The Crop Report | Win Some, Lose Some
- Apr 07, 2022
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I've been flower farming for a while now but there is always more to learn and plants to remind me I don’t know it all. In the early years, every crop had a learning curve but the expectations for a beginner flower farmer were forgiving. Years later and folks seem to think we are plant wizards that can grow anything (simply not the case, although being a plant wizard sounds like a cool title to carry). We fail all the time at growing crops and have already started 2022 with some wins and losses.
It's been our first season with the heated FedEx House and with this new growing environment, so we could test out some crops we hadn’t previously been able to. When last year's catalogs started to arrive it was like I was a first-time flower farmer all over again coming up with an endless wishlist of new plants that I could now grow. The easy additions to test out with our heated growing tunnel were freesia and ornithogalum - two bulb crops that I had seen other flower farmers grow as I sat envious on the flip side of the Instagram screen.
Freesia felt like an easy pick with its tropical shape, lasting blooms, vibrant color, and a smell that will take you back to any 1990s Bath and Body Works aisle. We did some light research and decided to grow them out in crates in our warmest room of the FedEx House. While planting freesia bulbs this winter we also tucked in our second new crop: ornithogalum, also known as Star of Bethlehem (which is way easier to say). This striking spike flower with small, white star-shaped blooms jumped out of every bulb catalog and straight into my shopping cart. It felt so good to see two new crops getting planted during the dead of winter.
Without any prior growing experience with these two new flowers, our team tried to walk the tightrope of general care and maintenance on the crates of bulbs. The new growth poked up at the very beginning of the year and slowly yet steadily they both continued to wake up and grow. As the days have warmed, the growth habits have changed. The freesia took off like wildfire and the Star of Bethlehem was left in the dust. It didn’t do anything - like ANYTHING.
As the last few weeks have passed, day by day the tiny shoots of buds on the freesia have leaned towards the sun, stretched in length, and fattened up enough to show color. It's exciting to see it doing so well and its a crop we think we can expand and offer much more of in the future. I was over the moon when I checked the tunnels this week and spot the first opened bloom. I snatched it and a second close-behind blooming stem to enjoy in my home and boy, am I glad I did because the sweet scent is almost too good to be true. Never in my life have I smelled such a perfect flower.
On the flip side of the coin is Star of Bethlehem, although it's not star-worthy here on our farm this year. While the neighboring freesia grew impressively for us, the ornithogalum has given us plenty of heartburn and sorrow. The puny little plants seemed dull, shriveled, and sluggish in growth with only a few sparse blooms from the struggling bulbs. We modified our watering schedule and noted our temperatures at plant level. Nothing seemed to work to turn this crop around. It's frustrating to put in equal effort on crops only to see some refuse to thrive.
While the discouragement of the ornithogalum has us scratching our heads for a better plan in a second test year, we will celebrate our wins with an increase in freesia production. Focusing our efforts on where we find wins helps us beat the frustration of working with nature, and another excuse for me to add a few (hundred) new crops to the mix!