Remove spent blossoms at the very least.)

Most annual plants bloom more when harvested often but only cut in the early morning or late evening to prevent wilting.

Use clean and never dull garden cutters, cutting the flower to allow for a long stem, and strip the leaves before placing the stem in your bucket of water.

Allow your flowers to rest in the buck of water before arranging.

Tools Needed

  • A weeder, digger, spade, and a cutter are needed, but a Hori Hori knife is a great all-in-one substitute. You can use the blade to cut and dig!
  • A way to measure out the space between each seed is also helpful when planting. (ruler or string)
  • A good pair of gardening gloves are necessary to protect your hands.
  • Ensure you have an easy way to water your plants (irrigation system, watering wand attached to a hose, or watering can).
  • Also, carry a bucket of water with you to place your cut flowers in immediately.

Have Fun!

Starting a cutting garden is an enjoyable hobby that will bring beauty to your home inside and out. However, like any other gardening project, it takes patience and care.

So, enjoy the process and don’t stress too much over whether or not every seed germinates or if you planted enough flowers.

Make time to enjoy your garden by taking some time after work (or an extra hour in the morning) to leisurely stroll through it on a nice day. Or bring a comfy chair out there and end your day with a book!

Your cutting garden will be the perfect place to sit and enjoy all your hard work.

How to Start a Cutting Garden: The Beginner\'s Guide

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  1. I like your Deep Thoughts! And I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiment that while growing flowers to have around your house or keeping a chicken for eggs may not save you money in and of itself, the attitude it inspires certainly does. I have always struggled with growing flowers because they are “useless” and if I’m going to bother trying to grow something, it better have a purpose. However, I have been inspired recently to value flowers as pollinator-attracting helpers in my garden, and this article reminds me of another “use” they serve. They make me happy! I absolutely LOVE having fresh flowers in my home. They remind me of my mother and feel like the icing on the cake when the house is clean and put together, so I’m going to add more flowers to my beds this year and love them for all they add to my life. Thank you!

    1. Mariel you are the sweetest! And that is a great point. There is a great book about this called “Vegetables Love Flowers” I think you’d love. Enjoy your bouquets. 💕