I recently attended the ASCFG spring Board of Directors’ meeting, and really enjoyed getting to know several growers representing all the regions of the country. It seems everyone has such different growing conditions but the love of flowers in common, and the desire to make this organization an awesome group to belong to. We were very busy for two days planning and I am very excited about this year’s National conference in Tacoma, Washington in November. Book your calendars now because you don’t want to  miss it.

Hopefully you all have visited the newly revised web page and see how appealing and informative it is. As with any organization or business, it’s a good idea to change things up and spice up your offerings. We tend to get settled in a rut and we do things because it’s good enough and things get stale.

Last summer the drought was very disheartening and once it started raining, it was like a switch went on. I hired two new employees who each in their own ways have livened up our business. One employee is very excited about marketing and sees the artsy side of making things look good, and she is organized. We have added another market because of her enthusiasm. The other is a recently-married young farmer who is developing a beef and organic vegetable operation with her husband. She wants me to teach her and she keeps me going with all her enthusiastic energy and constant “Why don’t we do this?” My answer is “There’s not enough time in the day to add all that”.

One of my better sayings is “Work smart, not hard”. To work smart you must be organized. Nobody wants to spend thirty minutes looking for the trowels you need, only to find them much later exactly where you used them last time. Just think: if you always put them back, you would have all the plants already planted and would be moving on to the next chore. Having a routine for your major harvest days and everyone knowing what to do next makes it go like clockwork until…those three little ladies drive up to order flowers for an upcoming function. And did I mention unannounced. Boy does that throw a kink in the day but you do what you can and don’t stress.

Every week I make a list of things to accomplish. Staying on top of things helps you stay organized and if you do things when you are supposed to, it takes a lot less time. If you don’t weed that row this week, next week it’s going to take twice as long because with this year’s mild winter and all the rain—yes, you read that right, rain—those weeds are twice as big. If you see aphids, spray now, not later, because those little bugs multiply rapidly.

Now I figure if I write this and read it often enough, I might follow my own advice. I try to, but sometimes it just gets too crazy.

I found a great product called Organocide. It’s OMRI-approved for organic growers and  works great on red spider mite. Safer Soap and neem oil work well on aphids. I like to harvest my flowers for the day and then spray if I have to. I do the same when I put out fish emulsion because I want to make sure I don’t burn the petals. I just wish they would invent an odorless fish emulsion.

It’s been an awesome late winter which has been more like spring in our region of Texas. It’s great to have flowers like ranunculus, anemone, dahlia, stock, and calendulas in season-extending greenhouses this time of year, but if you are making bouquets for winter markets, what do you use for greenery? Horizon ‘Blue Ageratum’ grows well in the winter greenhouse, and makes beautiful greenery. It will freeze, though, so try to keep it protected. We have been able to harvest 12-20” stems on a 6” initial spacing and using horizontal netting.

Another favorite is African blue basil. It’s the only basil I’ve been able to grow in the winter greenhouse because it too will freeze. This basil can be grown only from cuttings. It also can be used as a substitute for traditional basil in pesto and makes a great basil jelly. Every year we plant dill and we have so many volunteers come up around the place. With this year’s mild winter, even the dill that is growing outside is doing great. Another filler we have been using with our winter bouquets is bamboo, which has a pretty leaf, and great vase life.

I planted Cerinthe out in the garden in January and will be harvesting from it by the first of March. Fall-seeded bells of Ireland are also growing nicely and I can’t wait to harvest these little beauties.

We will be having our Regional Meeting at Nancy Bartlett’s farm, tentatively on August 6th in Folsom, Louisiana. Nancy and I are working on a program and we would appreciate input on what you would like covered at the meeting. Email me at [email protected] to let me know what you would like to be included on the program and we will do the best to accommodate. As soon as we get a program, we’ll send it via email and post office, so you can plan on attending.

Rita Anders

Cuts of Color

Rita Anders Cuts of Color Contact at [email protected]