Originally published Jan 1, 2016 Denise and Tony Gaetz are featured in Andrew Mefferd’s book
The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution: High-Production Methods for Small-Scale Farmers And most of all I want to make sure you have the link to enter to win a copy of Andrew’s awesome book
Denise and Tony Gaetz, from Bare Mountain Farm are here to share their flower farming journey. Their belief is that healthy soils equal healthy plants which provide for vibrant, strong long-lasting blooms.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Denise: We live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we’ve been on our farm for about 27 years, we have 10 and 1/2 acres. We grow flowers on only about an acre and 1/2. We’ve been doing this for over 11 years, starting next year will be our 12th season. This is our second career. We both had a previous life and are sort of semi-retired, but not really retired because this is a lot of work. But we’re doing something that both of us really love, it’s hard work but it’s super we enjoy it!
We have 4 unheated, unlit hoop houses that we have built, we have a little greenhouse where we start everything. For the first ten years of our business we sold in the Farmer’s Market in Corvallis, Oregon. A couple of years ago, the demand for our flowers from florists and designers increased, so we started to sell directly to florists and designers. The Farmer’s Market was a blast and we really loved it but it was a lot of work and very long days! So we decided we would let that one go, and just sort of focus on selling directly to florist shops and designers all up and down the valley. From Portland all the way to Eugene.
Tony: We are what you might call a micro-farm in a sense that our objective is not to become world flowers inc but to use sustainable practices develop a nice business that really concentrates on selling to a local area. We sell from Eugene which is the southern end of the valley to Protalnd on the northern end. A lot of what we sell is seasonal. We do some season extension as Denise allege about in our hoop houses.
What we try to do get our product at is at peak for our area and work it that way instead of we were trying to raise orchids in the middle of winter or something like that well sweet peas are on in June. It’s that sort of thing. We try to keep an emphasis on keeping it seasonal!
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
Denise: I’ve been growing flowers and veggies since I was a little kid. I think my first experience with flowers is about 7 years old growing pansies in Montana! When my family moved to Oregon later on, it was my responsibility in the family to grow as many vegetables and learn to preserve and can them and freeze them and what not for the family. I always had sort of an interest in plants. I spent a lot of time in high school and early college in horticulture programs, I also worked several years for a florist. I’ve always been really interested in growing things particularly food but my passion was pretty flowers.
Tony: My respect I started when I was a kid too. The family always had a garden, when I 12 years old it became my assigned chore. And when you’re 12, your like oh great you know. But I really started getting into it, and learned a lot, I just started reading a lot. For a 12 years old that’s really weird. I read a lot of organic gardening magazines. This is the 1970’s. 1972, that range of time, we I learned a lot just by reading and what my family had done at that point. Our family kind of followed organic practices and we had our own place, and it was the natural thing to start that whole process again.
Where were you raised Tony? Are you also from Montana?
My father was in the army and worked for the army for most of his career, so we moved around a lot. Not necessarily on military basis. We lived back East in Virginia, and lived in California and Washington, just kind of as his career went, we went. That was also part of the challenge, new places presented a whole new set of new challenges.
Denise: We met here at Oregon State University, we both attended the University and that’s where we met and after we graduated then we got married. And we’ve been growing gardens and flowers ever since.
What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?
Well that’s kind of our philosophy, a lot of these philosophical things kind of evolved over a period of time. Sources of inspiration for us have been, besides J.I. Rodale. There’s also Fukuoka and Natural Farming, learning a lot more about permaculture and that movement. What we try to practice here philosophically, is we’re not certified organic, in many respects we’re beyond organic. I don’t mean that in a haughty way.
A lot of organic farmers now-a-days use organically approved things that could be called pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, we tend to not use anything other then replacement of the minerals in the soil itself. We use natural fertilization in terms of compost that is either made here on site, or we use some recycled compost that’s made by a company here locally. What we try to do is keep the soil fertility up, that’s really our key focus, start with the soil build from there.
Our philosophy has been a healthy plant grown in healthy soil doesn’t need additional fertilizers pesticides or things of that nature as best as we can. Also as we go through look at what we grow, we make decisions about things that don’t grow well in our location or particular climate, we try to look at the plants that thrive the best here.
Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?
Denise: We were also inspired by a lot of our local growers, since we spent so much time at the farmer’s market there are a whole lot of growers that sell at the market that are fantastic people to follow and understand and kind of emulate their practices. We got a lot of that from a couple of really terrific growers in Denison’s Family Farm and Gathering Together Farm. Both of those are doing fantastic things with season extension and organic practices and sustainability and they were very kind to us and helping us find our way along the way. We’re always inspired by what other small time, small people, local growers are doing. And also paying forward what we learned.
Tony: Philosophically part of what we look at, there are some circles that say if you learn this info you should charge money, but what we try to do is help the new growers avoid some of the dumb things we did. So it’s kind of like Denise is saying paying it forward more of an obligation, that we look at it from a more philosophical standpoint that knowledge to help people, either local people or local flowers or local agriculture, things that can thrive on a micro easies is different then a mega farm that have five thousand acres and has millions of dollars of equipment. We don’t operate that way on any level, a lot of what we do is somewhat under the radar. A lot of companies are starting to pick up on the fact that small farms need unique tools and things of that nature.
I want to say I found you guys because you posted on Facebook and you had Dahlias and people were signing up like crazy?
That was the Lisianthus we were posting about. Lisianthus is a tricky flower. It is an absolutely beautiful flower that kind of looks like a rose. But its a tricky flower to get started form seed, it takes an incredible long long time to get it started and sometimes it doesn’t even germinate. So we’ve been playing around figuring out how to get it to germinate and how to get it up to size and into the ground. And low and behold we were experimenting, which is what we do an awful lot, we try things just to see if that will work. We decided we would try the Lisianthus for a cooler period of planting, because we had such a hard time last summer was way too hot for them.
We got them to germinate in soil blocks that we have been working with, and they grew up nicely and we put them in the ground. It was a total experiment of can we make them grow through the winter? They are fairly cool seasonsish, although they do well in the summer. We wanted to see if we could make them grow and bloom early in the spring next year and that was our experiment. So I posted it to the flower farmers, and say hey take a look at our experiment, and maybe it will work and maybe it won’t.
Our comment was “if it does you’ll hear about it and if it doesn’t it never happened!”
Tell us about a flower that grew well this year.
What grew well this year was the anemones. There are a few other things, but I will just start with the anemones, becasue they are one of my favorite flowers. The reason I love anemones is because they are just the toughest little plant and flower that you can imagine. They can grow through sometimes some of the roughest weather we can have. We do grow them in a an unheated hoop house or what we call a crate house, because we are growing them currently in crates in a little house. Mostly to keep the cold Oregon rain off of them, it’s not so much that we are protecting them from frost, although we do provide some frost protection. We’ve had them make it though on some pretty cold winters. They are one of the first flowers to bloom for us!
The goal is always to try to get them on Valentines Day. Because our florists and designers absolutely love them! They are so bright and cherry, and such a pretty flower for Valentines Day! Something different then the traditional rose or carnation and what not. This year we were able to harvest our first anemones on the fifteenth of January. We were so excited that we had them on time for Valentines.
The other thing that grew well for us this year was Scented Geraniums! We had a nice hundred foot row of scented geraniums, because we had such a mild winter last year we were able to keep protected and then when the weather warmed up they just started to go crazy. We were able to harvest them, probably from Early May until our first really hard frost at the end of November…
It was the week before Thanksgiving.
That’s a pretty common flower, there are some new varieties that are what they call open faced butterfly. They don’t have the traditional snap look, they have an open petal look to them. The florist have been really receptive to those! We grew a lot of those.
Sweet peas are always a big thing. They just remind folks of s simpler times or maybe something their grandmother did or something of that nature.
There’s also on the early part of the spring: tulips. Quite a few of the taller varieties. The shorter ones get shipped on the more wholesale, so we usually look for a more unusual color, or a taller stem or something that sets them apart or being different. Different petals or parrots or doubles.
So our season goes from, like last year it went from Jan 15th to Thanksgiving. That’s a little longer then normal, in a normal year from about first of February to the first of November. It just seems like the climate this last year was exceptionally warm. So it enabled things to move along faster then normal.
When the day length gets shorter and shorter, as hard as we want to keep the flowers growing, they just stop producing nice big blooms. They may not die but they don’t produce. We just haven’t gone to any kind of lighting and any of that kind of stuff. There’s typically, kind of a dead zone where plants don’t grow that much even when the temperatures are that moderate. That usually runs when you have daylight that hits 9 hours on the other side coming out, things start growing again.
Some times you’re kind of nervous at this time this year, you think I got my ranunculus in but they don’t seem that big, at Christmastime they should be bigger then that so they hit! But as soon as they hit that 9 hour mark., it’s incredible how much they can change in a short period of time.
That they are really doing there, the roots are all growing and getting bigger and stuff, so that when they do hit that time, they have a super great root system, then that’s a stronger plant that has more blooms and they get even bigger. Then they have really big fluffy blooms.
Have you guys heard of Lisa Ziegler from Cool Flowers? She’s been my guest twice she talks about the same thing, but she’s on the other coast, in Virginia. I was going to remind people to get her book for Christmas. She has documented and is an amazing wealth of information.
We have her book. We’ve read it from cover to cover!
Did you get your soil blocks from her? That’s what reminded me because that’s the first place I heard of it, and I think I didn’t understand till I saw the pictures in her catalog actually.
We’ve been doing it for years and years, we’ve bene in a tranisition away from plastic plugs. What started it with us, is we just got tired of plastic. The transitione noticed the quality of the plug. The plug trays work well in a large industrial, with automate machines where they fill them and plant them with a nice chemical soup of fertilizer. What we noticed for us as a small grower, that the quality of the plant the roots tended to get, no matter what you tried, the roots would swirl around the edge of the plastic, and the plant was not developing as good of a root system.
Without a soil block system the plants didn’t develop as good of a root system. With a soil block system what we noticed is that the plants develop a more even root growth, and the fact that the edge of the block has a minute amount of air around it will actually root prune the plants. So the roots will stop growing, so they don’t wrap around themselves, so the plants end up with a better root system.
That’s what drove us to do it, it was producing a much better plant. They were stronger seedlings to put in, it was also serendipity for us, as it bought us a little more time! There’s just the two of us and a million jobs to do on the farm. Even though we want to get that seedling into the ground on the specific day, sometimes, its a week or you have a break down on it, or you need to do more soil prep, the plant continues to grow and thrive in that soil block. It’s like we missed that deadline by ten days, oh well the plant still looks pretty good and we get them in and they thrive.
Well and the soil block, by example, if you start on a smaller size what they call 3/4 size, which is what Lisa was doing a lot of, “minis” and if you need more growing on time. She plants, what we saw in her book, she plants a lot of direct in the small minis, but you can bump these up to a two inch block, the nice thing about that is that it really cuts down on fertilization. With a 2′ block, you’ve already built the fertility into the block mix itself. Then what really becomes important is even moisture, the plants will really thrive. We don’t have to do as much fertilization in the propagation house when they’re growing on. Matter of fact, very little in most cases. Most of these guys will grow in the two inch box, we can pump them up for 3 weeks or so. With the exception for lisianthus, from seedling to put int he ground 12 weeks. That one has to grow on for a while before you get it to the right size.
Everything else is about 2-3 weeks in the 2′ block if we do it and it grows in as a much more vigorous plant.
Do you want to explain people what they are a little more?
A great resource for anybody is Johnny’s Seeds, they’e been doing a lot of stuff on their website, they also sell the blockers
we developed the mix, the basis is from Eliot Coleman’s book the New Organic Grower. The key for us that we found is making our own mix
tried using mixes that we’re pre-dawn,
right ratio of peat moss to minerals to soil is important. If you start with the base which is using Eliot Coleman’s’ mix roughly 3 parts peat,
1 part compost
1 part of your own soil into it. We put our own soil in it, we have some areas in our place that has fir trees, not really exactly forest.
firs and evergreen forrest, tend to develop
fungi relationships, we add some of that.
nature of that in there
that step alone really made a big difference in eliminating damping off. We don’t get that anymore at all!
Starting from that point, you get yourself, the blockers are that expensive, the handheld ones and you don’t have to buy plastic.
One of the reasons we moved to soil blocks is a space issue,
greenhouse, it’s little, it was just a hobby at that point, we didn’t think we we’re gonna be running production through it, but now we need to.
by doing the minis, we can seed 300 in a tray at a time, when you’re limited to space or light or heating matts
maximum amount per tray is what I needed to be able to do and run through my greenhouse
continue to increase my production of getting my seedlings germinated
move to a propagation house where it just grows in my greenhouse that was where I could do it,
under lights what ever is required
We start our seedlings a little different then Lisa, Lisa uses a tray method like a cafeteria tray
we evolved different, because we used what we had
weed bottom 10-20 trays got from a local nursery that was getting ride of these things, we use that in conjunction with a capillary mat. A capillary mat is like felt, but it’s very water absorbent.
weed bottom tray? and set it inside of another tray that has a wet piece of capillary mat
solid tray in the bottom so no lo
A lot of people have the problem is let them let them dry out.
easy to do to dry out if its a small
allows even consistent watering, as the plant germinates through capillary action pull water
soil block retains really even moisture
water the mat
pull mesh thing out
water the mat
don’t have to water overhead mist or run the risk of washing the little tiny seeds
water overhead too much
or this keeps even moisture in a tray
As Denise was saying you can get 300 starts in a tray
It works really well.
You can get capillary mats from companies like farmtech
comes in a big roll, cut it up
You can get it in a 100 foot roll. You can probably find at other nursery supply places, but it’s been very very useful! it seems to work for us.
I;ll bet listeners are excited! Heads are spinning, you could use this for vegetables right? Like ones that are super hard like broccoli, peppers, etc.?
some cases on veggies on
1 1/2 inc soil blocks
minis are great for flowers, because most flowers are really small. But veggies are not, so veggies work really well with one and 1/2 inch blocks.
Like with our onions
multiple seeds 4-5 seeds in a whole
onions tend to grow up, so when you plant the block in the ground, there will be like 4 bulbs in a spot as they grow up
same as with other veggies that we, there are some that we just direct seed, because the seem to do that way.
soil block would work
It especially works really well if you find a particular plant that doesn’t like to be transplanted.
You take the mini block, all your doing is picking it up the exact size whole in the block, then you plant the whole block, so you haven’t really disturbed anything. Plants that resent transplant, this is a better way because you don’t have to yank them out of plastic
any of that kind of thing
It lifts nicely, drops back into the soil, and that whole next cube goes directly into the ground.
Cool I like that a lot! You said something about eliminating drop off or damping?
Eliminating damping off?
It’s fungal disease that effects mostly at the stem of young seedlings at ground level,
vascular and the plant falls over and dies. By having our own soil that is an inoculate of micro fungi
used the good fungi to combat the bad and by not creating an environment that’s usually wet, by using overhead watering and usjjig the capillary mat.
between those two
There was a lot of people talking about funguses this year.
Our philosophy has always been, if you look at nature, things that are growing naturally don’t get attacked unless something is out of balance.
balance in the soil of the minerals
if the plant has the optimum things to survive it will have its own defense mechanisms agains most of the things you would find as a common that people reach for a
when we start seeing something like that happen we think what’s wrong with the environment thtat the plant is in that’s causing it to be in a weakened state that allows bad things to happen. But in a natural sense if there isn’t a stress from the environment some way like too dry, too wet, too cold, or something. A lot of it is really soil driven from our perspective so getting the right balance of minerals in the soil really helps a lot!
Awesome that’s perfect. I think that’s what people, that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned since I started this show last February. That’s a big thing people talk about a lot is how to deal with pests.
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
Besides the winter lisianthks hoping that’s going to work. We’re also growing Italian ranunculus. WE did a small sample of them last year, they were really small
really small blooms were beautiful didn’t et a whole lot of them because they were tiny
This year we decided to really invest in it, we have 2 hundred foot rows of the Italian ranunculus in what we’re hoping in really pretty colors of salmon, white and pink. We’re really excited about that, if we can get them growing really nice, we can get them up to the size of small peonies.
So loved by our designers and florists. Even though we’ve been growing ranunculus since 2004 these Italian ones are new.
They are just gorgeous, I’m looking at the pictures on your websetie they are just full of blooms, they are not like miniature roses but
One of the other things, we’re working on of this year is also more woodies
more things to be useful for greens and fillers
mostly local flowers so this is because we were so oriented for farmers markets for years, that’s what people really wanted, not so much any kind of filler behind it. So we’re experimenting with things like hypericums, and snow berries, and then cotinus, which is a form of nine bark, and the eucalyptus, in conjunction with our scented geraniums, and some dusty millers we’re gonna throw in there. We have a variety of things were’e gonna try
We’re gonna tray to incorporate more herbs too
certain basils that make a nice cut for a bouquet
rosemary lavender sages
pineapple sage, lemon verbena, all of those things can add something nice and interesting to people’s bouquets. The best part of adding some kind of herb is during the summer when flowers stop having fragrance, a nice herb addition to it would be lovely in the bouquets. The cinnamon in basil or lemon in lemon verbena or the wonderful smell of rosemary. So we’re trying those things in a smaller way.
Tell me about growing eucalyptus, that was my brothers wedding flower decoration, I still have mine from his wedding on my art desk and it’s beautiful, can I grow eucalyptus here in Montana?
You would treat is kind of like a seasonal that we do it’s not every winter it dies out here in the valley. There are varieties that well let’s put it this way, when people want them in a floral the shape is that silver dollar look that is only on the very juvenile plants that have that, so we start these guys from seed right around this time of year. Tehy’ll be whip size and harvestable early next fall, so it takes a while to grow on. We’ll start in mini soil blocks like a lot of the other flowers and grow them on from there, in some cases in Montana. You’re up in the northwestern corner? In the mountains too. right?
that might be a little problematic to grow out in the field, if ou started now,
but it would grow
once the plant has germinated
got them started now and nursed them planted in the field, they’re gonna be pretty frost sensitive
chance of frost is gone
pretty good size whips, 2-4 feet whips. They grow really rapidly. I would plant really intense
same spacing as larkspur, the closer you plant them the more they are going to want to go up instead of out!
Is it an annual or a perennial?
It is a perennial. If you were raising it in California, there are some varieties I know like Charles little Co in Eugene
unless you have a severe winter event here where we get really really cold, there are some varieties that will take it down into the 20s and still be fine. In that case it’s a perennial
copis or copus which basically means you cut the whole thing to ten inches above the ground, what that does is forces the plant to sprout in the spring
number of years,
But in a case where you’re at, it would be an annual because there’s no way it’s gonna make it through a Montana winter
We try it as annual too because if it comes back, it will survive 2 out of 5 years
always prep for it not
haven’t found those varieties
kind of a green add on for us
what we philosophical try to do since we’re a micro farm we try to get as intense of a return as we can
integrate cover crops etc
tying up land for a crop have to look at it as how does it pay? In a sense if you set aside permanent places for eucalyptus, you’re only harvesting for a certain time of year, the rest of the year nothing’s done there from a sales stand point so we always keep that in mind being a smaller grower
for us next year eucalyptus helping things
new variety that’s out, we’re just gonna be testing with our customers, did they like it, did they care for it,
we grow what they are interested in buying, not so much what we want to grow
what our customers are looking for that will help them for their designes.
as they are looking
The other things about eugaluptys they need well drained soil
Charles’ Little next to a river, well drained soil more on the sandy side, our soil is what you call very heavy. It’s great once you get it worked up, but in the winter time when you get a lot of rain, our soil tends to stay wetter. That’s a negative for it so we also say if you grow it here, 2 out of five shot it’s gonna make it through the winter.
I’m gonna have to try that and look into that. I’m gonna say we have a sandy soil.
Tell us about something that didn’t work so well this season.
Well we have a lot of that! There’s always something!
The first thing that comes to mind is our dahlias didn’t do well. We had one of the hottest summers on record, as least as long as we’ve been doing it. Days of 90 degrees, we can usually count that for a week or 2 total for the summer. This summer it was like a month and a half, at least 45 days, we had 90º+! Some of those days were in the hundreds. We also get wind, and the wind comes from the east, really hot and it blows and it was like being in a convection oven, our dahlias were stressed right off the bat!
Our little farm is located right in the middle of the grass seed capital of the world! One of the problems with mono-culture
doesn’t bother the grass seed people. The spotted cucumber beetle feeds on rye grass which grows all around us. It just hatches and migrates in the wind and just a voracious eater of dahlias. So they were pretty stressed this year. The cucumber beetle
take ab about browsers
this year they skeletonize, skeletized. If you go into Instagram there’s pictures of 2 dahlias almost unrecognizable. They’re just decimated, they ate the leaves, they at the petals, they’re looking for the pollen, they just devoured them. There’s no organic control whatsoever and even if you did, it just doesn’t last.
at a certain point this is just a major loss, 2 hundred foot rows of dahlias was just a loss! All we were trying to do this summer was just to try to keep the plants alive for tuber production and be able to dig tubers for this fall. That was successful, we got really good tubers. Plants are pretty amazing things, when they know they’re under attack, they work towards self preservation.
produced pretty good tubers, but not one beautiful bloom. The other one that was a major loss
we want to move away from purchased plugs, we spent a lot of time and money on buying lisianthks plugs, we were told about germination problems. So we thought ok fine we’ll do that.
put them in our hoop house last year when we raised our own and got some plants form friends, they produced well. This year, within a week of putting them in and that’s when we got 2 weeks straight of 90º+ weather. The plants didn’t have time to adapt and the immediately tried to bloom, so what we ended up with were plants that were stunted with 8-12′ tall some were only 4′ with only one or 2 blooms. These plants are supposed to be 2-3 feet tall will sprays of blooms. So that was bad.
Awesome. I think listeners are going to enjoy hearing about your trials be really inspired because you two are both so positive and they are going to see that even if something goes wrong it’s going to happen we’re just gonna go with it. I was saying diversity, having a diverse farm, and choices and trial and error.
That’s really the key, you just have to go into every year assuming something is going to not work and it could be part of the cold or the heat or the dry what ever it is. And some plants do better, as an example, as we talked about the scented geraniums this year were fantastic, and next year maybe not so much. We just kind of realized having the diversity of things is really important! But you can’t be so diverse that you spread too thin.
Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.
The easiest and most successful thing we grow is dianthus. From the over winter, old fashioned sweet William
summer amazon series
They are hardworking and take a lot of abuse, pretty much every time we can get those into the ground
slugs like them a little battle with the slugs
beautiful blooms and pretty consistently and our designers and florists just love to work with them.
Do you want to say anything about working with designers and florists and how that’s a little bit different then working with farmer’s markets and CSA and what they’re looking for. I know you said at the beginning, at farmer’s markets they’ re looking for those big bright blooms for only like that day.
how we’er growing now for designers and florists kind of have to straddle 2 different kins of groups
Traditional florists, the brick and mortar kind that have a shop, they are discovering the wonderfulness of local flowers, the particular ones we have have been in business for a long time, they are open and excited about using local flowers but they have a standard of what they are used to working with, they have certain standards and styles of things.
When I go and meet with them they kind of give me the idea of the types of flowers and types of colors that they are wanting to see. When dealing with them you need to be extremely consistent with them. They want to be able to count on you, that you say you show and what your gonna provide and your going to show up on whatever day you establish is going to be delivery day, one thing they say they really admire about us is that we stand behind your product
that’s been one of the thing they’ve told us, one of the thing they admire, is because flowers are a natural thing
meticulously looking over things for the highest of quality sometimes things get by us that we didn’t realize that something might not be looking so great or whatever, so they feel very comfortable with us
more then happy if something didn’t work for them
to tell us let us know so we will stand behind the product altho they get something else
that will work for them
something they will not be purchasing and that we might want to look somewhere else on a different type of flower so we know what to grow and what not to grow
designers who are for event work, and those are independent type gals who work out of their own personal studios and they do mostly events, like weddings, engagements, and corporate events and stuff like that. They are more interested in the unusual, the different, and anything that doesn’t look like it came from a farmers market. They are interested in colors that for weddings,
blushes and the whites and the salmons. We also have to be looking once and a while they want something different and unusual and something sets their designs apart. Kind of fun and challenging to straddle both sides.
Those were great tips and if listeners are looking to grow flowers. Consistency is big as my husband and I are trying to figure out what we are trying to do. I don’t think I could handle the consistency part, I don’t even think I could handle being a CSA member, I’m just little too much of an independent, fly by night seat of my pants girl.
Some type of flower you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.
Season extension is a whole new learned art. Once the days get shorter and the temps on the cold size. Our recommendations, especially if you are going to start in the flower business, is focus on the best part of your growing season first. Start with good selection of annuals
targets are florists
get your feet wet
you understand the dynamic of your farm
every farm is like a snowflake, just enough for everything to be a little different
good friends on the other side of the valley, this year we couldn’t grow a dahlia, but they did fantastic! And it’s just difference of being 20 miles away
getting to understand your micro climate, your soils, your customers, don’t go overboard and invest in equipment until you figure.
I love the whole piece of working together and the abundance mindset, getting to know your customers. My big experiement this year was to grow like 750 sunflowers, and I harvested like 3 boquets, the birds loved them. I didn’t even get enough to feed our birds. IDK if Im ever gonna get enough to feed the birds at our place. My husband grows the vegetables.
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
Denise: For me it’s washing buckets, because we deliver all of our flowers in water in buckets.
buckets pile up every week. That’s one of my jobs is washing the buckets, not fun.
Can I just ask, do you put anything in the water, just bleach in?
Just a smudge of bleach in them to make sure they are all nice and clean. Clean water and buckets are key for picking flowers. Some flowers make the water dirty and so it’s always nice to start with clean clippers, clean buckets, good nice clean water in it. It’s not a fun job, you end up feeling like your getting wetter then the buckets are, I wash them in the sink, and dry them on a rack, it’s just one of the jobs you have to do.
I meant when you cut the bouquets do you put like sugar or anything?
There are requirements for post harvest treatment, the are all very different.
Some flowers are what they call dirty flowers, first thing they do when you cut them
flush awhile bunch of things
slow release chlorine tablets, kill of the bacteria while the stems are adjusting and equalizing them selves. The thing that cuts life short on the flower
bottom of the stem gets blocked
lot of flowers don’t need extra sugar, they just need clean water. We’re not on the post harvest side, because of the requirements of our customers, we do use some of the professional hydrating solutions and those chlorine tablets. A lot of times flowers are just great in water. Dianthus is a great example of that. But tulips although is an example perform better using a specialized bulb food.
need the chlorine but don’t necessarily need a food
scented geranium do better when they get a 24 hour treatment fancy way of saying keeps ends of stems and helps with uptake of water. So, most cases for us, we don’t use terrible much of it. There are some things we need to do because of customer requirements.
A lot of it is also the timing of when you pick the flower, for example with the scented geraniums we like to pick them as close to the point of delivery as possible
fresh as possible
gets in the hands of the designer and the customer gets to spend the most time with the flower. Sometimes with the scented geranium we need to cut them 24 hours before we’re going to deliver them
time in a nice cool
They just need that time to go in there cool down and rest and rehydrate, themselves so they will be plump and lush and not wilt,
time of day,
Say in July you cut it in the morning before 9 am and get in the cooler right way it’s fine, it will be nice and standing up straight and all that. But if you cut it between 9am-8pm looking at 36 hours of changing the water before they finally perk back up.
time of year, get to cutting them to Sept-Oct you can cut them any time of day and it doesn’t matter, they will stand straight up, maturity of the plant. Different times of year they will build more proteins and carbohydrates.
plant grown fast has more carbs then protein and tend to wilt, they can also be more sensitive to temp
after part of season and they are toughening themselves up they tend to have more celulose and proteins in them.
Do do you grow sunflowers? My problem when I put them in the vase they lasted like 3 days.
Because they have hairy stems, they harbor a lot of bacteria, and put them on plain water. This is also the mistake when you cut them. Most people wait till the petals wide open
maybe the center looks a little hairy and the bees are looking at it. it’s too late
best time to cut it is just when they are just opening.
just lifting off the center of the flower
Is to grow pollenless sunflowers, another good tip. Cut them right at that point
just beginning to open, put them in water
eye dropper, 4-5 drops of bleach in vase water you’ll get a good two weeks
We have made the mistake putting them in back of the cooler meaning to get some sunflowers should have pitched or down something, left in the back of the cooler and they’ll be find. We don’t recommend, you’re not supposed to do that. We brought them in the house, and they lasted
Another mistake people make is they don’t strip leaves off
leaves suck that water
The only one you want to leave is the very tiny top one right below the bloom, typically a small one, leaves will cause the plant to wilt.
Nice you guys are just full of information.
TONY: It would be scraping snow off of my tunnels.
I don’t mind weeding when they get to the cotyledon stage, but sometimes bad things happen and you go back and say Oh darn I should have done that sooner and when your on hands and knees when you shouldn’t have to be. I would say realistically when things are going really right that’s when you’re feeling really good!
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?
Harvest is kind of one of the key times for us. Top of the peak and all the work that you’ve done and you’ve created something really cool and you’re getting git into the nah
like to me
Me too and then I like to paint the flowers!
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
We got this from a friend who is an organic blueberry grower in the valley, one of the things that really opened my eyes is balancing the minerals in your soil. Depending on where you are, there’s an optimum balance. He raises blueberries that are incredibly sweet nutrient dense, and he has very little insect and disease problem on his place
soils that we have around here
low in calcium
balance your minerals in your soil and your calcium and balance your magnesium.
Really helped us understand soil ecology better.
AWESOME! I’ve had a lot of people say soil is so important.
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
I’d take a broad fork the reason is it gets down and loosens up the soil 12 inches or so which is excellent for the plants. WE are no till, meaning if we use tillage it’s very rarely any more. Our objective is to keep the soil biologically, not going through the process of running it through the process of running it through a rototiller or plow. Everything we raise is on permanent beds, that’s a key to making everything work.
Denise: Soil blockers. Allows me so much flexibility of what I can grow.
Im gonna try those this year.
A favorite internet resource?
Key one is our association of specialty cut flower growers
been a member since 2005
just a flowers grower greatest investment to become a member
info though the publications
bulletin boards and community is super. I also get a lot of information off the Flower Farmers on Facebook. I try and work and help provide with what I know works and also plane and
Lots of seed companies have great notes and stuff, it’s just read and read as much as you can.
This is also more form a tool standpoint its a website called farm hack.
that’s where a lot of innovative younger growers share tools and things they have done on their own farms. Sometimes we can find some cool things, particularly in hoop house design, things of that nature.
Nice I’m gonna have to go there right away?
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
In terms of books espceicially for new growers in terms of soil, Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon who founded Territorial Seed but then moved to tasmania. It’s really a great resource for understanding the minerals
written like a biochemist
understand the nature of what’s going on
small vegetable grower to their own food
The other book would be the The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work recently was released from Ben Hartman.
implementing management practices that really focus on eliminating waste on your farm.
Jean Martin Fortier wrote theThe Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming. He’s a young guy who developed a really good system about hoe to grow rotate crops, kind of more into veggie but, there’s a lot of things that are useful in that.
We follow a lot of blogs. The purple pitchfork.
Really?! I’m gonna have that guy on, he’s in my podcasting group! And this lady Joyce Pinson form Friends Drift Inn in Kentucky recommended that and I bought that book for my husband that’s good book like you said!
If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
Tony: From my perspective, we’re flower oriented, one of the biggest things is just trying to expand people’s awareness about buying local. Food has become more
people problems that have gone on in the profit sector,
What we hope is to start to develop the same passion, if you are putting flowers on your table things flowers, if you understood the chemicals that flowers go through to get from South America.
Denise: Not to mention the carbon footprint
next thing would be for a green world, you know the average farmer is like us, aging so it’s very exciting for us is to see a lot of young people in their 20s and 30s moving into food or flowers, or both, either animal raising and things of that nature. We think what would make a better world is if local ag could get away from the model you don’t have to be big to be successful. If you do it right it can be done. If more of that message can get out I think that will help tremendously.
Denise did you want to add anything or did you come up with that together?
Denise: I’m very flower oriented, so it’s buying local for me
try to buy from your local farmers market
seek out the florists and designers who work with local flowers
support the local
or at the state level. Finally, buy American, please don’t ship things in from overseas. Support local people, local farms, that are growing your food, your farms, your eggs, whatever, support the people in your own neighborhood.
That’s one of my husbands pet peeves and why he wants to grow a lot of our food. I had this woman, Kate Sparks, from Lilies and Lavender who talked about all the huge pesticides they have to put on flowers even if they are grown organically. I have to mention, I grew up on Long Island, and when you go into NYC, there’s a lot of markets on every corner of flowers, there are tons of flowers on every corner, you don’t walk very far without seeing flowers. And I think that would be a great.
That’s the mindset, they are not a luxury.
One of my questions is about how to deal with down time during the winter?
That’s part of the reason we have invested the time and energy for season extension
our down time was only 8 weeks, things we can do that might even bridge that env more
sell fifty weeks for the year take 2 weeks off
even when were’e not selling
That’s one aspect about having a passion you better be excited about doing ..
They say that about podcasting too! If you’re not doing it because you love it and have to put your show out.
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
Denise: “When the world says give up, hope whispers try it one more time.”
It’s a little different, and it goes along with what we were talking about. This comes from Masanobu Fukuoka in his book
“If humanity can regain it’s original kinship with nature, we should be able to live with peace and abundance.”
If minor farms and younger people can get that relationship back
resilient world instead to the lowest price so to speak.
Absolutely and I love those Millennials.
How do we connect with you?
Good for you guys, I try to keep up with social media, but it’s hard! I really want to encourage listeners to check out your website it’s just full of beautiful pictures!