It feels like an eternity since I last posted any dispatches from the farm here. It is something that has distressed me a bit because I really love to write, and I especially enjoy writing about the hours I spend with dirt on my hands. The reality of running a farm completely on my own, however, is that I haven’t had time for many of the things I enjoy doing–you know, besides growing flowers.
This summer has been an incredibly challenging one in the fields. In May, we had nearly two weeks of highs in the 90s, which is almost unheard of. Then the deer had what I consider an amazing progressive dinner one night in the fields and decimated a couple rows of flowers. They ate sunflowers, Scabiosa, and Campanula, just to name a few of the choice morsels. The next day, I looked like a woman possessed as I struggled with stakes, zip ties, netting, and pinwheels to build a deer deterrent. That’s one thing that went really well, though. I hardly saw another hint of deer damage. The farm looked like a makeshift obstacle course (and in some ways, it became one for me), but it worked. I was able to fill a large order for a wedding as well as a small one just a few days after the incident.
Although it cooled a bit in June, the drought that is still with us began to set in. So as the 90-degree days returned in July and hung around until the 5th of October (the 5th of October!!), my battle to keep the flowers producing began. I feel like I put up a valiant fight, even though I watched one row after another of established plants wither in the heat. The drip irrigation kept springing leaks, so I could be found most afternoons running around with a hose trailing behind me, frantically trying to keep some bit of moisture in the rock-hard ground. Still, by the grace of God, I cut thousands of stems and delivered hundreds of bouquets, so even though it was really difficult, I was hanging in there.
Probably the biggest blow came from my succession planting plans being mostly thwarted, though. I lost nearly 3/4 of the seedlings I had grown for succession crops because the heat and drought were just too intense. I would plant in the evenings and water heavily to give the seedlings the longest stretch of slightly cooler air possible. Then I watered in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings to give them their best shot, but they didn’t last the first week. With their limited roots, they simply baked in the sun. I feel like I learned something really important in the midst of that, though, and next year, I plan to cover all new summer seedlings with shade cloth for the first week or two to see if that might give them a better chance at survival. I don’t believe that our heat and drought problems will change, so I need to change the way I garden.
So while all of this was going on, I kept thinking about how I could possibly put myself through so much work for another season. In the end, I decided that I couldn’t, so this season has proven to be my last as a flower farmer, but it’s not my last season growing flowers, for sure.
I do regret that I will no longer be growing flowers for all of my wonderful bouquet members, those people who have supported this wonderful dream. I hope, however, that in the seasons to come, I might be able to provide more than just my members with some bit of beauty and joy through my website.
I’m planning to share my gardening stories here with all of you, to return to my garden and my garden writing fully. So stay tuned. You’ll find me in the flower fields (though there will be fewer rows moving forward) in the coming months as I plant out those flowers that overwinter really well. You’ll also start seeing a lot more of my productive garden and my fruit orchard, both of which need a little bit of a renovation. And I’ll share recipes with you–not just for enjoying all of the delicious fruits and vegetables that come from my productive gardens, but also for putting together flower arrangements and bouquets. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
And if you ever have any questions about gardening or you would like me to address some aspect of gardening here, drop me a line at Becky@Bloomsburylanefarm.com.