Not everybody starts planting all on the same day. If you live in Illinois you might start planting some time in March or April. But if you live in Florida or Southern California you might be able to plant things all year round. So, what guides us in knowing when it’s safe to start planting certain plants? The clue is called climate zones and it is based on frost-free dates for the area of the country or state where you live.
There is a frost-free date in the spring that tells you when it’s safe to start planting tender vegetables or plants that do not like frost. There is also a first-frost date for fall that tells you when it’s going to get too cold for a lot of things to grow well. The number of days between these two is called the growing season .
Some plants really like the cold and do well. Other plants are real warm weather lovers and don’t even like a slight chill. With more experience, you’ll soon get to know which plants like it cold and which ones like it warm.
To find out the frost-free dates for your part of the country or state, visit a library, garden center or Extension office and look up or ask about the frost-free dates in your area. You may also see large maps with bright colors and numbers from 1 – 11 on them. These are hardiness zone maps . You’ll see that zone 1 is the coldest (shortest growing season) up to zone 11 (longest growing season).
Another thing to keep in mind is that a date on the calendar does not always give you the green light to start gardening. Don’t forget to always get to know your soil up close and personal by giving it the squeeze test. This will tell you when you can work your soil safely.
Whether you have 50 or 500 square feet (4.7 or 47 sq. m.) of area that you would like to plant with flowers, the process should be fun and enjoyable. A flower garden overflows with opportunities for the creative spirit to come alive. I’m not an “artsy” person per se, but I always tell people that the garden is my canvas because it truly is my way of letting the artist out. It relieves my stress (although a dead rose bush can send me into a whirlwind), and it’s a great workout too!
So if you’re ready to turn that bare spot in your yard into the next Mona Lisa, just follow my brushstrokes…
Determine Your Flower Garden Theme
There are many ways to approach your canvas, and it’s really quite up to you. There is no right or wrong here. I particularly enjoy heading over to the local library or bookstore and pulling up a chair in the gardening aisle.
Pouring over pictures of English gardens, their classic beauty is always a welcome sight, or delving into dreams of sophisticated Japanese gardens that inspire zen. Or, make up your own gardening theme using my next suggestion.
Plan Your Flower Garden Layout
Once you have an idea of which direction you want to take your masterpiece, grab a piece of graph paper and some colored pencils and map it out. You many want to try a handy tool that I found at the Better Homes and Gardens website called the “Plan-a-Garden.” You can sketch out your home and other structures on the site and then draw the layout of your flower garden around them. Be sure to observe if the site you want to use gets full or partial sun or mostly shade, as that will drastically change the types of flowers and foliage you can plant in your beds.
Be specific in your diagram, too. If you have 4 feet (1 m.) of flower bed space against the garden shed, you probably only have room for four clumps of giant pink zinnias there. Michelangelo only had so much ceiling to paint in the Sistine Chapel, after all.
Growing Flower Seeds or Buying Flower Plants
There are two ways to go about actually getting the flowers for your garden, and they don’t have to exclude one another. If it’s still winter and you have plenty of time before actually applying the glorious colors to your canvas, you may want to save some money and grow the flowers from seed. The variety of colors, textures, heights, and habits of the flowers in seed catalogs today is absolutely mind-boggling. Shopping for the seeds is one of my favorite things to do in late winter and watching the tiny seeds grow is something no person should miss out on.
However, if you’re short on time (and who isn’t?) or you prefer to buy certain flowers from the nursery and grow others from seed, then get ready to shop ’til you drop! A warm greenhouse nursery on a cold spring day is so tempting and really quite handy when your poppy seeds have once again failed to sprout.
Construct Your Flower Garden
Roll up your sleeves and the sleeves of all the helpers you can find! This is when the magic really takes place. You’ve planned and you’ve shopped and you’ve waited for that first warm day of spring. It’s time to get dirty! A shovel, a dirt rake, and a trowel are definite necessities for loosening the soil and creating holes for each plant.
Adding some well rotted animal manure and compost to the soil is almost always a good idea too, but be sure to do this a week before you plant so as not to shock the plants.
Identify what type of soil, sun, and water each plant likes before sentencing the sunflowers to their doom in that shady spot behind the garage. If you have a wet, slow-draining spot in your yard, like I do, check to see if any of the plants you’ve chosen like a boggy marsh. Be aware of the quirks in your canvas before you plant and you’ll save yourself a headache later on!
Enjoy Your Flower Garden Design
The most amazing thing about the flower garden is that it’s always changing. Its colors and patterns will never look the same as they did yesterday. One cold spring morning you may decide you want to start the painting all over again. See ya’ later daylilies! Or maybe you just want to add a few alyssum here and some hostas there. It’s a constant creation, and you really can’t go wrong.
Flowers are a simple way to beautify and personalize one’s living environment with color and fragrant scents. One of the best ways to enjoy flowers is to start a flower garden. Flower gardens are often found in one’s yard, but for people with minimal space an indoor garden of potted flowers is also an option. Once a person decides to start the project, he or she will need to learn how to start a flower garden. There are many ways to learn about flower gardening, such as conducting an Internet search, visiting one’s local nursery to speak with a floral expert, or talking with neighbors and friends for useful flower gardening tips.
To start flower gardening, one of the first things that a person will want to do is determine the location. If a person lives in a home with a yard, an outdoor garden is a likely choice. When choosing a location consider the amount of sun that the area receives. This is important because the sun will play a role in the type of flowers that a person can plant. A majority of flowers require at minimum six hours of sunlight. This is considered full sunlight. Other types of flowers may do well in partial or even full shade conditions. The condition of the soil is also of importance. Any potential location should have well-drained soil; however, if the soil in one’s yard is poorly drained it may be improved by creating a raised bed of soil. Testing the soil is one of the smartest flower gardening tips that one can follow. This will let the gardener know what the pH of the soil is and if it is lacking in potassium or phosphorous. The results of the test will advise the gardener as to how much lime is necessary in order to elevate the pH to the required level of 6.0 to 6.5. The results will also advise the gardener on how much potassium and phosphorous is needed, if any.
When choosing the type of flowers to plant in the flower garden, look for a selection that adds visual variety in terms of color and height. One should also select a combination of flowers that bloom at various times throughout the year so that the garden will always have colorful blooms. The local nursery is one’s best bet at choosing the right type of flowers. Not only will they advise gardeners on what type of flowers to use for the amount of sunlight, but they can also help select the right type of perennials and annuals to create the most attractive year-round garden. If a person is planting potted flowers indoors, the nursery is also able to help him or her select the best type of plant for growing indoors. Starting from seed is also one of the helpful flower gardening tips to consider. While it is faster to buy ready-to-plant flowers from the nursery, a packet of seeds is typically less expensive. Another benefit of using seeds is the variety, which is often greater than what is available at one’s local nursery. When starting from seed it is important to know whether it must be started indoors or directly in the garden, the rate of seedling growth, and how many days it takes to bloom. A person will need the appropriate containers to start the seeds; ideally they will be two-inches deep at minimum and have holes for draining. A porous growing mix is also ideal when first planting seeds. Seedlings can be transplanted into a growing mix that contains twenty percent compost medium or soil from the garden.
In addition to learning how to start a flower garden, a person will also need to know how to maintain it. A large part of care involves watering the flowers properly. A flower garden requires one-inch of water a week. Rain provides for some of this, but if it hasn’t rained for a while then the plants will need to be watered one to two times weekly. The garden should be watered during the earlier part of the day, while it is still cool. Watering later in the day when temperatures are high and the sun is at its highest can cause water to evaporate too quickly and should be avoided. In addition, water at night should also be avoided as it promotes disease. An eco-friendly way to water one’s plants is to use a drip system which applies water directly on the roots. Adding a layer of mulch to the garden assists in the care of the plant by insulating the roots and reducing the number of weeds and by helping with water conservation. Removing any weeds and cutting back perennials will also keep the garden looking attractive and encourage plant growth.
Flowers add color, beauty, and cheer to yards and landscapes everywhere. Here are some good tips on how to get started.
How To Start
Take time to plan. Sketch out your garden. Include the size, shape, and location. Look at the spot. Is the area sunny, shady, or a little bit of both? Watch it during the day to see how much or when the sun hits this spot. Impatiens, coleus, dusty miller, pansies, and begonias are a few annuals that do well in shade. Petunias, zinnias, and marigold, are a few varieties that grow best in full sun.
Choose the Right Flowers
Before you decide which flowers you might like, do your homework. Look in seed catalogs, garden books, and the Internet for information on the growing conditions needed for various varieties. Flower shows, greenhouses, and garden centers also offer good advice.
Do you want the flowers to accent your house colors, or attract hummingbirds and butterflies, or are you interested in a theme such as red, white, and blue?
Know Your Growing Season
Keep in mind the length of your growing season and the last frost dates. Learn as much as you can before you plant the seeds or transplants.
Designing The Bed
Once you learn which types of flowers will grow in your location and decide which ones you’d like to plant, you can start designing the bed. Start small rather than large at first especially if you’re a beginner. You’ll need to outline the shape of your flower garden. A good way to do this is to use a garden hose. Then edge the area with a spade so you can see the borders. Till the inside area until the soil is all mixed up and there are no weeds or large rocks. Mix the soil with organic material such as compost or manure. You may want to test the pH of your soil. This will reveal its acidity and alkalinity. Most annuals do well in a level of 6.5. You can buy a tester and do this yourself, or you can take a sample to an extension service in your community.
Each year I love the flow of Spring, the chance to see what will thrive in the garden this year. The opportunity to fill my porch and flower boxes with color. The hardest part- the cost of flowers. Friends, it is NOT cheap to buy any type of plant.
Even though gardening can be an expensive hobby there are ways to start or continue your flower gardens on a budget.
Master Gardener Sale
In New York State we have Cornell Cooperation Extensions in many of our counties. I personally love going to our local CCE plant sale. Every year in May you can get affordable plants from local gardeners.
I have found these plants to hold up the best because they have been growing in the same soil they are going to be transplanted in.
Many of these plant sales have garden books and the chance to speak with master gardeners.
To find ones in other states try doing a search for master gardening plant sales and then your city and state.
Buy Annual Flower Seeds
Each year I try to ONLY buy perennials. Annuals sure are pretty but they are not pretty to the budget. Remember annuals die every year. In New York where summer months are short, it’s hard on the frugal dollar.
If you have a large homesteading space, five plants won’t get you far but will put a dent in the weekly budget.
I try to start annual flower seeds indoors. Even if you don’t want to start seeds inside I’ve had success with many annuals direct sowing in the garden. Some of my favorites are:
- Morning glory
There are others but these are just the ones I always have success with.
Don’t Jump The Gun- Plant at the Right Time
The middle of April Home Depot usually does their Spring Black Friday Event. Veggies and flowers are usually $2 or less for decent sized plants. The problem? Again in upstate New York, it’s still cold. Heck, we may even have snow.
One year I took advantage of the sale and kept the plants in the garage. They needed a lot more attention though because the temperature in the garage is constantly changing.
It’s important to plant your flowers at the right time. The right time of the year and be sure to plant in early morning or evening. You never want to plant at 12 p.m. on a blazing hot day. I’ve done it and they wilt they go into shock and they may not come back.
Be Patient – Plant Perennials
Perennials are the way to go. It’s best to start a perennials garden somewhere. Be sure to give your perennials enough space between each one for good plant health. When they have enough space to grow into beautiful healthy plants you are able to propagate new plants from your original.
Each year I like to get one or two new perennials. And propagate from last years perennials to other gardens around the homestead. It’s cost effective and within a couple of years, you will have multiple gardens full of beautiful plants.
Arbor Day Cheap & Free Trees
It is worth checking out the Arbor Day Foundation Site. When you become a member you get 10 free trees. Remember these are very small and will need protection from deer, but it’s FREE!
Know Your Location
When you want to start a flower garden figure out where you want it. Watch the space to note how much sun it gets a day. This will help you when deciding what flowers to plant in it.
The worst thing you could do is fill it with plants that prefer shade and watch them all die! Been there done that. Those little tags on the plants, read them. They really do help.
When we moved to our farmhouse a little garden out front was already started, and I kept adding more plants to it from around the homestead. Until I realized there is no way for me to see and enjoy this garden unless I drive down our road.
Plant a flower garden you can enjoy more than passers-by. Out here in the country, everyone is going 60+ mph anyways, I doubt they are slowing down to look at that little garden.
I better move it this year!
One of my favorite things is decorating the home inside and out. This is why I love plants because they are the best decorations for the outdoors. It doesn’t mean they are the ONLY decorations. Consider adding little fairy gardens or windmills.
There are plenty of things to add to the space if you are struggling to fill it up with flowers. Big lots, Dollar Tree, Dollar General are all great places to find affordable and cute garden decor pieces.
Amazon is a fun one to look through, some are great deals and some are just entertaining. Like the one below
No matter what you decide to do don’t get discouraged with the budget. There are plenty of ways you can be resourceful and get the look you are going for. It may take more time but the efforts will be cost effective and worth it.
Adding some blooming annuals and perennials is one of the quickest ways to freshen up your yard.
Flowering plants always make your garden look more exciting (and can stop neighbors in their tracks). Perennials can dazzle year after year, while annuals can add quick blooms almost instantly. You can start with seeds or pick up transplants at the garden center, but once you’ve chosen your plants, there are a few basic steps to take to get your flowers off to a good start in your yard. Before you start digging, make sure to read the tag that comes with your plants or the instructions on your packets of seeds so you can match the plants’ needs with the best spots to grow them. Then, if you already have established flower beds, you can easily place new annuals or perennials wherever you need to fill in some holes. Or you can always create a new flower bed to fill with all the beautiful blooms you want to grow.
Step 1: Right Place, Right Plant
Do the plants you’ve picked out need sun, shade, or a combination of both? Start by arranging your plants so they’re in a spot where they’ll get the kind of light they prefer (plants that like the sun should be out in the open, plants that need shade should go in a spot where they’ll have some cover). Full sun is six hours or more of direct sun per day, not necessarily continuously. Part shade typically means four to six hours of sun per day. Shade definitions vary, depending on how deep the shade really is. Dappled shade gives a lot more light than deep shade, for example.
Step 2: Dig the Soil
Beautiful flower gardens start with healthy soil. In general, most flowering plants do best in soil that’s loose and well-drained with a lot of organic material in it. You don’t need to dig a large area to plant flowers, but you should dig enough soil that you can add some compost to improve the soil structure and add nutrients.
Avoid digging or handling soil when it’s wet to prevent compaction. Plants need a certain amount of space between soil particles for roots to grow. One test to see if soil can be worked is to dig a small sample of soil from a 3-inch hole. Squeeze it into a ball, then toss the soil onto a hard surface such as a rock or pavement. If the soil stays together, it’s too wet for planting, but if it shatters, it’s time to plant.
Step 3: Plant Your New Flowers
The steps for how to plant flower seeds are a little different than plants from the nursery, so follow the directions on the seed packet to know how deep to plant each seed and how far apart. With potted garden plants, you should usually plant with the soil at the same level as the soil in the pot, but read the plant tag to be sure. Some flowering plants, such as irises and peonies, prefer their rhizomes and roots to be planted very shallow. When removing the plant from the pot, gently tease some or all of the soil from the roots and place the plant into the hole you’ve prepared. Push the soil back into the hole, firming it gently but not packing it down.
Step 4: Water Deeply and Add Mulch
Thoroughly soak the soil around your newly planted flowers. Garden flowers generally need 1 to 2 inches of moisture every week to perform well, so water if you don’t receive enough rain. It’s best to water deeply and less frequently than shallowly and more often so the roots of the plants grow deeper. Avoid keeping soil waterlogged or the roots of your flowering plants may rot. A layer of mulch like shredded bark around your new plants will help slow down evaporation and reduce how often you need to water.
Step 5: Deadhead and Groom Your Flowers
As your flowering plants begin blooming, feel free to cut them for bouquets. Clip off the spent flower heads to encourage the plant to put more energy into its foliage and winter survival. Some flowers, including zinnias, dahlias, and others, bloom again when you remove the blooms. Clip or pull any brown foliage for a cleaner look. Daylilies in particular benefit from the removal of old leaves.
Building a beautiful flower bed is well worth the time and effort it takes to get it going. And when you know how to do it, it’s really not that hard at all! Read on for a handy step-by-step guide on how to make a flower bed you can enjoy all season long.
Step 1 – Survey the Land
Before doing any sort of digging or planting, the first and most important step in how to build a flower bed is to survey the space where you will grow your garden. Don’t rush this step. Take several days to really look at and assess the land. Study the sunlight patterns, check the soil for moisture, pay attention to water access. It is even important to look at the slope of the land. Is it on a hill that will make watering difficult? Is it at the bottom of an elevation where spring rains may flood plants? Each of these considerations will be important when planning and planting your garden.
Remember that size matters, too. It is important to know how big a planting area is before choosing plants. Overcrowding a garden bed with small plants that will eventually grow much larger is a sure way to make them struggle as they end up vying for light, water and food.
Step 2 – Assess the Soil
Assessing the soil is important too. It is necessary to have a full understanding of soil type before choosing plants and flowers. Plants all have their own needs when it comes to soil. Performing a simple soil test will determine the soil’s pH. From there, it is simple to amend soil before planting if needed. The desired pH will depend on what will be planted, but a basic range for most plants (though not all) is 6.5.
- To raise the pH in soil (which means it is too acidic): Add wood ashes, limestone or lime
- To lower the pH in soil (which means it is too alkaline): Add composted leaves, pine needles or horticulture sulfur
Soil falls into 5 main types:
- Silty – smooth to touch, retains water, doesn’t hold onto nutrients very well, fertile
- Clay – good water storage, slow to drain, holds nutrients
- Sandy – dry and gritty, rapidly drains, doesn’t hold onto nutrients well
- Peaty – high water content, rich in organic material, contains acidic water, can regulate pH levels
- Loamy – ideal soil type, contains a balanced mix of clay, sand and silt, holds water but drains well
Step 3 – Choose Your Plants
Choosing plants is the fun part of creating a flower bed. Be sure to think about sunlight and soil type when deciding what to plant. Also consider whether a perennial or annual should be planted. Perennials will come back year after year, whereas annuals die back at the end of a season and do not return the next year. You don’t always have to grow difficult-to-maintain plants to have a beautiful garden. There are many hardy low-maintenance plants that are great if an easy yard is the goal. Some of the easier plants to grow include:
- Sweet peas
Increase your chances of success by using the companion planting method. Companion planting is the idea that certain plants will help one another when planted in close proximity. For example, marigolds will help nearly any nearby growing vegetables, particularly tomatoes. And Zinnias attract ladybugs, which are well-known to help control cabbage flies.
Step 4 – Water Correctly
Watering a new flower garden properly will help new plants become established. While each flower and plant can vary in terms of water needs and drought tolerance, a good rule of thumb is to water just 1” of moisture each week. Account for rainfall in that measurement and be sure to water a bit more during unusually dry spells or heat waves.
Watering newly planted flowers is critical to how well a plant will do. Water too much and root rot is likely. Water too little and you can expect wilting. In worst case scenarios, a new plant that doesn’t get the right amount of moisture may die.
Common Questions About Flower Beds
When to start planting flowers?
Knowing when to start planting flowers depends on the type of flower you are going to plant and what zone you live in. Some plants are more sensitive to frost, so it is important to know the last and first frost dates in your zone. When it comes to planting, everything is dependent on these two dates.
Can I turn my grass into a flower bed?
You can turn any grass area into a flower bed by removing the grass in the space you want to plant. Once the lawn is gone, till the area 8 – 12” deep, completely breaking up the soil. Edge the area or add a border to keep surrounding grass from creeping into your new flower bed.
How deep should you dig a flower bed?
How deep you should dig a flower bed will ultimately depend on the types of flowers that will be planted. The minimum depth should be at least 6” as the majority of plants will need a depth of 6-12” deep. 12” is also a safe bet.
How do you edge a flower bed?
Edging a flower bed requires a half moon edger or a sharp flat-blade spade and some weight. Facing the bed, make sharp slices in an even line all the way around the bed. Do not remove the edged turf until the end. Turn, and with your back to the bed this time, cut into the turf at an angle to slice the grass clods you originally dug. Lift out and compost the clods.
Making a flower bed is rewarding and can be fun. With the right tools and knowhow, it is just a matter of time until you are ready to sit in your garden and enjoy the flowers you have grown.
But, contrary to popular belief, having a green thumb is not a requirement to have a beautiful Texas garden. Some of the more popular varieties include Live Oak, Texas Persimmon, Dessert Willow, Texas Redbud, and the Crape Myrtle. FACT: Selecting the right plants is crucialSelect plants based on the amount of sun, water, and those that align with your growing conditions.
Knowing the zone you live in can help you choose the right plants and help to eliminate frustration. TIP: Use containersIf space is limited grow plants in pots. .
How to Grow a Successful Texas Garden – News & Events
A Guide to Growing a Successful Texas GardenHere in Texas, we’re fortunate to experience warm weather all year round, but seasonality still plays a role in growing a successful garden. You can reserve a private plot in our community garden to farm alongside your neighbors and get tips for sustaining a proper Texas garden through every season. Prepare your Texas garden for warmer weather by testing water capacity, texture, and density of your garden plot. Once your Texas summer vegetables start to grow, trim away withering and overgrown plants frequently to keep your garden healthy.
Spending time in your Texas garden, caring for plants with friends and family by your side, is an incredibly rewarding experience. .
When to Plant an Edible Garden in Texas – Plants for All Seasons
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The timing of seeding can make or break your edible garden dreams for the upcoming season, so follow these tips to ensure perfect delivery. Advantages of Edible GardeningWith so many advantages to edible gardening, it just makes sense to hop on the bandwagon! According to Texas weather statistics, there is a 10% chance that frost can occur after the forecasted frost date. .
Your 12-Month Garden Checklist for North Texas
Plant trees and shrubs. These are not good for North Texas lawns because by the time weeds arrives it is too hot to apply fertilizer . Continue planting trees and shrubs. Plant fall vegetables seed outdoors: Cucumbers, beans, summer squash, zucchini, and swiss chard. DecemberContinue planting trees and shrubs. .
Dad’s Tips for Gardening in Texas
Growing up on a beautiful ranch in Central Texas allowed me to have many unique and memorable childhood experiences. I still love spending time in the garden with my dad, growing our own delicious and healthy foods! My dad’s heart has always been in working the land where he grew up. He’s developed quite a knack for gardening, and he sat down with me to share some tips:Take time to till a space for your garden. Each plot of soil is different, and each gardener has different talents.
Planting Calendar for Dallas, TX
Planting Dates for FallPlanting Dates for SpringHow to Use the Planting CalendarThis planting calendar is a guide that tells you the best time to start planting your garden based on frost dates. Please note:The ” Frost Dates ” indicate the best planting dates based on your local average frost dates. indicate the best planting dates based on your local average frost dates. The “Moon Dates” indicate the best planting dates based on your local frost dates and Moon phases.
Old-time farmers swear that this practice results in a larger, tastier harvest, so we’ve included planting by the Moon dates in our planting calendar, too. .
When Is the Best Time to Start Your Garden?
Fun fact: Tower Garden doesn’t use soil. That means you can start the growing season before most traditional gardeners (who must wait for the ground to warm up). The Best Time to Plant Your GardenFor most of the United States, the best time to start spring crops is, well, now. How to Start Your Spring GardenExcited to start your spring garden? When your seedlings grow to about three inches tall and have roots protruding from the rockwool, you can plug them into your Tower Garden. .
Vegetable Gardening in North Texas
Getting StartedAre you ready to give vegetable gardening a try? And here’s a handy printable Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening in Denton County–everything you need to know in five easy steps. The square foot gardening site is not associated with Texas A&M University. Here are some tips for harvesting and handling vegetables from the Texas AgriLife Extension.
Fall GardeningSpring isn’t the only time to plant vegetables in North Texas. .
Your Guide to Building a Garden at Your Texas Home
Your Guide to Building a Garden at Your Texas HomeWhen building a garden at your home, there are many important factors to take into consideration. Tips for Building a GardenLocation, Location, LocationWhere you decide to start your garden can have a significant impact on its success. Building a DIY garden box is a great way to keep plants protected and create a stylish element in your yard. Building your garden near a spigot may also help save you from having to lug around a heavy water can. Are you waiting to find the perfect home before you start building a garden to show off your green thumb? .
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