After several years of growing flowers to sell at our little roadside stand, I can honestly say that no two growing seasons are exactly the same. With multiple variables like temperature, sunshine, moisture, weed and pest pressure, things can be relatively easy (all farming or intense gardening is hard work!) or pretty ugly. Take 2016 for example; it was a drought year around here so we relied on frequent hand-watering to keep our flowers and vegetables from shriveling up in the hot, dry landscape. While the watering did save our plants for the most part, it had the unintended consequence of attracting thirsty insects to the plants and when the surface droplets evaporated in the merciless heat, the pests turned their attention to the most fleshy part of the plants: the fruits and blossoms. As a result we were left with loads of less-than-perfect flowers and produce. Luckily, our great customers paid no mind to the blemishes and we even had our best year as far as sales!
This year we had a very cool, wet spring. Planting was delayed due to wet fields that could not be plowed, and when a farmer lucked out and was able to plant a plot, germination of the seeds s/he had sown was stifled because of unseasonably cool temps and not much sunshine. Wetter than average soil hindered germination, too. Any one of those factors would have been enough to hold off average normal starting dates for harvest; this year we had all three factors in play. The first sunflowers should have been ready to cut at the end of June. Instead, it is already mid-July and we are only now preparing to cut and bundle the sun-loving helianthus.
Oddly enough, what was happening to our annually planted seeds was NOT carrying through to the perennials that suffered through the 2016 drought. Rather than showing signs of last year’s stressors, the perennials have returned as if to prove the adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” True to her reputation for keeping us humans guessing, Mother Nature returned our perennials in their finest fashion…on time if not a bit earlier than usual and more lush and bountiful than past years can recall! We truly are at her mercy, and that degree of power should always be respected.
Past difficulties are, well, in the past and not soon to be forgotten. BUT… a rolling stone gathers no moss/a proactive farmer lessens the weed burden (before things get out of hand and you just want to bury your head amidst the bristly pigweed and cry your eyes out)…time marches on, and in the present we are gearing up for the cut flower season.
Sunflowers will be out in force beginning this week. The first picking was used to create a custom arrangement in a very UNcustomary “vase” of sorts…a large yellow pig that will be greeting mathematicians coming from near and far to attend the Yellow Pigs Day Conference at Hampshire college on July 17th.
If you happen to be in the vicinity of our farm this week, stop in for a fresh bundle of sunflowers. We have a variety which makes for a lovely bouquet.