Winter wonderland or what do we do all day
With frosts and rain and snow here, people often assume that this is our quiet time and we as seasonal flower farmers don’t have to do much during the 3 months of winter. Well you are almost correct.
Yes we quite often do not have flowers to cut and sell, however there is still plenty to do in winter. I find myself torn apart by all the little niggly things that need to be completed but I either don’t want to do them or I really want to do them and other things get in my way.
At the end of May we planted all the bulbs in and made sure they are nice and comfy in their new beds. Lots of fertiliser went in and we recently put a whole load of straw on top of them. Then the plastic hoops went on top of Anemones bed as well as the mixed bed of tulips, daffodils, irises and so on. Hopefully this will extend the season for our blooms. Bulbs also went into pots in the plastic house and some are already showing first leaf which I am extremely excited about! We should see Frezias, Gladioli Nanus, Ranunculus and some Daffodils early this year.
The other small task I had to do was sowing early annuals like Larkspur, Stock and Dianthus. These babies went in last week into their seed trays and they are kept in the plastic house with frost cloth on top of them. Hopefully this year my early seed starting will work better than last year. Lessons learned!
Last thing that needed to be done in the plastic house was pruning of all the Chrysanthemums. Oh my gosh, they got way too tall and way too bendy to work this year. I have cut them all right down to ground level and now all the new shoots are coming through and getting ready for potential spring blooms. I am hoping I can get 2 harvests of them each year but this time I will be pinching them to avoid how tall they got this autumn. I am also going to conduct a small experiment where I will put a few of Chrysanthemums in pots and have them outside in summer and bring them back in just before first frosts. This in theory should slow the growth down and produce a more manageable plant to work with. This is one of my other jobs that I still need to do: potting up Chrysanthemums.
Now the fun part! We decided that enough is enough and weeds are too hard to work with! We are mulching the entire perimeter of the farm with a nice thick layer of mulch and we are mulching all the beds with perennial plants on them like Peony beds. This should help us out in spring and summer and supress the weeds a bit more, also mulch is a great feeder for plants with all the bark and wood breaking down slowly and releasing all the goodness into the soil.
I have mentioned before that we put straw down on top of our bulbs but this is not just to make them warm. We put Lucerne straw down on all the beds including empty ones to allow the straw to break down and release some goodness into the ground. We will be digging all the left over bits into the ground in spring just as we start planting seedlings out.
I am yet to prune my roses. I am waiting for 6 more roses to arrive and then I’ll spend a day on planting and pruning them. I can’t wait! I am hoping to have a good collection of roses in the next 2-3 years and just keep topping it up every year or so. It is just not a proper cottage garden without roses.
Another thing that I have not been doing (but my partner has) is marking out and creating new rows. As he is a builder and likes everything in straight lines he is in charge of making all the rows, and by that I mean ramming all the pegs in and installing wires to keep the plants in their rows. Also installing mesh for things like sweet peas and Hyacinth bean. This might seem like a quick kind of job but it does take time and effort to do this and without his help I’ll be quite disorganised and will just keep planting random things in random places. At the moment I have quite a professional looking farm (apart from all the weeds) thanks to all of his hard work.
And last but not least is planning. It is essential to get the balance right. I still have a full time job to go to all year round and farm has to take a back seat quite often, especially in spring as I work in horticulture and everything grows like crazy down here in spring. So a good plan in winter is essential to make sure you only do what you must do in spring. There should be no digging things over or weeding in spring. Just plant seedlings, turn irrigation on and keep harvesting spring crop. So in winter all these things need to be done or they need to be prevented. For example we are trying to get on top of weeds at the moment so in spring we don’t have to think about it. A good planning of where your crop goes is also essential. In my first year I tried to plant to a plan but my impulse buying of plants did not help and I had to move things around this year to make the space work. This winter I am making a plan and sticking to it! I am sure I will buy more plants then I need anyway but still at least I will know where to put them. A good plan will also help me next year as I can have a look at where each plant was growing and rotate crop for 2021/2022 year.
So yes winter is not as busy as crazy months of November-March but we are still doing all the farming things and trying to make our life as easy as possible for the summer months. I would like in the future to have a couple of heated plastic houses where I have winter crop like Antirrhinum, Anemones, Tulips and Carnations as well as greenery like Kale and Cineraria, but this is in the future. That way we will be an all year production and maybe I can do this full time!
For now, if you would like to still contact us and have a chat about your future event or anything else we can help you with, feel free to contact us and see what we can do. I am quite excited to say that we did have a few brides contact us for their future weddings and our florists are also starting to get a few bookings for weddings and events. Thank you very much to everyone who supports this industry and who enjoys our fresh flowers grown locally and with lots of love.