Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

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.


The Miracle of Farming: Toward a Bio-Abundant Future

Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer’s Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin is a celebrated model of innovative, ecological agriculture in Europe, connected to national and international organizations addressing food security, heralded by celebrity chefs as well as the Slow Food movement, and featured in the inspiring César and COLCOA award-winning documentary film, Demain (Tomorrow).In this excerpt from their […] Read More

Sow Seeds: Stop Walking Around Doing Nothing

“In the last one hundred years, 94 percent of seed varieties available at the turn of the century in America and considered a part of the human commons have been lost.”That’s one of the key takeaways in award-winning author and activist Janisse Ray’s book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food. In her book, Ray […] Read More

True or false? Figs contain dead wasps

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers tells their amazing story.Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More

Eight Seed-Saving Myths

You don’t have to move to Svalbard, Norway in order to have access to a seed bank.Author and plant breeder Carol Deppe believes that every gardener should have her own seed bank. Even if you aren’t a seed saver, you should have your own seed bank. Even if you never experience any disaster beyond the […] Read More
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