After talking in Oberlin with growers from around the country, one thing that seemed to run through all the conversations was that our winters were full—of work and strange weather.  Here in the PNW we had a very mild winter, in our area that meant no snow, at all! Even though we seldom have significant snow events, this winter we also didn’t have any significant cold snaps, which coupled with the lack of any snow made winter feel particularly blah, that’s how my kids described it.

So we took the opportunity to do as many of the winter tasks that we could before the real hustle of spring hits. What does winter work look like for you on your farm? What are the tasks that you would like to get done, but don’t? What are the true priorities that MUST happen? What do you say when someone says “Oh, you’re a farmer? So do you just sit around during the winter, or go on vacation?”?

After the Oberlin conference I raced home to speak at the OSU Small Farms Conference in Corvallis, and then host the Pacific Northwest Cut Flower Growers Meetup the next day. Whew! A whirlwind of flower farming goodness. Great speakers and amazing connections made. This weekend always takes lots of time and behind the scenes hustle, but is one hundred percent worth it in the end.

Once the conferences were over it was back to winter project land for us. Our big projects over the winter are mostly of the cleanup and prep type. Winter pruning all of our roses takes precedence. We start in the fall by pruning everything back slightly, mostly to protect from any weather or wind damage we may see. As the weather starts to warm in the spring we do our final prune on them. The goal is to be done with this round by Valentine’s Day, but this year we started a bit earlier as we were starting to see buds popping! The spring prune is intended to be a cleanup, pruning out dead wood, and cleaning up the form to allow for good stem growth and air circulation. Once they’re all cleaned up and pruned, they get a dash of fertilizer and a top coating of mulch, and then they’re ready to roll!

The eucalyptus is also a big project on our farm. We get a lot of use out of our eucalyptus stands and cut on them this year all the way to Valentine’s Day (like I said, no big cold events). Once we feel like we’ve gotten everything off to market that we can, we aggressively cut the plants back to stimulate new growth, fertilize, and mulch.

Other big projects this winter were planting lots of new perennials and woodies, cover cropping a new growing area (four new acres!) and working on retrofitting our shop building into a bigger, better prep and work area for our grocery and design work. No lie, we’ve been putting off planting woodies for the last ten years, waiting for the perfect area to open up, choosing other investments, just being lazy. Bad decision. If you’re on the fence, or haven’t planted woodies yet, just do it!  We are kicking ourselves for not doing it sooner, but so glad that we finally have.

As always, planning takes a large chunk of time and we spend lots of hours mulling over last year’s sales, analyzing what sold well, what didn’t sell, what gets more field space, what gets cut from the plan. All that to say, it’s one of my favorite tasks of the entire year—there’s so much hope and potential in every well-laid plan. So, here’s to a happy, prosperous, and fun-filled season in 2020!


Erin McMullen

Rain Drop Farm

Erin McMullen Rain Drop Farm [email protected]