Friday, March 11, 2022

E - I - E - I - Whoa

Dahlias: First year seedlings, 2021

Last Spring, I talked very briefly about the Floret Flower Farm Workshop I joined; I wanted to share so much more throughout the year than I was able to.  Taking a crack at becoming a flower micro-farm started out okay enough ... The first 6 weeks of the year were dedicated to the class itself, garden-planning, and ordering.  The first two parts were great!  The ordering, however, was a little frustrating simply because stock started running out by the time the planning sections of the workshop wrapped up, so by the time I was ready to buy, and thought I knew what I was doing, almost everything I wanted was already sold out.  

 Back to the drawing board.  

By the time I had my shopping list worked out, lemme tell ya, it was slim pickin's out there, but by virtue of me being a renter, things actually turned out.  Because I was growing on such a small scale compared to what most home gardeners are able to pull off, I really didn't need to buy much.  If I owned the joint, you'd better believe I'd have rototilled the entire back yard, and put in a sea of flowers, and I would've completely drowned in them!  As it happened, I ended up using two of my 4' x 8' raised beds I'd previously used for growing my veggies.  It sounds absolutely minuscule, and it was, but in those two beds I was actually able to fit, like, 35 plants (I have the official count around here somewhere, but that notebook and I are on a break for a while).  I shudder to think how many plants I would've tried to cram onto the property if I hadn't resigned myself to just those two boxes.  Looking back on it now, those restrictions were actually quite a lifesaver, and gave me more freedom than I expected I'd need.  I think when most folks see a small space, they only think about what they can't do (that's what I did at least!)  but, the truth is with small plots you're a lot less likely to find yourself chained to them, or burning out in your very first season.  They're still a lot of work, but easily manageable while you navigate the growing season, and all of the surprises awaiting you.  

For instance, accidentally introducing spider mites to your garden!

Before last Summer, I did not know that spider mites were attracted to bean vines, so sprinkling my purple beans through the sweet peas (I also don't intend to grow ever again as a cut flower) to spiral and curl up the trellises I have between each of my raised garden beds turned out to be a terrible idea!  If you look closely at the photo above, you can see leaves beginning to yellow in the top right part of the picture ... Spider mites.  They arrived pretty late in the season, and it probably would've have been a catastrophe or anything, except that I was growing my dahlias out for seed last year, and those little dudes LOVE to devour spent dahlia heads, so I had to get a little jump start on my Fall clean-up, and take everything out that looked even remotely suspicious, and while I did hate to tear so many things out mid-season, I was actually thankful come Fall when the temperatures started to drop.  Another lesson learned: Wrap up the growing season, and clean everything up by mid November, because I am seriously not trying to spend copious amounts of time outside from December through February in the PNW.  I thought I was made of tougher stuff, but as of right now, that's a big "nope!"  I think it would be a lot different if I had a garage, or greenhouse, or something, but as things currently are, my protected outdoor spaces consist of a soggy back porch, and an ancient tool shed that always appears to be a moment away from sliding off whatever foundation is pretending to be under it, so when the weather starts to turn I don't have much of a workspace left to utilize.  It's not like I'm afraid of hard work, but if I can simply adjust my timeline by a few days, and have a much more enjoyable experience overall, I think that's worth it.  

Let's see ... What other challenges did I run into?  Oh!  Once I finally got all of my orders in for plants and supplies, absolutely nothing arrived when, or how it was supposed to.  Like, not a single thing.  A shipment of plants came too early, and a shipment of containers came too late.  When the containers arrived they were the wrong ones, and instead of an exchange the company just sent MORE containers ... Which, "Yay containers!" I guess, but now I'm swimming in containers, and I feel like I need containers for my containers!  I never thought I'd hear myself say these words, but there are times when there really can be too much of a good thing, and this last year was a real test for me.  Between COVID delays, and shipping errors, and trying to rehabilitate plants that showed up 1/2 dead in the house along with all of the seed starts before being able to put everything out once the last frost passed ... Whew, lets just say any Grey Gardens jokes would not have been out of place.  What else happened?  I strayed from some of my tried and true plant suppliers, and went for some highly recommended garden centers, and had my credit card stolen twice in four months, there was a big ol' letter that went out, and something like half the damn company was fired for one reason or another, which reminds me...

[Side Story] Whoever was enrolled at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois last year, and then tried my card again at the beginning of this semester, I hope you found a way to pay for your books!  Preferably a way that didn't rip anyone off.  No judgement.  I know it's expensive out there, but if you ever come across this blog, real talk Babe, don't mess up your life before it even gets started.  Do you really want to go to jail for fraud, and theft, and whatever the hell else?  Unless you're too smart to get caught, in which case you're too smart to be doing it in the first place, so knock it off already!  I had a friend in the dorms who got a pretty good gig working for the FBI, or was it with?  Well, it was with during his probation, but I think it led to a pretty good "consulting" job later on.  Anyway, he made excellent fake IDs, and the only reason he got caught was because we went to a school that was plunked down right in the middle of a town of about 3,000 people, and all of the new students were showing up at the grocery, convenience, and liquor stores with drivers licenses out of New Jersey (back in the olden days when IDs were laminated and had the gold foil, and junk), anyway it was pretty obvious something was up when bunch of baby-faced "21 year olds" showed up all at the same college in the middle of nowhere's-ville in Washington State.  So, the moral of the story here is be more discreet ... Wait!  No.  The lesson is, it's only a victimless crime if you're stealing from really, really rich people ... No!  Damn it that's not it either ... Or is it?  Look, just try not to steal.  Don't make things harder, or more complicated in your life than they need to be.  I get it.  I've been there.  I've got the loans.  I scrubbed the toilets, and more than once I checked my text books out from the library because I was too broke to buy them.  I'm not saying that because I had it hard, the youngsters coming up should suffer too, I just mean get on board and do something about it; vote for people who want free, or low cost education, and people who will stand up to predatory lenders.  Roll your sleeves up, and get involved!  If you're just a kid trying to make it through school, I admire your tenacity as you keep checking my card to see if it'll work again.  If you're also the person who tried to buy appliances, electronics, and nearly $5,000 worth of Gucci apparel on the same card, well, in that case I totally hate your guts, but your audacity is impressive, and I can at least assume you've got good taste!  

I think we should meet up one day, and grab a drink. Your treat. 

Other than those minor mis-adventures, the season was pretty uneventful.  There were the roses that kept trying to die, and the rose season that didn't happen, thanks to back-to-back extreme heat conditions, and smoke from wildfires that struck right at the moment when rose bushes are just about to put on their best show, and then pffft, shrinking the season to about a week and a half.  I'll have to fill you in on that with a whole other post.  The good news is, I wasn't growing for market, or bouquets, so I didn't have crushing deadlines, or anything like that to worry about.  It was mostly a year of note taking, recording, categorizing, and studying more than anything else.  I wish I'd been able to get a few more glamor shots of the plants themselves, or even the arrangements I was able to make, but growing the dahlias from seed meant that I had no way of knowing what was going to come up, and the majority of my time went to recording, and labeling, tagging, and keeping everything in order, instead of the "vision" I had for what flower farming was going to be, which was me frolicking in influencer-worthy summer dresses with armloads of blooms cascading everywhere, whilst snapping away at instantly instagram-able vignettes - hey, an unrealistic goal I can chase for this year!

Until next time, take care of yourselves out there!