Week #5 – January 31, 2016
Here in New Jersey we had some real weather last weekend. Winter storm “Jonas” hit us early last Saturday morning and lasted throughout the entire day. In our part of northwestern NJ we got roughly 24 inches of snow in less than 24 hours. It was a pretty amazing day to witness. We are glad to have the snow to play in and it gave our new puppy Buttercup her first real snow experience. Needless to say, she loved it.
During the storm we were all snuggled up in our warm home and we never lost power even though some of the winds were gusting up to 40 mph. We had a pot of chili on the stove and fresh homemade bread in the oven as we watched the snow build up all day, slowly and steadily.
Just outside our kitchen window our bird feeder was very busy despite the rough weather. It is filled with sunflower seeds and we had many, many visitors that day including the woodpeckers who come up the pole and pick the seeds out from the bottom of the feeder. As you can tell from the picture, it was a light and fluffy snow but it somehow managed to stick to the feeder for a record 18″ until one of the boys felt the urge to go ouside and knock it all off.
I have attached some other winter photos from the week for a sneak peak into “life on the farm.”
Week #3 – January 22
The seeds are here!
As we settle in for the first real snowstorm of 2016 this weekend, I will be happily organizing my seed order, which just arrived in the mail. (Don’t let that little box fool you by the way… there are thousands and thousands of seeds in that little box and it cost me several hundred dollars!)
Organizing the seeds is really a matter of preference. I used to store them alphabetically but now I store them according to when they should be planted. The first seeds I will plant will be the flowers that take the longest to bloom like verbena bonariensis and dianthus as well as the flowers that like the colder weather and can be planted out early like snapdragons, delphinium and ammi.
I use an organic soilless mix that is light and fluffy – seeds do not like regular potting soil and often will rot in that growing medium.
Another critical item that we use to start seeds are heated mats that go under the flats of seedlings to keep them warm. Many times the big box stores do not carry this item and it is really essential to get things growing. (I was surprised when even the employees at these stores had never even heard of them?!?!) The two things that seeds need in order to germinate are heat and moisture – not light! The light is essential after the seed germinates and sends up its first leaves, but prior to that it is just heat and moisture. (Think about April showers and the seeds laying under the leaves in your garden after the temperatures warm up) You can usually find this item on line or with a reputable seed company. Google “heat mats,” and you will be sure to find it.
So, after we shovel ourselves out I will be setting up the grow lights and tables to transform my entire dining room into a greenhouse. (Since I only use that room once or twice a year, I am happy to get some use out of it!) We made a video this time last year that really demonstrates how we start our seeds. Take a peak on this winter weekend while you are stuck inside.
Week 2 – January 15, 2016
My winter work these days consists mainly of office work, updating the website, ordering seeds and supplies and planning out our “season” (which is really three seasons!). I am also in the process of gathering and organizing photos from the photographers from last season to update my portfolio which I use to show brides during consultations. I just got these photos in from a wedding we did last June in Sparta, NJ at the SkyView Golf Club. The photographer’s name is Sydney Morgan.
This wedding is an example of an “A La Carte” wedding, which means that the wedding party can choose to have some things made by me and they can make some arrangements themselves. In this case, (and with most “a la carte” weddings we do) we made all of the bouquets, the flower halo, boutonnieres and corsages, while the wedding party made the centerpeices themselves with flowers purchased in bulk from us. I think they did a great job and they were able to stay within their budget.
It was a lovely wedding despite the rain. So here is a little taste of June on this cold January day….
Week 1, 2016
Welcome to the new year!
It is finally starting to feel a little bit like winter is here with our first day below freezing at 3 weeks into the season. Hopefully this will not do too much damage to the garlic plants that started to sprout up in the field and the plants in the hoop house that were growing in there like it was spring. One of the first things I learned as a farmer was that every year was a “crazy year” for weather. It seems every year has it anomalies.
The beehives have also been checked since the nice weather had them all flying around outside the hive in December, which is a strange site indeed. If the weather is nice for a sustained period then the queen starts laying eggs and the bees start “working” like it is spring and then end up eating all of their honey reserves. Luckily only one hive out of four seemed to have a food shortage and so we have started to supplement their honey with sugar syrup.
Buttercup, our new farm collie is doing well. She just turned six months old and made it through the gauntlet of family holiday parties. She did great with all the people and had great manners overall but we have noticed that she is a bit fearful of other dogs. I have noticed since she was quite small that her reaction is to bark at them and step back first, and then, reluctantly, she will say hello. I will have to work with her on this since we have visitors to the farm often and I don’t want this fearful behavior to carry over in any way. Our former farm collie and dog extraordinaire, Daisy, had so much confidence that I thought this puppy would have it built in since she was Daisy’s niece. And while I would not call Buttercup a withering flower (pardon the pun!), she could use a little boost for sure.
Finally, while things are a bit slower here on the farm during the winter months, things are really hopping in the world of love! The winter holidays are when many young couples get engaged and thus start down the road of planning their wedding. So these days we are fielding inquiries about our floral services and meeting with bridal parties to discuss all things floral for their special day. Our calendar is filling up faster than it ever has before so that is pretty exciting for us. Looks like 2016 is going to be busy, that’s for sure!
No sooner does the box of holiday decorations make it back into the closet that the seed trays come out. Or so it seems.
Each year, Patti starts thousands of seeds. No kidding. The process is part science, part artwork, part luck. So many things can go wrong, which makes “attentiveness” the most critical component of raising flowers from seed. You have to pay close attention to the soil, the lighting, the heat, and moisture. And then there are the field mice who consider tasty green sprouts quite a delicacy!
When most people think of starting seeds, they think spring, but here on the farm seeding is actually a weekly activity that takes place right up until the end of July for cultivating this year’s flowers. Seeding actually continues right into the fall for next year’s flowers.
We currently grow more than 60 varieties of flowers, many of which are unique and not the kind that can be shipped in the cargo hold of a plane. Flowers such as cosmos, zinnia, allium, celosia, nigella, poppies and ammi are just a few examples of beautiful, locally grown flowers that look amazing in wedding bouquets (see our flower photos). These flowers are quite delicate and have a hard time making the overseas trip.
When growing a variety of unique specimens, finding the right seeds can be a bit of a challenge. We tend to depend upon commercial outfits such as Geo Seed and Johnny’s Selected Seeds for sourcing, however, seeds may actually be available through your local library, which may have a seed library, or your local garden club.
Remember, it may sound counter intuitive but, seeds are not ubiquitous and are not always available. Suppliers can run out of certain stocks during the year. It helps to order ahead. The best time to order seeds for a flower you love is right after it has finished flowering. In that way you remember the colors you liked, how many you needed, and if you want to try a new variety for next year.
If you are interested in learning a great deal more about seeds and, for that matter, everything a flower farmer needs to know, consider joining us for one of our full-day workshops this summer. These are “boots required” events for budding flower farmers and serious garden enthusiasts. Learn more on our workshops page.
Before we sign off, I’d like to thank Lucas of TYDΛLFORCE for providing the original soundtrack to our video above. Just like our flowers, that song was home grown.