So you want to start a flower farm!?
Yay! Congratulations! I think it’s amazing and I’m here to encourage you. I do want you to be set up for success, so I want to share with you a few pieces of information that I wish I knew when I was first getting started.
You probably have big, big dreams and that’s fantastic! Hold onto those dreams, but it’s also important to be a little realistic with yourself and try not to bite off more than you can chew. In my humble opinion, if you’re just starting out with farming, an acre is wayyy too big. Chances are you have another job or children. Maybe you’re retired. Whatever it is, we all have other responsibilities in life and just know that the larger the farm, the more time and more responsibility it will require of you.
My very first farm was less than 1/8thacre. I moved up to a quarter of an acre and felt that was manageable and was a great size for me. Now after moving farms, I’m actually growing on less than ¼ acre. This is intentional because I’m realistic with my other business and life responsibilities.
Know that you can grow A LOT of flowers in a small space and reap an incredible abundance of stems. Try not to worry that you wont have enough. There will be PLENTY for you to harvest.
One of the reasons it’s important to start small is because you want to set yourself up for success. When the farm is bigger than you can handle, it’s easy to feel defeated and get discouraged trying to keep up with it all. It’s better to farm a smaller area really well than to farm a larger area poorly.
Sell your Flowers before planting a Seed
This may feel challenging or even downright impossible, but it is key if you want to make any money. It is absolutely disheartening to have a field in bloom and no destination for your flowers and this will sneak up on you if you’re not conscious. Start networking. Whether it’s with florists, grocery stores, farmer’s market managers, or your community. Let everyone know you will have flowers months ahead of time! You can start a CSA and collect payment ahead of time. You can get a contract with a grocery store. You can get yourself into a farmers market. Florists are a little trickier as they usually like to SEE your product before committing to buying from you, but you can still start the connections.
Know the Value of the Flowers
Pricing is hard, and it’s uncomfortable. It is so common for beginners to under value their products and work. When you price your bunches and bouquets less than what they’re worth, you not only are hurting yourself but are hurting the other local growers who are trying to get a fair price. I know this is all probably unintentional and maybe with some naivety, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time and know the going rate for the flowers you are growing and bouquets you plan to make. Pricing can vary widely depending on your markets. Don’t be afraid to ask around. Pay attention to flower prices at the farmers market, ask the produce manager at your local grocery store what they buy flowers wholesale for, ask florists what they commonly pay/bunch. Look online and ask for guidance. You want to make sure you’re starting out within standard market prices so everyone wins.
Start with the Most Giving Flowers
This is also along the lines of setting yourself up for success. If you’ve never grown cut flowers before, you may not want to start with lisianthus. Know your zone and what flowers are the best cut and come again varieties. I’m in Zone 9 and the easiest summer flowers to grow here are cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, amaranth, celosia, sunflowers, and strawflower.
Plant in Color Blocks
This is much easier for harvesting and is especially important if you plan to sell to florists. Try to avoid the mixed seed packets unless you want to do a small trial patch.
Tighter Plant Spacing
Know that you can pack the plants in! For most plants, my spacing is 9 inches. My very first flower farm was really cute with one drip line down a bed and one plant at each 12’’ spaced emitter. If only I knew how much space I was wasting! I now plant more than 5 times that amount in a single bed! My beds are 3 feet wide with two irrigation lines running down them and plants are staggered 9’’ apart for a total of 5 “rows of plants” down a bed.
Pinch and Cut Hard
Most plants need pinching to send their energy into the side shoots so you have useable stems to cut. When your plants start making their first bud, you’ll need to cut it off leaving just a few nodes above the ground to grow shoots off of. You might need to pinch flowers 2-3 times. This encourages longer stems. Similarly, when you cut your first flowers, cut hard. Meaning cut lower onto the plant than you think would be okay. You should be stripping off leaves and small stems. When you cut hard, this sends the signal to the plants to produce longer and thicker stems.
Save for a Cooler
There is some debate about whether a cooler is absolutely necessary for storing cut flowers. My take on it is that it is not necessary, BUT it makes a world of a difference. If you think you may be in the cut flower business for a while, then absolutely start saving for a cooler. It is the best investment you can make, even more so than investing in a greenhouse right away. For the best results without a cooler, you’ll want to pick flowers in the early morning and store in the coolest, shadiest part of your house. You wont be able to store them long, so try to move them to their destination as soon as you can after they are fully hydrated. You can also find a used refrigerator, remove the shelves, and manage to fit a few buckets in there to store your flowers a bit longer.
Phew! I hope that wasn’t too overwhelming. Of course there is way more I could speak on, but these are what I believe to be the most essential considerations when first starting out. If you are interested in no-till farming, make sure to view my other posts and my YouTube channel for information on how to do that. Also make sure to join the Flower Farmers Facebook group for a wealth of information on growing cut flowers!