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Tip: Cutting Flowers Early to Prevent Insect Damage

The following is a tip from Lynn Byczynski from her book The Flower Farmer, Revised and Expanded: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. One of the tricks to growing flowers organically is to cut them before insects have a chance to destroy their beauty. I learned this the hard way during the first summer I grew sunflowers commercially. The guidelines I had received from various sources said that sunflowers should be cut when about one-fourth of the disc flowers—the tiny flowers in the brown center—were open. But by the time this happened, cucumber beetles had chewed holes in all the petals. So I started to cut sooner. I harvested the sunflowers when the petals had just opened, and they held fine. But a few beetles were still getting their bites in, so I started cutting earlier and earlier, until I was cutting the flowers before the petals had even unfurled. Those flowers eventually opened in buckets, were just as vibrant as those that had bloomed outside, and were cosmetically perfect. This trick works well with nearly all the composite flowers, which have large, flat outer petals subject to insect damage. Rudbeckia, cosmos, gaillardia, and tithonia all can be cut early and bloomed indoors. Zinnias, although they are in the same family, aren’t as attractive to insect pests and don’t suffer the same kind of chewing damage, so it’s best to cut them once their blooms fully open. I also have found that some sunflower cultivars are less receptive than others to cutting early, so I recommend that you experiment with a dozen or so of each type that you grow in order to find out just how early you can cut. On the other hand, most of the spike-type flowers (delphinium, larkspur, etc.) can be cut when just one or two flowers on the stem are open. The alphabetical listing of recommended cut flowers in appendix 1 gives specific instructions about the best time to harvest each type of flower, and there you will find many others that can be cut in the bud. It’s better to cut unopened flowers in the evening, when their stems are full of starches and sugars that will help them continue to open. You also should use floral preservative, which contains about 1 percent sugar. Some preservatives can be used at double strength to prompt buds to open; check the label. You can also make a bud-opening solution that contains 2 percent sugar by adding 5 ounces of sugar to 2 gallons of water. Leave the flowers in this solution in a cool place out of the sun (but not in a cooler) until the flowers open.


How to Design Swales for Optimum Water Flow

May has arrived! The birds are chirping, flowers are budding, and it’s time to officially celebrate Permaculture Month.Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you in our “Ask the Experts” series. If you are looking to become a better permaculturalist, there’s still time to participate. Submit your questions here.Today’s topic is […] Read More

Radical Ruminations of a Home Gardener

The editors here at Chelsea Green are constantly seeking out what’s new and important in the world of sustainable living. As part of an occasional blog series, our editors are sharing what they’ve been reading, researching, or just plain pondering. Below Senior Editor Fern Marshall Bradley daydreams about the coming growing season and reflects on some radical gardening ideas inspired by Maine farmer […] Read More

Not Level? No Problem. How to Build a Greenhouse on a Slope

Have you ever considered building a greenhouse on sloped terrain? It may not seem like the “perfect spot,” but as permaculture designer and farmer Shawn Jadrnicek points out, a sloped site for a greenhouse offers a bonus that a level site does not—the ability to use gravity to harvest rainwater.In his groundbreaking new book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, Jadrnicek offers in-depth information […] Read More

Ask the Experts: Submit Your Permaculture Questions Now

Attention all growers, food-lovers, and green-living enthusiasts, we are once again celebrating Permaculture Month by putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you.Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning, names in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and all […] Read More

Hands-On Learning: School of The New American Farmstead

This summer, twelve of our authors (plus Chelsea Green’s own President and Publisher) will be leading hands-on intensive courses at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont.These workshops, classes, and certifications will inspire you, equip you with marketable skills, and provide you with new perspectives on integrated, community-centered farming and food production.Engage your SensesThe hands-on courses will […] Read More
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