Saturday, January 30, 2016

3 Easy Annuals Every NEW Flower Farmer Can Grow

Looking out over the raised cut flower garden at the perennial beds, ( out old greenhouse which is being replaced with a flower studio) and our hen house to the left.
 Are you dreaming of a flower farm of your own some day? I'll let you in on a little secret. You don't need multiple acres to begin. In fact, a small suburban plot can serve as the perfect trial ground for your " someday" farm. I farm my garden on less than 1/2 acre where I grow many different annuals, perennials, herbs, and flowering shrubs. I grow all of my annual cut flowers in 4 x 12 raised beds, 12 inches deep. This makes planting, weeding, deadheading and harvesting manageable for beginners. 
Here are a few things to consider before you sow those first seeds.

Start with just a few raised beds to build confidence.
  •  Make sure you plant in an area that gets a minimum of 7 hours of daylight.
  •  Have your soil tested. Fast growing summer annuals need a nutrient rich soil to thrive. I order a horticultural mix  from our local landscape center. It arrives premixed and ready for planting flowers, herbs, and veggies. 
  • Determine your water needs. Will you rely on nature, install a drip system or, will you hand-water your garden?  I hand-water everything ( and rely on frequent rainfall) here in New England. I own a 100' garden hose that reaches every corner of the garden.
Zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, gladiolus, and pumpkin on a stick, ( ornamental eggplant)
Today I'm sharing some of my favorite easy annuals every NEW flower farmer can grow. They all have a few things in common. They're easy to start, have long blooming seasons, are great for cutting and require very little care in between. 

Let's start with the easy Zinnia!

Zinnias grow best when you direct sow them after the last danger of frost in your gardening zone. Most seed packets have planting instructions on the back or inside of the envelope so plant accordingly.  Zinnias will give you brilliant blooms from summer-frost and the bees and butterflies love them.

 3- 4 seed packets will be sufficient for one or two 4x12 raised beds. Try a few different varieties for fun!  

 Let's talk Sunflowers!

No flower garden would be complete with out sunflowers.  I love growing sunflowers. I just wish I had a field so I could grow bunches and bunches of them. Even still, they are worth growing in smaller amounts just because they are such a summer time favorite. Sunflowers aren't just yellow either.

They come in varying shades of deep red, chocolate ( almost black) and tawny golden oranges too! 

Three great varieties to try! 

Sunflowers can be started inside ahead of time in a greenhouse, or sunny windowsill but they grow just as well when planted directly at the proper sowing time.

This pretty lady isn't an annual, she's a perennial called Lemon Queen.
It's fun to let your perennial sunflowers, mingle with annual sunflowers. 
Below is a pitcher full of Black Eyed Susan's ( perennial), lemon queen ( also a perennial) and 
drop dead read, sunflowers ( annual ).

Sunflowers don't need much arranging for adding simple beauty to any occasion.

Let's talk Cosmos!

Cosmos are so easy to grow you barely need to think about them at all once you've planted them. 
 This one below is called, Rubenza for it's deep burgundy red color, although this photo makes it look almost hot pink.

Here they are in full bloom about mid-September. They make great cut flowers and will bloom well into fall until the first frost takes them out for good. I love using the baby green foliage for filler too so plant more than you need and you'll be able to enjoy multiple uses from this beauty.

Cosmos look amazing in loosely gathered arrangements.

I hope you'll give all three of these lovely ladies a try this year. No green thumb necessary. With a few prepetory steps in the beginning you'll have vases full of cut flowers right out your backdoor all summer long. 

When I fist started out I bought seeds from my local nurseries and big box stores. If you want more variety and better pricing for larger quantities there are some great sources online.

Johnny Selected Seeds
Baker Creek  
Floret Seeds NEW!

One of my dreams is to have my own seed line, Dandelion House Seeds...Put down some roots and BLOOM!

Keep me posted on your progress and feel free to contact me if you have more questions.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Flower Farm News: Taking Root in 2016

Happy belated New Year!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are settling into some of your favorite and most comforting winter routines. Speaking of routines, you may ( or may not) have noticed my month long blogging break. After 5 years of consistent blogging, I guess I was due for a little holiday. My little break from the blogisphere allowed me some time to focus on where I truly want to focus my creative energy and resources in 2016.

Winter is a great time for slowing down and reflecting on the previous year and planning ahead.

The highlight of 2015 for me was launching Dandelion House Flower Farm. With little expectations about how the first year would go I placed an add in our local Edible South Shore magazine and signed up for a few spots at our local farmers market.

 Based on my previous years growing season I knew I'd have enough flowers to introduce at the market and hopefully do a few small weddings.

DIY Flowers for this lovely couple.
 The add generated some calls for wedding work as did the Farmers Market Website. I was over the moon that there was some local interest in sustainably grown flowers here in the northeast.

We were well received at the Farmers Market.
 I fell in love with having couples out to the farm and showing them where their flowers are grown. And well, I kind of fell in love with the whole process from consulting with couples to the design work.

Small bridal bouquet for an intimate backyard woodland wedding.

 The beautiful and talented, Shawna from Beach Plum Floral
  I even had the opportunity to sell see some of my flowers worked into a big beautiful bridal bouquet created by to some fellow floral designers in my area who are planning to source more local flowers for their work this year which truly excites me.

 Another highlight was becoming a part of the editorial team at Field To Vase. An online collaborative resource of farmer/florists to help the public understand the growing domestic flower movement. It's a wonderfully inspiring community of flower farmers spread out all over the United States who share their flower farming stories, lessons, beautiful photos and passion for growing and designing with American grown flowers. Field to Vase is sponsored by the creator of Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel. She's gained rock start status after being written up in the San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes Magazine, and most recently The New York Times.

I also joined Debra Prinzing's ( author of The 50 Mile Bouquet  and Slow Flowers)
 Slow Flowers Directory. Slow Flowers is a free, nationwide online directory to help consumers find florists, shops, studios and farmers who grow and source domestic, American flowers. Farmer/florists can advertise in the directory at various price points. All proceeds help with the costs of operating the website. Both of Debra's books played a big part in my starting my flower farm experiment in 2012. If you want to be even more inspired listen to Debra's Podcast shows featuring some of the most pioneering farmer/florists leading the slow flowers movement today! I try to listen to one or two a week and I always get a new idea to apply to my flower farm business.
I'm so encouraged and grateful for how the first year went. I'm looking forward to more new experiences and lessons this season and I hope it encourages some of you who might be thinking about starting your own little backyard flower farm to go ahead and plant those dream seeds.

  Plans for 2016 are taking root. Seed catalogs are here and I'm making lists, drawing up a planting chart and expanding my collection and growing space. We are also designing a backyard floral studio where I can start some seeds, condition and design flowers, and host workshops. It won't be huge, but it's a start.

And that my friends is where all dreams begin... at the start.

I have so much to learn but, if I can do it you sure can too.

 Put down some roots and BLOOM!


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