I know it's summer for sure because it is simply too hot to stay outside all day. I've been in and out since sun-up taking breaks from the heat and decided to sit down and write a blog post. It's been forever since I wrote. We've just been so busy. (This sat as a draft until December and I'm finally posting it.)
What have we been up to?
Tulips flowered all through the winter beginning in late December and continuing on through early May. We grew an enormous number of tulips and enjoyed every one of them. We are committed to providing specialty tulips throughout the winter to florists, designers and CSA members and will continue to grow next winter. I've had a draft about tulips sitting for months and can't seem to finish it. Hopefully I'll get it done soon. (Just finished this post, too.)
Our CSA Flower Subscription bouquets were available this winter and spring from February through May. We had two pick-up sites this year, one at the farm and one in downtown Frederick, which was new. (We'd sure love to find pick-up site in Boonsboro or Hagerstown, but have been unable to find a location.) We are on a short summer holiday from CSA bouquets, but hope to resume later in the summer, time permitting.
Flower Subscriptions ready for pick-up at Cool Hollow Flower Farm
We started a Flower Collective in April with four other farmers to conveniently bring local flowers to our region on a wholesale basis. It's called Rock & River Flower Collective and we deliver throughout Maryland, DC, southeastern PA and northern Virginia. We are always looking for more florists and designers who love to work with local flowers--if you are interested please email email@example.com and ask to be on our email list. (We will need a picture or pdf of your sales tax exemption certificate.) We are a wholesale only group and sell to florists and designers. It's been exciting to see the growing interest in locally grown and we have been busy since we opened our online shop. Emails go out on Mondays and flowers are delivered on Wednesday the following week, during the growing season.
Rock & River Flower Collective orders ready for delivery
This June I took a little time to visit two farms in Virginia. We are members of the American Specialty Cut Flower Association and they hosted tours of farms in this area. I attended one in Charlottesville, VA which was geared toward farms who are in collectives. It was so helpful to talk to other farmers doing the same thing, and I got to connect with another new collective which also began in Maryland this year--Chesapeake Flower Exchange. I've known some of their members since I started growing and am so glad they are providing yet another locally grown outlet for buyers. I love the cut flower farming world--there is a lot of congeniality and sense of community--together we make this movement go. The second tour was of Harmony Harvest Farm in Weyers Cave, VA. It's run by two sisters and their mom and was very inspiring! They are instagram stars and it was a lot of fun to meet them in real life. The tour was super well-attended and felt like a mini-ASCFG conference.
Laura, Cory and Sage from Rock & River Flower Collective at Harmony Harvest
As always, work continues to make the farm bigger and better. We are always working to improve our soil, attempting to master integrated pest management and generally to live well on this land. We got a second cooler built this winter, just in time for tulip growing, thanks to my husband who works full-time and then comes home and acts as my chief contractor. We could never do this without him!
That's the head contractor in front of the new cooler with one of his favorite helpers
Last winter we decided to try leaving all of our dahlia tubers in the ground. It worked fabulously and right now, at the end of June, we are harvesting our first round of flowers for sale. We've also seen the first Japanese beetles, so will cut down the dahlia plants as soon as the bug pressure is too strong to let them rebloom after the beetle season has passed in August. This was a mild winter, so leaving the plants in the ground worked well. It's a bit of a gamble, as a cold winter could mean disaster, but since there are more and more growers who are successfully doing this in this area, we feel confident to try it again.
Dahlias in front of the barn under shade cloth
Our hope was to have an Open Garden Day in the spring or early summer for all who have purchased from us. However, the weather has been so horrible that we were not able to do this. But we are still hoping that we will be able to invite those who have bought CSA bouquets from us sometime this season. Keep a look out for that if you are interested. (We were very sorry that this was never possible. The weather over the summer was unmercifully hot and dry--not really a year for a tour. Many weeks we couldn't believe we were able to continue to cut flowers with the persistent drought. Thank goodness for the extensive drip irrigation installed by the head contractor. ;)
As the 4th of July holiday approaches we are beginning to do some of our fall seeding for zinnias, cosmos, celosia, marigolds and other flowers that will take us through to the frost. Planting in the middle of the summer, and indeed quite late in the season is the most significant difference from when I was a home gardener. I never planted things this late in the season, but I wish I had, because the plants put in in mid-July are so fresh at the end of summer by comparison to those planted in May. It's a good way to freshen up a garden, although it can be hard to get the plants in July for home gardeners--you have to start them yourself from seed. This is mostly what we do, too, although we do also rely on greenhouses in the area who grow small plants for growers like us.
Amaranth harvested in fall from a July planting
Looking back now, in December, I would say this was our best year yet for late season flowers and it was due to the plants we put in in July and August. Our cosmos bloomed for several months and late sown amaranth graced weddings right up until we had a hard frost in early November.
Time to post and get this out of the drafts folder.