January, A Time to Dream and a Time to Plan
Most people would think that, for farmers, January would be a time to sit back, reflect, and relax after busy growing and holiday seasons. Well, actually, January is one of the most important months of the year, especially for flower farmers.
I comb through the huge stack of seed and plant catalogs that stuff my mailbox daily, like Johnny's Seeds and Burpee. And I dream. I dream of all the beauty I can grow and I start making lists of hardy flowers that thrive in the frosty cool weather of early spring, tender flowers that love the heat of mid-summer, and flowers that like the cooler nights and shorter days of autumn. Then there are summer bulbs and tubers, like lilies, gladiolas, and dahlias. I can’t forget unusual, scented greens, either, like rose and chocolate scented geraniums; different basil, mint, and oregano varieties; dill, fennel and sage. All these things are important and need a home in the garden. That’s where the planning comes in.
I am a very visual thinker. I need to see everything down on paper. I carefully map out my gardens on graph paper. Then I start making lists. I have a list of must haves, the tried and true. I then get out my many boxes of seeds that I keep in the root cellar. I pull what I seeds I want from what I have, and then I order what replacements I might need. Now, I am a self proclaimed seed hoarder! Yes, I admit it. I think I have enough seed to plant the whole county; however, I always find something new or different that I just have to try!
After I have my lists made, I have to figure out how to fit all that I want into the garden space I have. I need to research what the ideal spacing between plants is to calculate how many plants I will need. Then I have to carefully figure my succession plantings, to make sure I always have an abundance of flowers all season long. Succession planting is where I start seeds of the same variety two weeks apart, several times, to extend their blooming time. There is nothing worse than running short of flowers for a week or two, only to find in another week, that I have more flowers than I have customers and they end up in the compost! It’s heart breaking. So succession planning and planting is one of the most important decisions I have to make.
Once the planning is done, I can start the seeds that take the longest time to germinate or that need a little frost to perform at their best. Flowers like Lisianthus and Sweet Peas, Larkspur and Snapdragons, Bells of Ireland and Poppies.
So, even if it’s 10 below and there is two feet of snow on the ground, I’m hard at work planning, dreaming, and sowing seeds. All so I can share my flower dreams with you.
If you would like to follow along with me in your own garden, here is special feature that I will be doing periodically on this blog:
GARDEN TASKS FOR JANUARY:
Designing your garden
1. Carefully measure your growing space and draw your garden out on graph paper. Take note of how much sunshine it gets. That will be important when you are choosing your seeds or plants. A plot that gets full sun all day will give you the most options for flowering plants. Here is an example of a simple 10x8 formal garden plot. The scale is 1 square = 6 inches. Have fun with this! Draw any design that makes you happy!
2. Typically, the seed packets or web pages will tell you most everything you need to know about starting your plants.
3. Go back to your graph paper plan and decide what plants you want to go where. Usually you would put the taller plants in the back and work your way forward, but it's your garden, so do it the way you want! If you are planting a landscape, instead of a cutting garden, use blocks of at least four or five of the same plants of the same color together, instead of mixing a lot of different colors in the same spot. It's easier on the eye. Mark your plan with dots at the recommended spacing. Then count the dots to get the amount of plants you will need. Add 10% for plant loss.
If you are planting a garden strictly for cutting, you can arrange your colors how ever you'd like, but I would suggest planting in straight rows with a small path every 4 ft. for easier harvesting. However, any garden can be a cutting garden! With most annual plants (those that only live for one season), the more you cut them, the more they bloom!
4. Once you have your plan in place, you will know how many packets of seeds you will need to buy. Remember, January is a time for planning and getting all your seeds ordered and organized so you will be ready to play in the dirt later--the fun stuff! Take your time and enjoy the dream!
5. Join me next month to continue building your garden along with mine! You can subscribe to my emails at the bottom of this page, so you don't miss anything!
If you would like to join in supporting my flower farm and receive beautiful bouquets weekly, please sign up for my Flower CSA! Get all the details here!
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