Starting an organic flower garden is both fun and rewarding. Flower farming organically can be tough, particularly when it comes to insects. The main two types of flowering plants are;
Annual plants live for one growing season and then die, while perennial plants regrow every spring. Annuals bloom all season until frost, so you get a consistent colour and showy blooms. These flower plants can go in the ground any time, even in midsummer, to refresh your beds.
These plants live only for one season i.e. they will not survive outside in the winter season. Annuals bloom throughout the season and come in a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes. Marigolds, Zinnias, Sunflowers, and Petunias are some examples of annual flowers. Annuals are also used as borders and in containers and flower boxes to brighten up the landscape.
Perennials are plants that survive outside for more than two seasons. Most perennial plants flower only one time in a year. However there are newer hybrid varieties that are reblooming, those rebloom once you deadhead the flowers or rebloom later in the season.
Perennials come back for many seasons. While the top portion of a perennial dies back in the winter season, new growth appears the following spring from the same root system. Most perennial plants have less flashy flowers and bloom for a shorter period, usually 2 to 6 weeks.
The key aspects of organic flower gardening include;
- Matching the plants to your site
- Buying healthy plants
- Preparing the soil for good growth
- Keeping plants naturally problem-resistant with proper watering, mulching, and fertilizing
- Using safe, effective pest and disease controls
Organic Soil Preparation for Flower Gardening
- The best type of soil for flower bulbs is sandy loam soil. It can be defined as a balanced mixture of clay, sand, silt, and a modicum of organic matter. Sandy loam is around neutral pH and affords good drainage and adequate nutrition. Your soil needs to be healthy for the flower plants to do well. Be sure to work the soil before planting and aerate it so the plant roots can easily grow.
- The soil is the foundation for flower plants and it needs to be as healthy as can be for your flowers to bloom. If your soil has a lot of clay, you’ll amend it differently than if your soil has a lot of sand or sandy loam soil. Most soil types need their structure, fertility, and drainage improved before planting.
- Compost – If you’re just getting started, the quickest way to improved soil is to add generous quantities of composted organic matter. Many kinds of materials are beneficial, as long as they are fully composted manures, fir or pine bark, or agricultural by-products like rice hulls that may be available in your area. Spread about 2- to 3-inch layer over your planting area, and till or incorporate it into the soil.
- You can easily make compost and it is one of the best things you can make a beautiful flower garden. Compost makes great soil. Great soil makes growing any plants so much easier. Both garden and cut flowers are beneficial in compost. However, there are some kinds of floral waste to avoid, because they are difficult to decompose or include compounds that can add poisonous residues to the soil.
- Cover Crops – Another method to improve soil is to seed it with a cover crop, such as annual ryegrass (in fall) or buckwheat (in spring). In the fall, plough or dig your flower garden area, then seed it with annual ryegrass. The seeds will germinate, and plants will begin to grow, and then go dormant when the weather turns cold. They’ll grow again in the spring season. Two to four weeks before you intend to plant, turn them under with a tiller or shovel.
Choose Your Location for Organic Flower Gardening
Growing flowers requires ample sunlight; the bare minimum is 6 hours of hot, direct sun, but 8 to 10 is best. Ideally, your flower garden will be away from standing water and any large root systems as these can hinder the growth of your flowers.
Gardeners typically define light as follows;
Full sun – Six or more hours of full and bright direct sunlight per day.
Part Sun – Three to six hours of sunlight per day.
Part Shade – Three to six hours of sunlight but the light can be dappled periodically, as when the sun moves behind a large deciduous tree.
Shade – Three or five hours of sunlight per day. Shade can be described as light shade or dense shade, with dense shade the trickiest to work from. Dense shade means direct sunlight never reaches that portion of the flower garden.
Prepare the Planting Area for Organic Flower Gardening
Healthy soil in the garden is alive with an incredible population of microorganisms. Some harm will come to some organisms when you dig a garden bed. An easy method to amend your bed with organic matter is to pile it up in the fall and let it rot over winter. Start with a base layer of newspapers or cardboard that breaks down to smother any grass and weeds. Water the base. Then alternate 3-inch layers of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, ending with a layer of carbon materials to discourage flies that might be attracted to the nitrogen materials like grass clippings, coffee grounds.
Nitrogen-rich ingredients like grass clippings, coffee grounds, aged manure, and vegetable scraps such as peelings, eggshells, and teabags, etc. Carbon-rich ingredients are dry things like wood chips, leaves, straw, sawdust, newspaper, peat moss, and pine needles. The pile must be 18 inches to 3 feet tall; the taller it is, the longer it will take to breakdown. Water again and then leave it to breakdown over winter. If you want to start your garden bed immediately, add compost to your garden bed and work it into the soil with a spade or, if your garden is large, a rototiller.
Planting process in Organic Flower Gardening
If your soil is rich and you plant the correct plants for your flower garden conditions, you don’t have to worry about using lots of fertilizers and soil amendments in your organic flower garden. An occasional application of compost is all the organic fertilizers you’ll need to keep soil biology thriving helps to keep plants thriving. Fertilizing your flower garden with organic materials is considered best by gardeners. Organic fertilizers come from living things such as animal manure, fish emulsion, and non-living things, like rock phosphate or greensand. Fertilizers from organic matter not only supply essential nutrients to flowers, but they improve soil tilth. The importance of organic fertilizers is;
- Don’t burn plants
- Strengthen plants’ immune systems
- Are non-toxic to beneficial insects and wildlife
- Remain active in the garden soil for long periods
Once you’ve planted your pot-grown flower plants or your seedlings are 4 to 6 inches high, it’s time to mulch. Mulching is perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep flowers healthy and vigorous during the growing season. A 1-inch to 2-inch layer of organic mulch such as compost, grass clippings, or shredded leaves-helps to keep the soil from drying out and adds a steady supply of plant nutrients as it breaks down. Also, it will virtually eliminate weeding, since it prevents new weed seeds from sprouting. Also, mulch will help to hold existing water in the soil. If soil is moist at the surface, wait a few days and check again. If you must dig down about 2 or 3 inches to feel moisture, it’s time to water.
The best way to water your flower plants is with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system; this will apply water right to the roots, where it’s needed. Plastic and rubber soaker hoses are easy to use. When you’re ready to water, just attach the end of the soaker hose to an outdoor faucet, and let the water run until the top about 4 to 6 inches of soil is moist. Watering plants with a regular hose-end sprayer is not a good practice. You probably will lose patience before you have applied enough water to penetrate the mulch and adequately moisten the soil. Also, this kind of watering wets plant leaves, encouraging the spread of diseases.
Fertilizing your flower plants started back at the soil preparation stage, when you added organic matter and perhaps a balanced organic fertilizer. Many flower plants will thrive on this diet and won’t need extra nutrients. If you want to give your plants a midseason boost, apply balanced fertilizer around the base of each plant and scratch it lightly into the soil. Or you can treat them by using compost tea. To make compost tea, take a shovelful of compost and put it in a cloth bag to make a “teabag”. Put the bag in a watering can full of water and let it sit for a week. Dilute the liquid to the colour of weak tea and then sprinkle it over flower plants or water them with it once or twice during the summer season.
Organic Pest Control in Flower Garden
A healthy organic flower garden has a robust population of insects most of which are beneficial. It is estimated that fewer insects in gardens are harmful pests. Such a small problem doesn’t need resorting to dangerous synthetic pesticides. Be sure to read the label before using even an organic pesticide in your organic flower garden.
And start by determining if you have a pest problem in your garden. That damage you see might be a monarch caterpillar eating the leaf of a milkweed plant the food it needs to become an adult butterfly. If you do have a pest problem, try to keep pests in check organically by attracting and supporting the beneficial insects that prey on them. “Natural enemies” such as ladybugs, predatory wasps, lacewings, and assassin bugs are nature’s pest control. Provide them with the plants they love, such as yarrow, sunflower, goldenrod, and golden Alexander. The common pests of flowering plants are thrips, spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, and whitefly.
Like pests, diseases are quite harmful to flower plants. Most plant diseases are mainly caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Some diseases that you should be aware of include anthracnose, bacterial leaf spot, and white rust. You can prevent some fungal diseases by avoiding excessive use of water in your flower garden. On the other hand, you can prevent bacterial diseases and viral diseases by using clean weeding and pruning tools. If your flower plants get infected with a disease, you need to use appropriate chemicals to kill the disease-causing microorganisms. You should look for the best bactericide, fungicide, or virucide depending on the cause of the disease.
Homemade Pesticides Used in Flower Gardening
Homemade Insect Soap
Gardeners can make a homemade garden spray that’s just as effective for some pests like aphids, caterpillars, and mites. Combine 3 drops of mild dishwashing liquid in one quart of water. An added tablespoon of cooking oil helps the mixture cling to plant leaves. Spray plants to the point of drenching, but don’t use on blossoms or when temperatures are over 26°C to prevent scorching the plants.
Garlic has natural antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, and it is a potent pesticide. Then, the pungent smell that garlic is well-known for will kill many of the more annoying garden pests, though it may scare away some beneficial bugs as well. Peel and crush five garlic bulbs and mix with 16 ounces of water. Let the garlic infuse in the water overnight. Add a dash of dish soap to the mixture, and strain it through a fine strainer. Dilute this liquid in a gallon of water, and then place in a spray bottle. Spray this solution on your flower plants once or twice a week to control most insect pests.
Epsom Salt Pesticide
Epsom salts can be sprinkled around plants or dissolved in water to make a spray. To make a spray, dissolve one cup of salts in 5 gallons of water, then pour into a spray bottle and apply to pest-afflicted plants. The salt mixture is effective on slugs and beetles. Another option is to sprinkle the salts around the base of the flower plants every week or so. It will deter pests, and also add magnesium to the soil, which increases the absorption of nutrients by the flower plants.
An effective insecticidal spray can be made with two simple ingredients soap and oil. Oil spray works by coating enclosing and smothering soft-body insects like aphids and mites. Mix a cup of vegetable oil with a quarter cup of liquid soap and then shake it well. When treating flower plants, mix one tablespoon of this concentrated liquid with four cups of water. Best results require reapplication once a week.
The strong smell of eucalyptus oil deters insects and bugs in flower plants. All you need to do is to spray some oil on plants and see the results. Make sure you use it regularly.
A simple citrus spray is very effective at killing aphids and some other soft-bodied insects. Grate the rind from one lemon, and then add it to a pint of boiling water just removed from the heat. Allow the mixture to steep overnight, and then strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Pour the mixture into a spray bottom and apply to the tops and bottoms of the leaves on afflicted plants. This mixture should contact the insects to be effective.
Pruning Flowering Plants
The reasons to prune flowering plants are to control the size and shape the plants, to optimize the blooms, and to remove dead or diseased portions. Deadheading is the practice of flowers pruning after they have faded out of bloom. Deadheading and pruning are essential for repeat or continued bloom, depending on what you’ve planted. Many annuals, perennials need it to bring on the next flush of blooms. Plants stay healthier when properly pruned. Just make sure your pruners are clean and sharp.
Organic Flower Gardening Care
Keeping your flower beds clean helps to keep viruses, diseases, and insects at bay or to a minimum. For most flowering plants, this isn’t an issue but roses are especially susceptible. Cleanliness is key so just make sure you keep your eye out for aphids, beetles, rust, mildew, and black spot, etc. Keep up on the weeding and control insects with a spray of the hose or with organic remedies like neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Mulching is done to help the soil retain moisture, and is recommended in places with water scarcity. This garden practice has other benefits like controlling weeds and regulating soil temperature levels. Some recommended mulches include grass, wood chips, leaves, and polythene papers.