As writer/philosopher Ralph Emerson Waldo noted poetically, "Earth laughs in flowers," so it's no wonder we love them so. Planting a flower garden is a sure-fire way to lift your spirits, improve your home's appearance and cheer up those who pass by. Whether you are dreaming of an elaborate garden or just want to plant a few flowers, it pays to plan before you plant.
Planning your garden
First, consider your space. How much sunshine does the area get every day? If if gets six or more hours daily, you can choose flowers that require full sun; otherwise, you will need to get plants that thrive in partial sun or shade. Think about how much time you want to spend gardening. Some flowers virtually take care of themselves once they get established, such as the bleeding heart. Others, like the rose, are more high-maintenance. Some flowers are especially attractive to butterflies and birds, if you want to add even more life to the garden.
You'll want to think about size and color, too, before you plant. Choose a mixture of sizes and plan to plant the tallest flowers in the back. Consider bloom time, as well, so if you're planting a sizable garden or adding on to an existing one, you can have a steady stream of fresh flowers throughout the growing season. Last but not least, think about color. Do you want to use a quiet, elegant monochromatic color scheme by planting flowers in different hues of the same color, or a more exciting complementary color scheme, using colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as orange and blue? Spend a little time thinking about how the colors will look together.
As you consider what you want, spend some time looking at gardening books or strolling through the greenhouse before you actually buy anything. Consider, too, if you want perennials that will come up every year or annuals, which need to be planted each year.
Purchasing your plants or seeds
If you have a fairly long growing season or a good place to start plants indoors, you can plant many of your plants from seed. For those in a colder climate, purchasing young plants from the greenhouse might be a better choice. Look for healthy-looking plants with firm green stems, leaves without spots or other damage, and don't worry too much about the flower part. (Some gardening experts recommend snapping the flower buds off after you plant the flowers, so the plant's energy will go toward establishing roots.) When you purchase your plants, also pick up some peat or compost, fertilizer, and organic mulch.
It's better to start small and expand later than to get in over your head and get discouraged. Also, keep in mind how much money you want to spend, because it's easy to get carried away when you're surrounded by all that beauty.
Preparing your soil
When the soil is not too wet, you can plant your garden. Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze; if it forms a ball, it's too wet, but if the soil crumbles, you're good to go. Prepare the soil by using a spade to dig about a foot deep and turn the dirt. Remove all grass and weeds: it's a tedious chore but will make for a better flower garden in the long run. You can rake through the dirt to remove this matter, but you will also need to use your hands, so you might want to invest in some garden gloves. Add the peat or compost and work it into the soil; apply fertilizer. If you use a fertilizer that slowly releases nitrogen, you might not need to fertilize again that growing season.
Planting your flowers
Plant your flowers according to the direction on the package. It is very tempting to plant them closer together than recommended, but generally, it's best not to overcrowd them. Some flowers, such as petunias, will thrive when planted close together as long as you fertilize them regularly, but most will not perform well if overcrowded. Water thoroughly. Place organic mulch around your flowers so you won't have to weed or water as frequently as you would otherwise.
Care and Maintenance
Watering is the most vital factor in keeping your plants healthy. Water them in the morning, preferably, or in the evening; avoid watering them during the heat of the day. Water deep and long instead of shallow and frequent in order to help them develop a healthy root system. Try not to get the flowers and leaves wet because that can lead to disease. If you did not use a fertilizer that's meant to last all season, you will need to apply fertilizer occasionally. Deadhead, or remove the spent flower blossoms; this will help your flowers continue to bloom throughout the growing season.