Gardening 101: How to Start a Flower Garden

Flower gardening is a fun hobby that will keep your mind active and your outdoor space looking like a million bucks.

Whether you feature your flower garden in a windowsill box, around the perimeter of your home or in pots and planters, flowers can liven up any space, adding pops of color to a never-ending sea of green grass and treetops. For instance, flowers can completely overhaul your apartment patio or balcony. What’s more, flower gardening isn’t as hard as it looks, either.

With the right tools, materials and types of plants for your climate, you’ll be on your way to a sea of vibrant blossoms in no time. Grab your gloves and shovel because it is time to dig into your next gardening adventure.

What is a flower garden?

A flower garden, also known as a floral garden, is an outdoor space where flowering plants like carnations, daffodils and daisies grow together. When it comes to flowers, there are two types of which you should be aware of.

The first is annual plants, which only bloom for one season and do not regrow the following season. The second is perennial plants, which come back year after year. Perennial plants tend to only bud of a few weeks at a time, while annual plants will show their bright blossoms all season long.

Most gardens contain a mix of annual and perennial flowering plants. There are hundreds of thousands of flowers throughout the world, but only 151 types are popular in the United States. These varieties include azaleas, chrysanthemums and geraniums.

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Because of their vast variety, flower gardens can be grown almost anywhere. Annual plants like cleome flowers should be planted in the late fall, right before the start of a cold winter. The coolness works to germinate the plant.

Then, there are petunias, another annual plant. These flowers are great for warm climates like Texas and Florida because they can withstand high heat. In general, spring is an optimal time to plant a flower garden because the ground is waking up after a long winter, the sun begins to stay out for longer periods of time and the season lends itself to new beginnings.

For many gardeners, summer is a time to maintain the garden, including weeding the flower bed and watering the plants to watch them grow. The fall season is an ideal time to plant shrubs, trees and certain perennials.

Environment Needed for a Flower Garden

The type of environment that is needed to start a flower garden will vary between flowering plants. The most important factor when choosing a space for your flower garden is the sun. You may want to spend a few days — or even a week — studying where the sun hits in your yard and for how long.

Most flowers need six to eight hours of sunlight each day. The more sun your flowers get, the more blooms you will likely yield. Flowers need a fair amount of water, so dry climates are not the best choice when trying to grow big blooms.

Flower plants grow best in traditional garden soil. Clay soil will trap the water and cause the clay to become dense and heavy. When the clay tightens, water cannot move through it, thus causing slow drainage. For this reason, your garden can go up to two weeks without being watered if it’s been planted in clay soil. Too much water can cause root rot.

Sand soil is not an ideal soil for growing flowers. The opposite problem occurs with sand soil: water runs right through it, which means your flowers are likely not absorbing enough water and might be thirsty. Adding organic matter to clay and sand soils can help with drainage problems.

Tools and Materials Needed to Start a Flower Garden

If this is your first flower garden, you may be wondering what type of tools and materials you need to get started. You may already have a few of these tools in your backyard shed, so take inventory before purchasing any new ones.

You will need a measuring stick, rope and scissors to outline the space for your garden bed. Measure the space before you dig and use a thin rope to outline the area so that you can get a better visual of where to start digging. This space will be your garden bed.

In order to plant your flower garden, you will need high-quality garden soil and a shovel. Depending on the size of your space, you may need to rent a tiller machine from your local home and garden center to clear the land. Turn the soil and add in some fertilizer. Flower plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from fertilizer to grow.

Use a rake or garden hoe to smooth out the top of the soil. A small trowel works best for planting the flowers in the ground. You will need a garden hose, watering can or sprinkler system to adequately water your plants on a routine basis.

Sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, pansies and impatiens are among the easiest plants for novice gardeners to grow. They are easy to maintain and hard to kill. So, even if you haven’t perfected your green thumb quite yet, start with those blooms for an easy go at it. Flowering plants need to be trimmed back. Keep a sharp pair of scissors handy to prune your flower plants.

Tip: Wear gardening gloves while working with soil and using garden tools to avoid blisters, dirt under your nails and getting nicked by thorns. A foam knee pad can also add extra cushion to your lower body when you are kneeling down to weed and trim your plants.

Pros and Cons of Starting a Flower Garden

Is a flower garden the right choice for your outdoor space? Flower gardens are colorful and bright additions to any green space, but there is more to them than meets the eye. If you are a first-time flower gardener, there are a handful of pros and cons to think about before you get your hands dirty.

PROS

  • You can pick fresh flowers from your backyard.
  • Flower gardens are a great way to dress up a dreary outdoor space.
  • Starter flower plants are affordable, and some seed packets start at $1 each.
  • Planting flowers is good for the environment because it helps to lower pollutants in the air and decrease soil erosion.
  • Maintaining a flower garden is an easy and fun hobby the whole family can get in on.
  • Flower gardens attract bees to help pollinate flowers and draw in butterflies, which are enjoyable to marvel at.
  • This style of gardening is easy enough for beginners to master and complex enough not to bore an experienced gardener.

CONS

  • Some flowers (like roses, for example) have thorns on their stems, which can lead to cuts on your hands and arms.
  • Watch out for invasive plants. Flowers like dame’s rocket or purple loosestrife can easily re-populate and take over your backyard space.
  • Some flowers are poisonous (such as lily of the valley) and may be harmful to people and pets.
  • If you have allergies, a flower garden may irritate your sinuses and trigger an allergy attack.
  • If you opt for a sprinkler system to water your garden, it can be expensive to install.

How to Start and Maintain Your Flower Garden

The best time to plant your garden is on an overcast day with a rain shower or two on the horizon. One of the most important ways to set your garden up for a season of success is to make sure the soil is in good condition.

Add organic matter to clay and sand soils to help with water absorption, and add fertilizer to garden soil to provide your plants with the nutrients they need. Typically, two cups of fertilizer are enough for every 100 square feet of garden.

When making the flower bed, give two feet between the edge of the bed and your plants. This will give the plants enough room to grow. The soil should be rich. Add six to 10 inches of compost to the soil to help it drain. Take the plants out of their pots and place them in a pre-dug hole in the garden bed.

Cover the roots with dirt and organic matter. To help keep the soil at just the right temperature, add a layer of mulch to your garden. This helps to evenly distribute heat from the sun.

Flower gardens need to be watered on a regular basis, but you will have to use your expert opinion to determine how frequently your flowers must be watered. During hot summers and periods of little to no rain, you should water your flowers more often.

If your area has received a lot of rain recently, you do not need to get out there and water your flower garden as often. Too much water or too little water can kill off your flowers. Flower plants need water to retain nutrients from the soil, but too much H2O can cut off oxygen to the plants and kill them.

Flower gardens typically need an inch of rainwater if they are grown in regular garden soil. The water usually sits about six inches deep, which is right at the root line, for maximum absorption. You can use a watering can, garden hose or sprinkler system to water your garden. Just remember to adjust your sprinkler system depending on the amount of rain your area receives.

The amount of water your flower garden needs will depend on the types of plants contained in it. When you purchase flower seed packs or a starter flower plant from your local nursery, carefully review the care tag to make sure you know when and how frequently to water. Flowers should be pruned when they start to overgrow.

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