I have learned a lot of things the hard way, but I have also learned some of the most important things from the awesome farmers in the ASCFG. I would like to share some words of wisdom, suggestions for organizing your calendar, local workshops presented during this quarter, and maybe a little laugh, too. This article is about some of the things that I have gleaned from this group and even a few I learned on my own.
We had the distinct pleasure of hearing some awesome speakers during the Growers School’ in Baton Rouge last March. I was struck by the many snippets of wisdom given by floral designer extraordinaire James DelPrince. Hence the first part of this article is dedicated to those words of wisdom.
When is the Right time?
Anyone who has farmed for more than a year or two knows they must plan ahead at least 6 to 12 months to time things right. Since most flower farmers grow multiple varieties, all requiring different scheduling, there is a mind-boggling number of tasks to remember. If you have ever forgotten to order in a timely manner, you know your variety selection becomes very limited and sometimes nonexistent. Here are a few tips to help get your timing right:
1. One of the best tools for planning ahead are wall-sized calendars large enough to write reminders for: when to order supplies; when flowers were harvested, seeded, transplanted, quantity harvested; what you need more of next year or what did not sell, etc.
2. A mobile phone reminder app. A few to look at for iPhone: Due, Clear, Finish, Any do, Evernote, Alarmed. A few to look at for Androids: Any do, Evernote, Todoist, Google Now.
3. One good way to remember to order plugs, bulbs, and seeds for the next season is to do so just as soon as that crop is finished. This will insure that this task is completed. You will remember what you want more of or less of while it is on your mind. I learned this little tip from Rita Anders (or Saint Rita Anders as James DelPrince so accurately named her).
4. If you are new to flower farming, below are a few suggested timelines for ordering some flowers (Zones 6-10). I learned these from Dave Dowling of Ednie Bulb, Ko Klaver of Zabo Plant, and from Fred C. Gloeckner.
January – mums
March – hyacinth, daffodil, tulip
April – anemone, ranunculus, Dutch iris
June – seed for fall planting
July – lily; plugs for winter and spring planting
August – peony
September – gladiolus
October – seed for spring planting
5. For those finally jumping onto the hardy annuals bandwagon, your transplanting time should begin in September (for Zone 7), which means you should start seeds for this project in August. Please refer to Lisa Ziegler’s book Cool Flowers for more details on this cool planting strategy. In the South, it gets so hot so fast in the spring that many cool-season flowers just will not thrive as well as those planted in the fall. Planning and planting in the fall ensures more success for things like larkspur, bachelor buttons, rudbeckias, campanula, and more. You can also check out her awesome virtual book study online http://www.thegardenersworkshop.com/workshops/cool-flowers-virtual-book-study/
What’s been happening in this region?
There seems to be a surge in activity related to flowers in all ASCFG Regions, and the Southeast is no exception. Some of the recent activity included seminars in West Memphis, Arkansas, and Biloxi, Mississippi.
West Memphis, Arkansas: “What to Do, Starting Today, to Have Cut Flowers All Year.” sponsored by Small Farms for Big Change. This organization is made of small farmers working and connecting with each other to educate, advise, and support one another through workshops, lectures, and peer discussion. Featured speakers were ASCFG President Dave Dowling of Ednie Flower Bulb, and Mark Cain of Dripping Springs Farm in Huntsville, Arkansas. The event was hosted by Arkansas State University Midsouth, and was chock full of information from these two flower experts. Thanks to Brandon Pugh of Delta Sol Farm for helping to organize this local floral event.
Biloxi, Mississippi: Mississippi State University Coastal Wedding Floral Workshop with James DelPrince, Ph.D. James led a two-day workshop, filled to capacity. Attendees included flower farmers as well as floral designers. Topics included how to book a wedding, care and handling of wedding florals, and all of the nuts and bolts of wedding design along with hands-on designing. Each participant left with a mini portfolio of arrangements which she created. Dr. DelPrince will be presenting similar workshop in 2017.
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina: The Slow Flowers Community gathered with Debra Prinzing, founder and creative director of Slowflowers.com. This Slow Flowers Meet-Up was a dinner potluck, and specifically welcomed farmers and designers who are part of the growing local flower movement. This event was hosted by Jonathan Leiss at Spring Forth Farm.
If you missed any of these events, try to make it a priority in the coming year to attend one of these types of events. You will learn so much, network, and develop lasting friendships.
Just for Fun
I will leave you today with a few funny stories. You know we are all interested in improving our soil and I am no exception. I used to be so embarrassed when my dad would pull up in front of a neighbor’s house in our VW bus, and help himself to their bags of leaves set out by the street. Now the apple doesn’t fall far from that old tree! They say we repeat our parents’ behavior, and in this case it is true. I love free organic matter!
When it comes to building up great soil, we also attempt to sow cover crops. I will never forget the pungent odor of a buckwheat field in full bloom at our local university extension farm—talk about latrine! But what a great cover crop it is! I never dreamed that I would be on the hunt for a 50-pound bag of that pungent stuff, but here we go again. At our area feed stores, buckwheat does not seem to be a common item. However, one particular feed store said they could order some in for me—yay! After a few weeks of waiting I called Ernest at the feed store, and sho’ ‘nuff, they had gotten it in and at a great price of $17.99. Well, upon arrival at the store I found waiting for me—Buck Treat Seed. As Strother Martin said “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”!