Category Archives: The Farm

Honey Bees Spring 2018

backyard bee keeping

At one point last year, we had five hives.  My husband caught a swarm in June so we had to put together another hive box.  He made a stand also.  This hive is the first one in the picture which we call “Swarm”.   In 2017, the other hives either swarmed or just up and left for no reason.

bee inspection

This picture above was taken last month.  Swarm is the only hive we have left.  The hive is so full of bees.  The queen is awesome.  She is  laying a lot of flat brood, so we will have a lot of female worker bees.  The  top boxes were full of bees and brood.  The bottom box had very little activity so we rotated the boxes so now the bottom box is on top.  This should encourage the hive to move upwards so they do not swarm.  We also added a super for honey.  This should give them a lot of space and keep them busy.  We are not purchasing any packages this year.  We are hoping Swarm will stay here.  We hope to catch another swarm this year.  Beekeeping is very challenging!

Flower Farming Spring 2018

seedlings under lights

I am starting my second full season selling to local florists.  This is a room in my basement with plastic up on two sides to keep the room warm and humidity higher.  There are 5 shelves on one rack.  Each rack holds 20 seed trays.  I know a greenhouse would be nice, but I do not want to spend the money at this time.  This room is fine for starting seedlings.  The seedlings receive 16 hours of light.  I try to keep the room at 70 degrees for cool flowers and 75 degrees for warm season flowers.

growing lisianthus

I am growing lisianthus from seed.  They are so slow growing so I start the seeds in January.  I keep them under lights inside for about 60 days.  For the first 30 days you need to make sure the temperature does not go over 75 degrees or lower than 60 degrees as this could stress the plants.

Lisianthus seedlings

Lisianthus likes the cold to establish their root system so you can plant them in early spring.  They should bloom in July when we have warmer temperatures and long days.

planting lisianthus

I plant 2 lisianthus per six inch square so I am able to plant 2000 plants in a 100 foot row.  They are a tiny seedling.  The seedlings should have at least 4 true leaves when transplanting out to the field.  Lisianthus does have a sensitive root system so you must take your time planting them.

harden off area for flowers

My husband built this temporary area for my seedlings to harden off before planting in the field.   I am not ready at this time to purchase a high tunnel.   I am trying to keep my costs down this year.  My first 2 years, I spent a lot time building my soil with compost and cover crops.  I established 40 one hundred foot rows which are surrounded by 8 foot deer fencing.  Now that I have all that in place, I can focus on what sells well and gain experience.

season extension low tunnels

I have planted lisianthus, strawflower, scabiosa, ammi, bupleurium, and eucalyptus.  I use Agribon AG 19 fabric row cover for frost and wind protection.  We make the hoops from 9 gauge galvanized wire which we cut to length.  You can purchase the wire in a roll from your local home improvement store.  We use 6″ U-shaped wire pins to secure the row cover to the ground as it is very windy in March.  These are the same pins we use to hold down our drip irrigation lines.

strawflower for cut flower production

I planted these strawflowers on 2/24/18.  This is how they looked on 3/31.  They have some cold weather damage on their outer leaves.  The center of the plant is very green.  I could not believe how much they had grown.  March was cold and below average in temperatures.

flower farmer

The first 3 rows are yarrow that I planted in October.  Yarrow is such a cold hardy plant.  I fall planted Coronation Gold, Paprika, and Summer Pastel Mix plugs.  I also planted Colorado mix that I grew from seed.  Since I prepared the field in the fall, I can just focus on planting in the spring.  In January and February, I worked on my field layouts, successive planting dates, and did a lot of researching online.  I am a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers so I watched videos from conferences and learned a lot from experienced flower growers.  They also have a Facebook members only page where you can ask questions and communicate with other flower farmers.   This time of the year is also a great time to read books about flower farming.  My favorites are “The Flower Farmer” by Lynn Byczynski, “Cool Flowers” by Lisa Mason Ziegler, and “Cut Flower Garden” by Erin Benzakein.  If you are thinking about selling cut flowers for profit, start small and keep it simple.  It is really important to take time to do soil tests and build your soil with compost and cover crops.  You will have enough invested just in building your soil, establishing your rows, fencing, netting, row covers, stakes, and other supplies.  I feel a walk-in cooler is important also.  So far I have been able to sell to florists without a greenhouse or high tunnel.  I do post weekly on Facebook and Instagram @gardenbeeflowerfarm.  Spring is finally here after a below average winter in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina.  I can’t wait to start playing in the dirt!  Happy Spring!

Flower Farming Fall 2017

compost

In the Fall, I put down more compost.  This summer was the first time I planted flowers in the second field so the field needed some more improvement.

My soil tests came back with a pH of 6.8 which is great for flowers.  I still need to keep adding organic matter to the soil.  Compost helps a lot but I am going to try to use buckwheat as a cover crop when possible in the summer.

silage tarps

Silage tarps help with weed suppression and erosion.

 

flower farming

I have yarrow, snap dragons, and queen’s anne lace planted in the field which are all cool flowers.  I put mulch on top of my tuberose plants to protect them from freezing temperatures.

Flower Farming Summer 2017

lisianthus

ABC White Lisianthus that I planted in March from plugs that I purchased from Raker through Germania Seed.  They bloomed in July.  The florists loved lisianthus.

lisianthus

ABC Purple Lisianthus that I planted in March from plugs.  Lisianthus blooms have a great vase life.

lisianthus

Arena III Apricot lisianthus that I grew from seed.  They are very slow growing and take 3 months before they have their 3rd and 4th true leaves so that you can plant them outside.

lisianthus

Flower delivery of ageratum, tuberose, lisianthus, celosia, and sunflowers.

sunflowers

Sunflower sales really picked up from August through October.  Florists gave me several large orders due to weddings.

This was my first year growing dahlias.  I fell in love with them and so did florists.

dahlias

Dahlias started blooming in July with short stems.  You just keep them cut back and by August I had longer stems.  Dahlias bloomed from August to the beginning of October.

celosia cockscomb

Celosia Chief had so many beautiful colors.  They were easy to grow from seed.

yarrow

This is Colorado pastel mix yarrow that I grew from seed.

The weather really affects blooming of sunflowers.  When it was hot, they bloomed within 45 days.  When the weather cooled down a little, it took 55 days to bloom.

Spring 2017

silage tarps for weed suppression

We have had wind gusts of 30 – 40 mph lately and the silage tarps are staying in place.  I have around 50 to 60 sand bags down on each section.  The sand bags are filled with compost.

agribon covering for frost protection

We had a warm February; however, March has been very different.  This week we had nighttime lows of 22, 33, 20, and 19 degrees.  I put a 2nd Agribon AG-19 on the 3rd row with the ranunculus.  It was so windy and cold from Tuesday – Thursday that I had to leave the 2nd cover on the row.  I finally was able to take the covers off yesterday.  The cold did not affect the anemones at all.  It did burn the leaves of the larger ranunculus that are getting ready to bloom.

sweet peas

This is a picture of the sweet peas last weekend.  I only had a layer of Agribon AG-19 on this row.  The sweet peas did get hurt from this week’s really cold nighttime lows; however, I feel they will bounce back.

tilling in compost

Last week, I was busy spreading compost on the rows in field 2.  I tilled the winter rye cover crop and compost into the soil.  It was too windy and cold to work in field 2 this week.  I still need several more loads of compost and hardwood mulch to finish this field.

deer fencing

Last week, we pounded in 30 ten foot poles for our 8 foot deer fencing around the second field.  I will have 2 gates in this section to make it easier for me to drive the pickup in this field.

stock seedllings

I have 3 flats of harden off stock ready to go to the field.  However, I held off from planting them this week due to the really cold nights.  I kept them in our garage.  The nighttime low in the garage was 40 degrees.  It did not seem to affect them at all.

seed germination racks

Since it was cold and windy outside this week, I did a lot of seed sowing.  Since I started using the clear humidity domes, I am getting great germination.  I needed the top 6th shelf so we added lights this week.  I have trays of ammi, feverfew, yarrow, mint, cerinthe, gomphrena, rudbeckia, ageratum, atriplex, celosia, dianthus, etc.  We just purchase light fixtures from our local home improvement center.  We are using T12 lights.  They do not get as hot as T5 lights so I can have the lights close to the seedlings.

Early Spring Preparation

farm life

Usually it is too wet in the spring to till; however, it has been dry this spring.  I just did a light till to incorporate the compost and hardwood mulch into the soil.  Since I do not have a bed maker attachment, I remade the beds by hand.  All I had to do is use a rake to remake the path between the rows.

silage tarps

We are trying silage tarps this year to suppress weeds.  We want to protect the newly tilled rows from heavy rains and weed growth.  A great book to read is “The Market Gardener” by Jean-Martin Fortier.  He uses silage tarps.  When a harvest is complete on a row, he immediately covers it.  The tarp stays on the bed for 2-4 weeks.  I may try planting buckwheat cover crop in May on some of the rows that I am not using yet.  After the buckwheat blooms and before it goes to seed, I would need to do a light tilling just to mix the cover crop into the soil.  I would then cover the row with the silage tarp and let it decompose with the help of soil organisms.

filling sand bags with compost

I always keep a pile of compost on hand at the farm so I am using compost to fill the sand bags.  When the bags finally break over time, it will just add more compost to the field instead of sand or gravel.

farm life with silage tarps and agribon

It took a lot of sand bags to hold down those silage tarps, and I am still making more sand bags.  I will be planting in those rows in March and April.  The field looks really good.  I used a lot of cover crops in 2014 to 2016 in this field.  The buckwheat and the winter rye really did a good job suppressing weeds so I am not having a lot of problems with weeds this year so far.  My biggest problem is soil erosion because our land slopes in various directions.

Bluebird Trail

Peterson Bluebird house

We are lucky to have a lot of Eastern bluebirds here at the farm.  We now have 5 bluebird houses on the farm.  They are around 300 feet apart.  We use the Peterson slanted bluebird nest box as house sparrows do not seem to like the slanted front entrance.  We also use a baffle on the pole to deter snakes and other climbing predators.

bluebird trail

It may be hard to see but this house has a mountain view.  You can see the Sauratown mountains at the end of our driveway.  This house is located next to an apple tree.  The bluebirds will be able to go back and forth from the tree to the house.

bluebird trail

This bluebird house is located at the beginning of our back woods.  This house has a very quiet setting.  The bluebirds will roost in these houses at night during the winter to get out of the cold weather.  I cannot wait until spring to see how many bluebirds nest in all the nest boxes.  Bluebirds usually have 2 broods per season.

Monarch Chrysalis & Caterpillars

Monarch caterpillars

We have a lot of milkweed planted on the farm.  Starting in September, we started to see Monarch caterpillars all over the milkweed plants.

monarch-fb

We have different varieties of Asclepias planted such as tuberosa, incarnata, curassavica, and syriaca.  Below are some pictures of the chrysalis that we found throughout the farm.

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You can see the Monarch butterfly developing.

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Monarch chrysalis attached to sunflower leaves.

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Monarch chrysalis attached to flower netting.

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Monarch chrysalis on the deer fencing brace.

Monarch chrysalis on deer fencing

Monarch chrysalis on deer fencing.

monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis on deer fencing.

monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis on deer fencing.

Monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis attached to a weed by the deer fencing.

monarch chrysalis on a sunflower leaf

Monarch chrysalis attached to a sunflower leaf.

monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis on the deer fencing with the cut flower garden in the background.

monarch chrysalis

We found monarch chrysalis attached to several of our flower stakes in the field.

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