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Still waiting for the warmth...
So, February is an interesting month for discussions as a flower farmer. There’s the whole Valentines day show-your-love-with-flowers fuss in the middle of the month. As someone who earns money selling flowers , thats kind of a good thing, but pf course I don’t have any fresh flowers to sell in February. In fact, I’ll be lucky if there are any for Mothers day!
As a sustainable alternative, I had some bunches of dried flowers in the Refill Mill, and to my delight they flew out. What’s great about dried flowers is that they have a long shelf life, so even if they hadn’t sold on the 14th, they wouldn’t be wasted. When I supply fresh flowers, they need to be sold soon afterwards. Last year flowers were often left over at the weeks end, so this year I’m trying out a subscription model. The consumer gets the flowers at a great price, and I’m making up bunches that have already been sold. A few romantically and sustainably minded partners availed of this for their partners - so the loved one will be reminded of that love once the flowers start blooming. Nice!
If you’d like to treat yourself or a loved one click here to find out more.
Here’s some of the discussion that were going on about imported flowers:
The SSAW collective is a community of chefs, florists & growers committed to an ethical way of working with seasonal produce, based in the UK. I love this quote “Flowers are a luxury, a luxury that is only able to be enjoyed by a small percentage of the world, and that luxury should not be costing other humans and the places where they live to the extent that they do“
And two other substack newsletters that I read regularly had something to say:
It’s important stuff, and not just for Valentines day.
So February is also a great time to be thinking about seeds, swapping seeds with others, putting in your seed order, dreaming of when they grow, and maybe in a few cases, planting some. I planted some hardy tomatoes and lots of chillies - I have a setup that can give them sufficient warmth and light until it’s time for them to go out into the tunnel. If you don’t have such a setup, you run the risk of leggy scrawny plants of you start them really early, so maybe better to wait a bit.
If you are interested in seeds, you might enjoy the content here.
I’ve also planted a few hardy annuals - they can go out into the poly tunnel once they germinate. The best way to judge if it’s the to be planting seeds outside is to look for weed germination. If lots of weeds are starting to spring up, then the soil is warm enough for your flower and veg seeds to germinate too!
I started lots of sweet peas last year, they are now mostly planted out. This is a second batch - I’ll fill toilet rolls. with compost, and plant the seeds once i see a little root - like the one in the centre of the photo above. as soon as I see a bit of green, they will be going straight outside. Warmth and low light like you find inside makes for leggy and weak seedlings. the toilet rolls allow me to plant them out later without disturbing their roots. I have special bins in my toilets to collect rolls, so supplies are readily available when I need them. This works well for sunflowers too.
My germination station also includes some first and second early potatoes chitting - some of the first earlies are already planted in polystyrene boxes in the tunnel - the kind that broccoli is shipped in. I’ll move them outside in a bit, when I need the tunnel space and days and nights are a bit warmer. I’ll be taking a chance on frost, and in previous years, the early potatoes have been impacted, the leaves turned black with a late frost. But they do recover, so I’ll take the chance and the consequence will just be potatoes a little later.
I was listening to an interesting podcast about growing from seed - previously I would have used quite sterile compost to germinate seeds, but of course that’s not how seeds grow in nature. Jennie Love and Lisa Mason Zeigler talk about adding lots of microbial life to the seed compost - so I’m doing that this year. They also talk about efficiency using soil blocks - I need to get my hands on the smaller soil blocks, but I’m getting started with the 2in ones that I already have.
The soil block below have regular potting compost mixed with seaweed, worm casts and homemade compost. Getting seeds started well goes a long way to a healthy productive plant, I’m looking forward to those delicious tomatoes!
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My organic horticulture course finished up last September, and I love to learn, so I signed up for a very different kind of course in January with someone I know a long time. I’m taking her essential eco literacy course - I’m really enjoying participating in this course - It’s making re-evaluate how I think and talk about the climate emergency and life in general. Here’s a story that you might enjoy from a previous participant.
It’s always good to be learning, I try to do something every year to stretch myself in a formal learning situation. Being a gardener is an informal learning situation - there’s so much to know, so many variables, so many ways that things can go wrong. No wonder we welcomed industrialised agriculture - controlling that variability with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. But of course we can’t control, we need to be open to the learning, and cut ourselves enough slack so that we can deal with some of the harder lessons.
I’m also very excited about a ceramics course that I’m starting in Athlone in April. As you might have noticed by now, I avoid floral form (oasis) but that restricts what I can achieve in arrangements. However, there are vase designs that allow for similar arrangements but don’t require foam and keep the stems well hydrated. I’m very excited to try making some of these - check our my inspiration!
I have spent a lot of time recently sitting at my desk writing - I’m applying for a variety of funding for different projects, I hope at least one will be successful. Can’t say much else right now but fingers crossed I’ll be bringing you good news in the future!
As usual, I’ll leave you with a song - this one seems appropriate…