It’s still winter but we are already thinking about our flower farming!! Here in CT we have had a long cold winter. At the end of January they forecasted us for up to 20 inches of snow, and that was about what happened. Our whole region was shut down for about a day to let snow plows get to work on cleaning up the roads, and luckily the snow that came down was light and fluffy and non-damaging, so no harm done. But now, it’s the end of February and that snow is still hanging around! We have gotten several more snow storms and have not seen the ground without snow on it in about a month. Even with all that going on, it is finally time for us to start a few seeds but more importantly to plan for our flower farming season.
We have hundreds and hundreds of packets of seeds in storage which we spent an evening going through, picking out varieties that we would want to try this year, or ones that we were going to put off for another year. We separated these varieties into what we wanted to grow for ourselves, and what we wanted to grow for the seedling sale that we do every year.
The way we organized ourselves was by starting an excel spread sheet. We gathered the planting information either off the internet or off the back of the seed packets. For the most part this information is presented in weeks from last frost. So if you are at home wondering when it is appropriate to start seeds, you need to know your last frost date. For the most part this can be figured by typing either your zip code or your nearest city into google along with “last frost.” Once you have all this information down just count backwards on a calendar and mark that date down as to when to start your seeds! One thing that is important to remember is your last frost date will be an estimation based on averages of past years. So when your last frost date is approaching make sure you keep a close eye on your 10 day weather forecast the last thing you want to do is have seedlings you have been babying inside for 6 weeks and set them out the day before a cold snap and lose them all to an unfortunate late frost.
Some of the seeds we grow for or flower farm don’t need to be started ahead of time and that can be a blessing. Zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers can all be huge work horses for any flower farm that can be direct sown right into the ground after danger of frost has passed. For starting up it might make sense to focus on these because then you can save a ton of money not investing in grow lights, potting soil, and plastic or compostable seed starting trays.
The earliest varieties of seeds which we needed to start were salvia “fairy queen” and heliopsis “burning hearts”
Fairy queen salvia is an annual that is late blooming and attracts butterflies and other pollinators. The flower spikes are blue and white and up to 10 inches in length.
heliopsis “burning hearts” has bright yellow petals that fade into deep orange centers. The bright flowers are offset by a darker almost purple foliage. These flowers also attract pollinators and are hardy in US growing zones 3-9 so it will be fun to have these flowers to keep year after year.
This is just the start of our long list of flower adventures to come. On spread sheet night we listed out about 40 cut flowers. We will see how much of that we can get growing successfully but it will be an exciting and colorful summer this year on Old Redding Farm!