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!

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