Winter at The Petaled Garden
Ever wonder what happens on a flower farm during the winter? While we operate at a bit of a slower pace, there is still much to be done. From planning and planting to dreaming and designing. “A farmer’s work is never done!”
In the late fall, as the flowers are sending out their last blooms and the fields are cleared and prepped for the spring, we turn our attention to spring. It’s bulb planting time and the bulbs we ordered last April are arriving. Tulips in all shapes and sizes, fragrant specialty daffodils, alliums and so much more.
We grow our tulips as annuals and plant them close together (like eggs in a carton) in 4’ wide trenches. Using this method, we can plant a significant number of tulips in a relatively small space. This year we planted over 3,500 tulips! Space saving techniques like these are an important aspect of small-farm flower farming as we need to maximize our space as much as possible.
Dreaming and Designing
The dreaming and designing come in as I decide which flowers to grow for the coming season. It starts with flipping through seed catalogs and magazines, scrolling through my camera roll, and reviewing my notes. Keeping in mind flowers that performed well and those that, while beautiful, didn’t do so well. I use all of this information to create a rough idea of what I want my floral designs and CSA offerings to look like for the year.
The first decision is deciding which flower(s) will be the focal flower(s) for each season. Once this is done, I decide on the color schemes and which complementary flowers, textures, and fillers I want to include. I always add a few “new to me” varieties or something that I think will add an unusual or unique aspect to my offerings.
The hardest part of this process is practicing self-control. I would love to grow everything, but alas, I only have so much space. Dreaming and designing is a bit of a messy and colorful process!
With my flower decisions made, I turn my attention to planning the fields. This is a little bit like putting a puzzle together. I need to ensure I am rotating my crops and not growing the same flowers in the same location as last year. This helps to avert any potential insect and disease issues.
Then, for each flower type I need to take into account their spacing needs, whether or not they need support, their light requirements, their seasonality (cool season warm season) and so much more. One year I planted cool season flowers and warm season flowers in the same bed and flowers that need support and flowers that didn’t …not ideal for many reasons…lesson learned!
Dreams to Reality
Now it’s time to turn those dreams and designs into reality. When choosing which flowers to grow, I create my seed starting calendar for the season. My process of planning my seed sowing schedule could be a whole blog post in and of itself. For now, I’ll just say that seed starting begins in January and continues until late into the fall. Between my succession plantings, fall crop plantings and biennial plantings, I’m starting seeds and/or planting something roughly 9 months of the year here in zone 6. With everything that needs to get done, winter on a flower farm is just as busy as in the middle of the growing season!
I love all this planning, planting, dreaming and designing, but the best part is when the fields are overflowing, and I get to share all the beautiful, locally grown flowers with my customers!