How I grow cut flowers from seed

How I grow cut flowers from seed

Each year I grow thousands and thousands of flowers from seed in my basement “greenhouse”.

I have a simple setup with 3 metal racks, LED shop lights, and my secret to space savings?

Soil blocking.

I’m able to grow 1200 flowers on ONE shelf with TWO shop lights which fill more than two rows of our flower field.

So how do I do it?

First, I start with seeds that are small because I’m starting with ¾” blocks of soil.

For the very VERY small seeds like snapdragons, cinnamon basil, strawflowers, phlox, and amaranth I have to use a small dish of water to wet a toothpick to then place each seed on top of the soil block.

For larger seeds like zinnias or dahlias, I simply stick the seed into the soil and make sure the pointy arrow side is sticking down into the block.

I’m able to fit 300 seeds into my large 1020 tray. Usually, I only grow 20-60 of each color or type of flower. *laughs* I say “only” as if even 20 flowers of one color isn’t a lot of flowers! I am simply amazed at how many flowers I now grow every year.

I use masking tape and a garden marker (like a sharpie except it doesn’t fade in the sunshine) to label each variety, the day I planted the seed, and the # of seeds I’m growing so I have an idea of how many blocks to look for. My small soil blocker makes 20 blocks.

Once the seeds are planted I let them grow in our grow space, sometimes on a heat mat, sometimes with a clear dome to keep heat and moisture in, and sometimes they just need light. We keep our lights about 3” off the top of the biggest plant so they don’t get leggy. We water them, fertilize them, and give them some gentle breezes with fans to stimulate their strength. Plants grown indoors or in greenhouses don’t always stand up to windy days or even gentle breezes. It’s best to grow plants with a little wind. I think of it like a person widening their stance or bending their knees with a heavy load, that’s what the roots and stems start to do to build wind resistance.

Some of our flowers start in the grow space in March and some we start in May because they only need 2-3 weeks to be big enough for the garden.

We usually start snapdragons in March, while zinnias only need 2-3 weeks to sprout and grow a few inches before setting them outside. Zinnia seeds can technically be planted right into the garden, but growing them a few inches gives them a head start over weeds and keeps the birds from snacking on my future flowers.

The first stop on the way to the garden is actually our garage. There the plants get more fluctuation in temperatures, we open the garage door to give a protected way for the plants to experience “outside” and over a few days we “harden off” our seedlings.

Plants, like people, need to acclimate from balmy indoor temperatures to chilly spring temperatures. Since plants aren’t putting on a coat or sunglasses so we have to introduce them to the temperature and sunlight slowly to give them time to adjust. This step from seed to the garden is probably the most important step to get right.

Our plants get about a week of hardening off to get acclimated to the wind, sun, and temperatures. Sometimes it’s a few days and usually, it’s a lot longer because even in June our nighttime temperatures have been in the 40s, which is too chilly for the heat-loving plants.

Once acclimated they head to the garden for some intensive planting.

As a flower farmer, I want to get as many flowers into a space as possible (without causing disease from lack of airflow). Most of our flowers are grown with 6” spacing like these amaranth.

I use netting to hold up some of our flowers to keep them from being knocked over in a windstorm. The grids of our netting are especially helpful for planting because each square is 6” by 6”, giving me the opportunity to just lay it out and plant one flower per square.

Easy peasy – times a few thousand. As you can expect it’s a lot of work, but the smaller size means I can simply scratch the garden dirt with my finger and plant each flower quickly. No shovels are involved which makes the work faster and less physically difficult for me.

I think this is why flower farmers get grumpy when someone makes comments about using “wildflowers” for their bouquets. Every flower we grow was put here on purpose even our perennials.

The end result is a very lush and very productive field of flowers that are ready to bring joy to kitchen tables around metro Detroit.

A few photos of our fields and flowers.

Before closing I wanted to note that in the spring we grow a few thousand seedlings for home gardens, delivering these plants the week before Memorial Day Weekend.

While I have a HUGE selection of seeds that I’m happy to share, I struggle with knowing what each gardener would prefer in their space so this year I’m offering you an opportunity for you to come to learn our soil-blocking techniques and grow your own unique mix of flowers.

Check out our Zinnia Workshop and Flower “Flats” for more details.

Thank you for letting me share about our farm, our flowers, and some of the beauty we get to create each year.

~ Laura ~

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