A big THANK YOU to all of the HOMESTEADERS who visited The Old Schoolhouse® booth at the Homesteaders of America conference today. If you are still in Front Royal for the event, please stop by booth 190 for a chance to enter an INCREDIBLE gift basket!
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It’s Market Day again! Here is a sampling of what you will find within some of my bouquets tonight. Along with some snazzy sunflower bundles, I will have a some arrangements with these beautiful dahlias, zinnias, and other beauties.
Below are a couple of the ones you missed out on last week. I am hoping to continue harvesting sunflowers throughout the summer, but the gladiolas, dahlias, and zinnias will be my summer focus.
Without looking it up, can anyone guess what those fluffy pink and white balls are? They smell wonderful and attract something your kids probably would love to see in the backyard. Anyone? 🙂
It is near impossible to snap a picture of the entire garden in a way that makes it visible—but I tried! This is the largest garden we have had on our property since moving here fifteen years ago. Now that all twenty-one rows are planted, it still doesn’t seem to be enough. Maybe I am greedy. Or maybe I miscalculated how much we would need for our family of seven in addition to what we plan to sell at the market.
This garden has taken years to get the point where we could actually grow anything. Even so, the few rows without mulch are struggling. Mulch makes all of the difference, once you have prepped your soil with all of the needed nutrients. Not sold on the need for mulch in your garden? Watch Back to Eden and come back to the post and tell me what you think!
It was fun bringing sunflowers to the market today. I have been experimenting with the timing and the size. I planted these seeds in the greenhouse in the winter hoping for a Mother’s Day bloom. They were one week late, which is fine. This is my first year, and I am still learning. Only a handful were ready today, so I arranged them into a spring bouquet. They say it can be tricky to grow sunflowers that will fit into a bouquet, so you want to try and stunt their growth, which is what I did. When you take these extra measures to keep the heads smaller, the easier they are to work with in the vase. I am looking forward to experimenting with different varieties and sizes of sunflowers throughout the summer and will keep you posted! They also suggest picking them while the head is still partially closed so if you buy any that look like this, they will continue to open in the vase, giving up a longer vase life.
Some people are hesitant to buy our plants right now because it has been known to frost in May in our area. Our official last frost date was mid-April, but I usually refuse to plant anything outside before May 1 because I’ve lost many vegetables in the past due to an unexpected frost. This year, I went ahead and planted radishes a little earlier than May 1 just to test the waters. I am so glad I did. My kids tasted our first fruits and said that they tasted amazing. That means, to the market they will go. Looking forward to providing our local community with locally grown radishes this year. I am trying to succession plant them so we have them on hand throughout the season.
Tomatoes, purple basil, peppers, cucumbers, tulips, air plants, and more! That’s what we had to offer our community at the first market of the season. I was pleased with what we had available thanks to our greenhouse. I would have liked to have had more flowers available for the first market, but plenty will be available throughout the year. Most of the tulips had bloomed around Easter. I had a few spare ones that kept in our spare fridge nicely. Now that I know they keep well in the fridge, and since I have a commercial fridge on the way to the farm this month, I can plan ahead and purchase more tulip bulbs for next year’s season. This is only our first year so we are still learning!
My fifteen-year-old brought some of the knives that he made out of old saw blades along with some other wooden creations. I look forward to seeing what people like and how well our products do at the different markets. This past weekend was the first of many of the season and we have another evening one this week which will be at a different location. I look forward to seeing who we are able to meet there!
We found ourselves with the greenhouse up in January, but with no heat. I will say that we did purchase two layers of plastic and installed a fan to continuously blow between the layers. This has helped to insulate tremendously. Mostly during the day. The temperatures within the greenhouse would still get down into the thirties or forties at night. The heat would not hold throughout the night as much as we would have liked. To remedy this, we would simply cover the plants at night. We rarely lost anything. There was enough warmth trapped inside the greenhouse. Not a huge amount, but enough to keep the plants alive.
To help with germination, my husband built a heat table. Using coils that can be used for roofing to melt ice on your roof and sand, he constructed a table that would fit a decent amount of plants. He added a temperature regulator and kept the temperature continually at 74 degrees F.
The way that we decided to start our seeds this year was with soil blockers. These are a quick and efficient way to monitor the germination rate of your seeds. It is also a great way to get the kids involved. When you are working on planting hundreds, or even thousands of seeds at a time, this makes the process less daunting. Our soil mix that we use is a mixture of sand, peat moss, and dirt from our farm. We live in Southwestern Virginia which is notorious for red clay. Using this mixture is much easier than trying to sow directly in the red clay. The red clay seems fine for some crops such as radishes. But it seems like everything else we grow prefers to be coddled.
We were sure to have a hose nearby when creating the soil blocks. The soil mix is important but the consistency of the soil as you press the blocker into it is just as important. It needs to be wet, moist, and almost runny, otherwise it simply won’t work. Once you do it a few times, it becomes second nature and it becomes easy to pump out block after block. We purchased two sizes of blocks. The smaller size we are using for germination. We place these trays on the heat table until we see a significant amount of growth. Once we see the roots creeping out of the bottom, we simply place in a slightly larger size block. This is simple, easy, and does not disturb the roots so it is perfect for plants that do not transplant well traditionally.
Once the smaller blocks have germinated, we created larger soil blocks that allow you to perfectly place the smaller soil block into them. Once they grow and have a significant amount of roots, you can plant them into your desired pot or directly in the ground. Our first batch we are placing in pots to bring to the market or plant in our own garden. Eventually, we will bring the larger blocks to the market and our customers can pick and choose which plants they want and purchase them by the tray. This will help save costs on pots. Some seeds, such as sunflower seeds will go directly into the larger soil blocks but most everything else that we have planted went through this process. Once they make it to the second soil block stage, we remove them from the heat table and start the process all over again with a new batch of seeds!
Once weeded, these pots will go to market. Others that are still in the blocks will go in my garden in a week or so to be used for filler in my summer bouquets.
First-year flower farmer here. My daughter and I planted several hundred tulip bulbs last fall, and we had no idea what to expect. We tried commercial tulip planting methods, including egg carton bulb planting. We also planted them in between chicken wire to prevent voles, squirrels, or other rodents from stealing our precious bulbs. Although no bulbs were harmed thanks to our efforts, I was shocked to see early blooms on tiny stems. My first blooms had almost no stems at all. Fortunately, as they continue to bloom, the stems are proving to be longer and longer. I was at a loss as to what to do with the stemless blooms and my husband told me to try and be creative. So, I was! I pulled those bulbs up out of the ground and potted them. What a hit! I was able to sell several potted plants similar to what is pictured below to a local florist and a local spa’s gift shop. I give all the credit to the Lord for giving me that idea. I was ready to count it a loss, but it ended up being profitable.
Only a few days later, more blooms were ready to harvest. Since the farmer’s markets that we will be selling at do not open until the end of the month, I was not sure what to do. But, Easter is just around the corner which means the timing was perfect. Even though I have clearance for a roadside stand nearby, I do not have the quantity quite yet. So, I found some old vases, made several bouquets, and brought them to a consignment shop down the road eager to sell anything fresh to their customers.
The bouquets were created by these beautiful purple tulips. I did have a handful of red, pink, yellow, and white. I will certain purchase more of those next year. They are equally as beautiful. As soon as people noticed I was selling tulips they asked if I would have roses ready for Mother’s Day. I had not planned on roses since they are not my favorite flower but since multiple people have asked, I will work on having those ready for next year. It is important to grow what the customer wants! In addition to these blooms, I have several that are on the verge of blooming. I picked them this morning and placed them in a spare refrigerator in hopes that they will hold their blooms for the first market. We will see how it goes!