Year-round flower production strategy

by Lynn Byczynski, Author & Founder of Growing for Market

Flowers are a natural addition to a market farm or vegetable garden, and a beautiful way to increase revenue and extend the season. They have the same cultural requirements as vegetables, for the most part. Start them in the greenhouse as you would a vegetable or herb crop you intend to transplant. Outside, grow them in the same beds, rotating with other crops, with much the same tools, fertility, and irrigation.

Flowers attract bees and other pollinators that help increase yields and quality of your other crops. And watch for the many beneficial insects that will hover around your flowers until they find some vegetable pests to prey on. Flowers attract people, too, with their colors and fragrances. They will beckon customers to a farmers' market stand and add value to a CSA share. Johnny's offers a wide selection of flowers that are easy to grow from seed, providing you with the best possible profits. And there's something for every season.

Spring

In spring, offer a selection of bedding plants ranging from always-popular petunias to less common varieties such as Gem marigolds, phlox, and the more diminutive zinnias. Create your own themed collections of plants and group them with colorful signs to explain the connection. Be imaginative and educational: Grandmother's Garden for heirlooms such as hollyhocks and sweet peas; Butterfly Rest Stop for plants that migrating Monarchs feed on such as asclepias, tithonia, and zinnia; Glorious Garnish for edibles such as calendula and viola. And don't forget the customers who don't have time or space to plant their own pots. Create instant gardens for patios and decks, mixing flowers, herbs and even vegetables in big containers.

To learn more, see our article on Succession Planting Flowers.

Summer

In summer, sell cut flowers at farmers markets and farm stands, to supermarkets and florists. Many CSA farms offer bouquet shares or have a few beds of flowers for members to cut themselves on pick-up day. If you're just starting with flowers, try a few basic crops such as sunflowers and zinnias, which can be planted with a push seeder and require little attention other than weeding and watering until its time to harvest them. Grow some easy fillers such as cinnamon basil, statice, and celosia; the result will be dramatic summer bouquets!

To learn more, see our article on Building a Better Market Bouquet.

Fall

Fall brings an opportunity to sell florals along with pumpkins and gourds. Sunflowers, grasses and grains have an autumnal look that sells well beginning in September. Wreaths made of broom corn, sweet Annie, or ornamental peppers are easy to make and can be sold right away or weeks later after they have dried. Arrangements of dried flowers are coming back into style for fall decor, and are perceived as being a good value because they'll last for months.

To learn more, see our tutorial on Drying Flowers.

Winter

You also can extend the fresh flower season by planting in a hoophouse in late summer. For example, by September 1, you can plant a final crop of a day-neutral sunflower such as 'Sunbright Supreme', to bloom in late October through Thanksgiving. Fall-plant flowers that need a cold period, such as sweet William and larkspur, to bloom early next spring.

To learn more, see our article on Cool 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