Here’s my tip for the year: plant wheat!  Last September we decided to try some cover crops, a new experience for us. George planted winter wheat on my large annual field and some oats on a smaller garden area. Our goal was simply to improve the soil, but the benefits extended far beyond that.

The wheat came up thick and healthy and survived well through an unusually cold (for us) winter. The oats didn’t fare quite so well. The wheat stayed so thick through the spring that it did a great job suppressing the weeds. George mowed it as it got long and the thatch and new growth continued to keep the weeds at bay. When I was ready to plant, he tilled each bed as I needed it, leaving the wheat growing in the aisles and suppressing the weeds. Evidence that the wheat did a great job was clear—we had significantly fewer weeds in the annual bed aisles than in the perennial bed aisles where no wheat was planted.

Then I discovered a new use for the thatch: mulch for the beds. I have been buying hay from a neighbor to use as mulch and that has worked well, but the wheat was much better. Its finer texture made it easier to work with and it was free! All through the spring, the wheat kept growing, George kept mowing it, and I continued to use the thatch for mulch. I could just rake it from the aisles and mulch the adjacent bed—couldn’t be much easier.

In the first picture, my helper Brenda is raking up the thatch. The next picture shows the field of wheat, a mulched bed and a plowed bed ready for planting. Last is a close-up of lisianthus plugs all tucked in with wheat mulch. Now that we are into summer, our wheat has pretty much died out, but it was great while it lasted. I even used some of the wheat stems in bouquets. And I don’t know if I can credit the wheat mulch, but many  of my flowers—especially lisianthus and campanula—have been taller, stronger and more beautiful this year than ever before.

As so often happens, this bit of wisdom came a little late. We have made the tough decision to pull up stakes and move back to Virginia to be closer to family, so this will be my last season as a commercial flower grower.  However, you aren’t rid of me yet.  I will continue to serve as Regional Director until my term ends this December, and I plan to remain a member of ASCFG forever. I will see you at the National Conference in November and at the Regional Meeting on August 1.

Our Regional Meeting at Rita Ander’s farm in Weimar, Texas will be well worth your time and it’s on a Monday, so you won’t be sacrificing a farmers’ market day. The program is on page 37 of this issue. In addition to the program, you will have an opportunity at this meeting to get lots of grower supplies from Josie’s Fresh Flowers free or at good prices. A few weeks before the meeting, I will email a list of available items to our regional members and to anyone else who is interested. I plan to show up at Rita’s in my GMC Yukon packed with goodies and hope to bring it home empty.  

Josie Crowson

Josie's Fresh Flowers

Contact at [email protected]