Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals
Organic Flower Farming
by Lynn Byczynski
Larkspur and tall varieties of ageratum make lovely cut flowers
When I first thought about quitting my city job for life on a small farm, I didn't plan to become a flower farmer. I wanted to be an herb grower. For a time, I did grow herbs for upscale restaurants. But then I put in a few rows of zinnias to sell at a farmers' market, and was surprised at how well they sold. The next year, I grew a dozen kinds of flowers to make into mixed bouquets and was again impressed with the demand. I discovered that, acre for acre, flowers were more profitable than produce. My husband and I still grow vegetables, but flowers have become an important part of our market garden.
As our business has expanded, my interest in growing flowers has grown. The colors, fragrances, forms, and movement of flowers are endlessly intriguing. I take pleasure in almost every aspect of growing flowers, from winter's work of studying catalogs and choosing new flowers to plant, to summer's work of harvesting, bouquet-making, and selling. Even after a decade of growing flowers, I still feel a thrill when my customers exclaim over the beauty of my flowers.
As you begin your journey into flower gardening, you should determine whether you want to grow enough flowers to keep your house full of bouquets all summer long, to raise flowers for dried arrangements to sell, or to quit your present job and become a full-time flower farmer. Then narrow your selection to plants that best meet your needs.
Request catalogs from several seed companies.
Why Organic Flowers?
People who understand the importance of growing food organically often wonder why I use organic practices for flowers. After all, you don't usually put flowers in your mouth, so what difference does it make?
For one thing, the most successful family farms over the last several years are organic market gardens, in which a wide array of crops are grown and sold locally. The "organic" label is an added attraction for many customers.
Also, many of the flowers sold by florists and supermarket floral departments have been imported from other countries where the pesticide regulations may not be as stringent as they are in the United States and Canada. Residues of these chemicals can still be on the flowers when you buy them.
Choosing the Best Cutting-Garden Site
Flowers have the same requirements as vegetables. Most need full sun and fertile, well-drained sandy loam with a neutral pH and abundant organic matter.
Before you plant, determine how you'll get the water to your garden. You might have to lay a pipe below the frost line and install a new faucet by the garden, or haul a hose, which is hard work. Installing an irrigation system could be a big labor-saver.