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The Crop Report Week 31 | The Plan

There is so much excitement on the farm as we begin the final elements of the FedEx tunnel upgrade! If you’re new around here, you may not know that flower farming is a seasonal business. Between mid-November and early March, there aren’t many blooms to be found in our fields or unheated high tunnel houses. This past spring, we were elated to find out we were chosen as a FedEx grant recipient with the mission of creating a temperature-controlled growing environment so that we could keep shipping our flowers around the US regardless of the season.  


The initial construction on Tunnel 1 happened quickly, but the installation of the heating system and electrical components were put on pause. As summer winds down, we are circling back to finish these details ahead of the first cold front that will take out our seasonal crops.


I have had a heated greenhouse on the farm before; it was actually the first house we ever built. The 10x20 structure proved to be too small after the first week, so we’ve exclusively used it to start our seedlings. Not long after sprouting, we boot the seeds to our field cooler, which is flipped during the off-season since we are sowing far more trays than the little greenhouse could hold.  


We have made it work with what we have and could afford, but always wished we had more warm space to grow mature crops. I have experimented with crates of lilies, daffodils, and large pots of buttons, but with limited room, we have had to abandon these projects to meet our needs for the season. This was frustrating as we had people who wanted flowers, and I wanted to grow them, but I just didn’t have the right environment.  


I’m excited to meet with the electrician to better understand our heating and cooling systems, which have a myriad of thermostats to control the two growing zones. I also can’t wait to tell him all the electrical outlets that I need in these houses! It will be nice to go through any of our 6 tunnels and have a place to plug in the radio or a near-dead cell phone. Another major bonus is that the electrical components will give us the ability to supplement lighting. I have acquired a healthy collection of commercial grow lights from closing businesses over the years and I know my husband would LOVE to see those cleared out of his space. With winter growing, it will be critical for our January and February blooming crops to get plenty of light.


The other big nut I’m cracking is how to actually grow in the winter in this new structure. I haven’t done it before, so it will be a learning year for us all. There will be increased pest and disease pressure and specific needs for each plant under these different conditions, but I can’t wait to figure it all out. I plan on trying to grow a small assortment of our earliest spring bloomers to flush from January on. We will be testing small groups of our heavy hitters: button flowers, blue plumeria, ranunculus, anemone, cerinthe, and others. But I’m not one to limit myself, so we are also trying some new things like freesia and ornithogalum. We might wear Carhartt overalls but sometimes it feels like they should be scientist lab coats.


We are preparing the beds and conditioning the soil and assessing layouts with the space commitment for each plant we grow. Soon, we will create a sowing schedule and fold that into the farm workflow as our well-researched plan goes into action. There is always so much to consider when undertaking a new project, and we can’t be certain it will work exactly the way we anticipate, but we feel confident that our January bouquets and beyond are going to knock your socks off!

- xoxo, Jess

 

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