Starting my flower farm: Part 3: The Leap

2021 is what I’m going to call, the leap. Jumping into larger area, new varieties, growing transplants, and offering my first flower subscriptions! I spent all my evenings reading flower production blogs and books, and reaching out to some Ontario growers about their tested practices.

This jump in production required a couple of major infrastructure improvements. First was an ability to grow healthy transplants. Some flowers can be direct seeded, some need a little extra love in their early life, and prefer to be started indoors. So, I assembled a 4 shelf system in our laundry room to grow trays of transplants. I could start approximately 860 plants on three shelves in 72-cell plug trays, under shop lights that Brad wired up for me.

Before, during, and after setup!

The lights were all wired to a light switch, and I actually used a Wi-Fi controller to program the lights to turn on and off at specific times so I didn’t have to live by the schedule of the lights! I have one more shelf I could add lights to for this year’s plants if needed (and at the rate I’m ordering seeds, I’ll probably need it!)

The second infrastructure improvement was the decision to change the layout of my flower rows. I expanded from approximately 140 square feet to 1400 square feet! The first year I laid out the landscape fabric, I laid it out in long 100ft rows thinking that would be the most efficient use of space. And it is, BUT it’s not the most efficient way for moving your body up and down the rows to harvest. So I turned the rows to run the opposite way, and cut the fabric down to 35-40ft, and worked in 8 sections. Each section is approximately 4 feet wide of planting space, and 2ft between sections. I use 6ft wide landscape fabric, so the 2 feet between planting areas is still fabric, suppressing weeds. Below on left, is my fabric layout in 2020. I didn’t have plants in even a quarter of the space- definitely bit off more than I could handle that first year. On the right is how I changed it in 2021. Something about more rows, but shorter in length, seemed more mentally manageable. And now having a year of this layout under my belt, I’m very happy with it.

The third infrastructure improvement I needed was water. Now, on the farm, we’re on a well that provides for the whole farm. And anyone who’s also on a well knows you cannot just turn the tap on wide open, and have someone get a shower, run the dishwasher, or laundry machine in the house at the same time. So I found a pair of 1000L plastic totes to hold water at the field. Brad bought me a little impeller pump to draw water from the tote through regular garden hose and watering wand. So, now I could water. It was slow, and we had to physically stand there to do it, but it was WAY better than pulling jugs and watering cans to the field (which we did for the first few weeks before the pump arrived!)

The next thing on my list to establish this flower field, was to invest in dahlia tubers. Investing in tubers with the plan of digging them, storing them, and splitting them to replant in 2022 is a bit of an expensive endeavor, but I can say now it was well worth the investment. We enjoyed dahlias until late October! The photo below is the last bucket of dahlias just before we cut down the plants and dug the tubers for storing.

One dahlia tuber planted in the spring will, on average, yield and additional 4 tubers to carry to the following year. The real challenge is storing so they don’t dry out, mold, or rot.

The last thing that was absolutely imperative to making this all work, was ASKING FOR HELP. Enter, Fiona. I asked Fiona if she would help me rototill the designated flower area, and stake down the landscape fabric in April. I quickly realized that working full-time and spending 2-3 hours in the daylit evening was too much for me to handle by myself, especially if I wanted to see my husband (and I did want to!) which I’ll talk more about in Part 4! So, for all the hours that I spent out there, Fiona was there too, and then some! And thank goodness for her. We work really well together, she cares as much about these flowers as I do, and we both got a lot of enjoyment out of what we built and grew this year!

Right now is planning time for next year’s flowers, and if you’d like to purchase a bouquet subscription, or gift one to a loved one, you can do so here! Thanks for being here and following my story, friends!