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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.


Tips on No-Till Farming and Cover Crops

In the below Q&A, author and permaculture designer Shawn Jadrnicek answers questions about no-till farming and the use of cover crops from two readers (one from North Carolina, and the other from Nova Scotia). In his groundbreaking book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, Jadrnicek provides in-depth information on water flow management along with projects that use the free forces of nature—gravity, […] Read More

Reimagining Restoration as a Radical Act

Finding ways to manage “invasive” species as we’ve come to know them has sparked a vigorous debate within conservation and restoration communities, as well as farmers, gardeners, and permaculturalists.In her thought-provoking book Beyond the War on Invasive Species, author Tao Orion urges us to rethink and reimagine restoration as a way to break out of […] Read More

What Can Wisteria Do For Your Forest Garden?

Jerome Osentowski, founder of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI) in Basalt, Colorado, is one of North America’s most accomplished permaculture designers and author of the new groundbreaking book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse. Part case-study of CRMPI’s innovative greenhouses and part how-to primer, Osentowski’s book shows that bringing the forest garden indoors is possible, even on […] Read More

Tips on Perennial Crops with Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Perennial Vegetables, Paradise Lot, and most recently The Carbon Farming Solution—a groundbreaking new book that treats agriculture as an important part of the climate change solution, rather than a global contributor to the problem. As part of our “Ask the Expert” series going on throughout the month of May to celebrate […] Read More

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
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