Flower Farmer Journal: Get those Orders In!

by nicole on December 29, 2016

img_2186As farmers in the northern part of the country we have three months (December, January and February) to plan our  next season, catch up on book work and rest. At first it feels awkward (like I am not working) but once I get into the routine it feels nice.  I think it’s important to prioritize and set goals during this time so that I can get as much done as possible. Even if you’re just prepping for the new year only a few hours a day, this time goes by so quick.
December- Putting together orders:
This is always a obsessive task that I labor over, unnecessarily.  Wanting to have the “perfect” amount and the “right” varieties. Though I do have a standard list I order every year, I am always tweaking it to be more efficient as well as grow the “cool new” flowers everyone wants.
If you are a smaller farm, talk to other farmers about seed sharing. This way you can order fresh seed every year and get good prices without having waste.  It may seem like you’re only saving a few cents, but they will add up to dollars. I seed-share with a couple farmers with is nice. We exchange seed lists and tell each other what we want to swap. This practice often presents me with the option to try more varieties I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise include.
Companies I order from are:
Geo seed for most of my seed
Fred C. Gloeckner for few specialty varieties (they have larger packets of 1,000 + sds)
Johnny’s Select Seed They are pricier but I am willing to pay extra for their seeds for certain varieties. They sell the Potomac snapdragons that I love in quantities that make sense.
Sunflower Selections  for a few unique sunflowers that I adore.
For seed starting  I use a Pro mix HP (high porosity mix ) This works the best with my paper chain pots and for starting ranunculus and anemones. I can always add a bit of compost to give it more organic sustenance. It comes in big plastic bails that I can store in the greenhouse and it’s one less item I have to worry about in February when I start ramping up seed production.
This season I have decided to make a change from cell trays to soil blocks. This is going to change my system a bit but I am fortunate to have great compost and soil amendment close by.  After seeing Lisa Ziegler’s Talk on soil blocking, I was sold when she said “you’ll  have faster growth.”
 Less grow time so means I might be able push back some of my start times, making more personal time in February. As I start stock, snapdragons,  burplurem, ammi seed in the house under LED lights.
Bulbs, Plugs and Bareroots:
Get these orders in…the sooner you do it the better.  For certain plugs the growers have  to seed them very early because they take months to grow, such as lisianthus and papaver nudicaule.  Some brokers provide early order discounts.
 Talk to other farmers about sharing so you can get the most for your money the bigger the order  the less the cost.
Bareroots: David Austin Roses’ bareroot ordering starts in August.  For perennial bareroots and woodies you can place your orders now they will ship when your zone opens up for safe shipping.  Peonies are sold in spring and fall  but I prefer to order in late summer to plant in fall.
Spring bulbs are the easiest for me  to plan for and one of my favorite things to order. I usually already know what I want after seeing instagram pictures from farmers I follow.  I love looking at colorful images of the blooms and always make a wish list that I have to scale back because I don’t  have space for all the varieties I want to trial.  I always order 5 or so new varieties of dahlias.  This year I’ll be adding tuberoses to our selections. I will be growing these on black plastic to bloom before frost, because they are typically a more southern crop.

I’ll be posting more of the Flower Farmer Journal post to inspire flower farmers, as well as inform flower customers, to learn what it takes to grow flowers.  

Warmly,   Nicole

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