Summer is almost gone, and we have been busy planting all those last chance beds of zinnias, celosia, sunflowers and marigolds. Frost for our region is usually not until sometime in November, so we usually plant sunflowers until the first of October, and hope we can get them all in before it freezes. I grew mostly ‘Vincent’ sunflowers this year and was not disappointed. This variety has that second row of petals and my customers tell me they love them.
Now is also the time we are starting to get our beds ready for our ranunculus and anemones. We make one planting of ranunculus and anemones, which begins with their arrival around October 1. They are accompanied by clear instructions on the pretreatment and cooling which must be followed for best performance in our region.
Frank and Pamela Arnosky wrote an excellent article in the Winter 2013 issue of The Cut Flower Quarterly on anemone pretreatment and rooting. I recommend you read it; you can find it in the Members Only section of the ASCFG web site.
Weather plays such a huge part in our lives as flower growers. Too much rain can ruin your flowers because there are a lot of flowers that don’t like getting soaked day after day. Not enough rain can diminish yields and cause crop failure. If I had a choice I would go with not enough rain, because you can always irrigate. I’ve heard of all the rain some places had this year and am pretty sure I don’t want to be in their shoes.
This year we added several areas of automation to keep up with watering because we have had very little rain. I’ve found a battery-operated timer and solenoids that have made my life a lot easier. The brand is Node by Hunter and you can get single-station, two-station and four-station timers. Depending on which one fits your needs, you can choose three programs with multiple start times. I’ve also added those timers with another intention in mind, which is being able to leave the farm for a couple of days at a time and not have all my plants suffer from no water, because they certainly aren’t getting it from up above.
Now those nicely-irrigated rows create another problem: armadillos. Yes, those little rascals may be good for biological control of grubs but they can burrow through a row a night and uproot all your little plants. The only cure for them is a little lead.
This summer I also had a problem with insects burrowing into sunflower stems, causing the plant to wilt and die. Luckily I noticed it early on and sprayed with a light spray of Sevin and haven’t lost a plant since to those worms. Another pest that can give you fits is a little worm that balls up under gomphrena leaves and can quickly ruin a crop. I have been successful spraying a product called Conserve and it puts the end to those little worms in no time. One application is all it takes for a long time. Rabbits are also giving me trouble this year. They like to come in and eat my little sunflower seedlings and they love marigolds. I can’t believe anything would eat a marigold as bad as they stink. I’m pretty sure the reason I have all this animal and insect traffic is because I’m the only green thing around since our area of the county has experienced very little to no rain this summer.
In the last issue I told you that I would give you an update on what is going on with a couple growers in our Region. Southern Floral is a large floral wholesaler based in Texas. It contacted several southern growers to provide flowers for them for bouquets for a chain of local stores. Denise Taft of Freyburg Flower Farm in Schulenberg, Texas chose not to grow for them but instead sells her flowers to a local HEB, and is working to reach more stores as her supply of flowers increases. She also sells to local florists and is keeping herself very busy. She is going to grow a crop of marigolds for Southern but growing even just one crop, she has experienced how hard it is to promise a large number of stems, only to find out that a portion of the plants didn’t survive for one reason or another.
Denise was required to put bar codes on her bouquets, and went with a company called Bar Codes Talk. This company sells you barcodes and then you order preprinted labels from them at a very reasonable price. I also sell to the same company and after over a year of them supplying me with labels, we too are going to go with Bar Codes Talk. You can buy as many codes as you need and put them on your products to help track sales of each type of item you sell your retailer. I know this will be very helpful to determine the small amount (I hope) of shrink the store experiences with our product.
Summer was also tough on Cynthia Alexander of Quarry Flower Farm in Celina Texas, but she was able to keep selling to her restaurants, and is starting back up with her florists after a couple of months’ absence. Cynthia is selling poke salat (Phytolacca) to her customers. It grows wild here in Texas along edges of the woods and on fence lines, reseeds profusely, and has a beautiful flower. She has been able to get $8.00 a bunch.
Some of her bestsellers this past summer have been all types of amaranthus including ‘Opopeo’ and ‘Hopi Red’. Cynthia had a row of amaranth blow over but was still salvageable because all the side shoots shot up giving her lots of branches to cut. Cynthia loves dragging anything out of the woods that is an interesting cut to sell to her florists. This year she is growing a crop of colored cotton in shades of green, brown, and one that has a red stem with a beautiful burgundy-colored bloom. She is growing them just for seed this year so she will have a good supply of plants to sell next year. Another favorite of hers this year is Jamaican hibiscus, which has a dark red seed pod and leaves that are green with a red vein. Cynthia is excited for Christmas because she is going to be making lots of wreaths with her berry-loaded juniper branches.
There is still time to register for the fourth ASCFG meeting of 2013 in Rhode Island. This is your last chance of the year to gather with growers and reminisce about the past year and make plans for the new year to come. The program is packed with awesome growers with a lot to share. Hope to see you there.