Flower Power for Roadside Markets

Flower Power for Roadside Markets

Tips for Attracting Passersby to Your Farmstand or Cutting Garden

Driving through Delaware farm country on our way to the beach, I passed several roadside markets with large flower gardens along the road. They turned my head, which is exactly what was intended. And what better way to draw attention to a farm stand? A large patch of flowers has universal appeal, and can have the same visual impact as a wagonload of petunias in spring or a pile of pumpkins in autumn.

Big • Bold • Bright

The key to attracting attention with flowers alongside roads and byways is to plant a lot of them. The patch needs to be big enough to present a solid block of color to passing motorists. The flowers should be profuse, cut-and-come-again varieties that will bloom all summer long.

One perfect flower for the job is the zinnia. Tall, dahlia-flowered zinnias, for instance, the type commonly used for cut flowers, will bloom for months if kept dead-headed. Seed can be purchased in separate colors to create vivid patches of color. If the flowers aren't harvested regularly, they will branch lavishly to present even more color. What's more, zinnias are one of the least costly to plant, easiest to grow, and most reliable flowers available.

Zinnias can be planted in two or three rows per 4-foot-wide bed. The more beds, the better. They can be direct-seeded quickly with an Earthway® Seeder, using the Beet Seed Plate. For best branching, which leads to the most concentrated color, they should be thinned to 12" apart in each row.

The most visible color from a distance is yellow, so you might consider planting a patch of all-yellow zinnias. Other bright yellow flowers that bloom over a long period include the branching sunflowers (single-stem varieties will give you only one bloom per plant); rudbeckias; and African marigolds. These are all good for cutting, so you can either make bouquets to sell at the stand or let customers pick their own.

Butterflies Are Free

Another roadside attraction you can create with flowers is a butterfly garden. Many flowers, including zinnias, are attractive to butterflies. Another good flower for a butterfly garden — one that is highly visible from a distance — is asclepias, or butterflyweed. Asclepias curassavica, the yellow and orange butterfly milkweeds, can be especially attractive. Monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweeds, so a good stand of milkweed plants will attract egg-laying females. Although the plants will be damaged by the caterpillars, they recuperate after the larvae pupate and put on a good show of blooms by late summer. Johnny's also offers a Butterfly & Hummingbird Mix that can be broadcast sown to create an entire meadow.

Using flowers to draw attention to your business is a smart strategy on so many levels: it's more cost-effective than banners or signs, it can give you another product to sell, and it's good for the environment.

For more ideas about cut flowers, see my book, The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers.

About the Author
Lynn Byczinski
Lynn Byczinski
Author & Founder of Growing for Market
Lynn Byczynski was growing organic vegetables and cut flowers for market when she decided to create a magazine that would help market gardeners nationwide share experiences and information. Her first issue of Growing for Market appeared in January 1992, and GFM has been published continuously ever since, becoming renowned in the market-gardening world for realistic articles that provide practical, how-to information about growing and selling produce and flowers.

Lynn and her family have been growing vegetables and cut flowers since 1988, selling through CSAs, at farmers' markets, to chefs, grocery stores, and florists. They currently grow cut flowers and hoophouse tomatoes on about 2 acres of their 20-acre farm near Lawrence, Kansas.

She is also the author/editor of two of our favorite books about market farming:

The Flower Farmer
The Hoophouse Handbook