The Lazy Flower Farmer
THE LAZY FLOWER FARMER
I have a confession to make.
We've gotten lazy.
The past few years, we’ve spent all season running around like a madman, dashing from row to row, hoeing through the weeds as if there’s a fire somewhere, and generally being in a state of exhaustion.
After this past year, where we did both floral shop sales and floral design for wedding and events, we hit our wall - physically, emotionally, mentally. Can you relate?
We made the decision this year (for our business AND our marriage!) to be much more relaxed as far as our operation goes, because life was too stressful and wasn't getting us great results.
We have become lazy flower farmers.
That’s not to say we’re slacking at all. In fact, we aim to be much more successful and sell MORE flowers than previous years.
But after a discussion of where we feel like we spin our wheels all season for a mediocre success, we’ve changed gears and shifted our paths to where we can have a bit more relaxed approach to growing.
Here’s what we’re doing
1. DROP THE SOIL BLOCKING
Don’t get me wrong, soil blocks are great. They’re especially awesome in the spring with stuff like ammi and poppies that hate transplanting, and they’re easy to cram into a small area for seed starting.
On the other hand, I’ve found that in the heat of summer, soil blocks dry out here in a matter of hours. Yes, I can keep watering them, but I find that the plugs produced from small trays (like 128’s) are much easier to keep watered and have pretty much the same result.
Again, don't get me wrong - soil blocks are excellent, but they just aren't working for us. I mean, I kind of feel like I've let Lisa Mason Ziegler down personally, but as always - you have to find out what works best for you and stick with it.
2. DIRECT SOWING AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Now that we’re able to flood irrigate, it’s much easier to direct sow things and have them germinate (previously, I was having issues keeping things moist enough to germinate). While with soil blocks I had to dig and transplant and then water in, direct seeding is so much easier. Drop the seed, tamp them in with my feet, then walk away.
Granted, there are a lot of things that I won’t direct seed due to the prohibitive expense of seed, which leads me to the next point...
3. GOING BACK TO BASIC FLOWERS
Mixed strawflowers aren’t the most pretty in the world - there’s a lot of red and yellow that isn’t exactly en vogue with the flower farming and floral design world - but the seed is cheap and I can direct sow them readily.
In the same sense, I’d love to be able to direct sow Queen series zinnias by the thousands, but that’s also cost prohibitive - so a small patch of Queen series zinnias will do, with supplementation of Oklahoma and Lilliput mix zinnias to make up the majority of zinnia sales.
I was finding that growing the finicky, picky, expensive stuff was getting to be such a pain in the tuckus that it wasn’t worth it anymore. For example, I babied a tray of Zinderella zinnias for months before transplanting, and it just isn’t worth it.
Better to grow a lot of basic, dependable, sturdy items that grow easily as opposed to growing so many of the time-intensive, fussy items.
We are however, better able to do this because of my next point:
4. DIVERSIFYING MARKETS
Back in the day when we first started, we wanted to sell at farmer’s markets. That didn’t pan out, and we’re so glad because we were able to sell to florists (which was far more efficient and lucrative). But there’s been a couple shifts in the market even in the past couple years which has led us to rethink things.
First of all, we now have a retail space where we can sell bouquets - a real, physical, brick and mortar location. Whereas previously we would have had to actually get in contact with a customer and deliver flowers to them, we can passively stock bouquets and bunches at our retail location and walk away from them. It’s a great setup, and one that I think we’ll see more flower farmers will have the opportunity to participate in the future.
Secondly, while we loved selling to florists, as I mentioned a lot of the things that we were growing were very finicky and a pain in the tuckus to grow. White and light colored flowers would get attacked by insects, things like Cherry Caramel Phlox and Colibri poppies required a very high investment, and generally the fancier fluffier flowers required a lot of tending.
Zinnias aren’t necessarily fancy, but they are easy to start, easy to grow, and are massively productive, and have a wide appeal. And if you sort them by colors and shape into bunches, they can sell just fine to floral designers and retail customers alike.
5. MORE VALUE-ADDED PRODUCTS
With flowers, there is a ceiling as far as what you can grow and sell with a smaller operation. You can either really scale up to produce and sell a lot of volume, or you can also batten down on your niche - which is what we did.
While we still have income through fresh floral sales and a bit of design work, we have found with the retail space the ability to market a bit differently. Steven is teaching design workshops this year, and we are also looking to distribute our reach in other places including home and gardening.
We did realize we only really have flowers during four to five months of the year, and it usually takes a while for interest to ramp up again the following year, so finding a more consistent long-term approach to business was important for us. Whether adding in workshop sales, saving dried materials, or winter/off-season workshops, we are finding ways to expand the business throughout the year.
So I hope you find it in you to be a lazy flower farmer - or at least taking a more relaxed approach to it. I encourage it!