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Home Blog Small space flower farming — Part 1
April 21st 2015

Small space flower farming — Part 1

Written by
Floret

floretbackfieldBuried in the long list of emails filling up my inbox was a sweet little message I got from an admirer who loved the blog and was inspired to start her own flower farm some day. “I’d love to grow flowers like yours, but I don’t have much land available–our farm is only six acres.”

I confess I was chuckling under my breath.  Having six whole acres to dedicate to growing flowers sounds like a dream.  I started envisioning all of the mischief I could get myself into if I had just another HALF acre of land to grow on here at Floret. But then I snapped back from the daydream and thought I should share a little secret you may or may not know: having a highly productive, profitable flower farm and floral design business does NOT take much land and it does not actually require owning a “farm.” Seriously, you don’t even need to OWN land to get started (Here’s another secret:  we actually rent a big chunk of the land where we grow our flowers.)

mimitunnelsHere at Floret, we have just two tiny acres dedicated to flower production. Yes, you read that right, TWO acres. We utilize every available square inch of that space growing large volumes of high quality cut flowers suppling over a dozen grocery stores, numerous flower shops and countless brides throughout the Pacific Northwest.  We employ high intensity production techniques that work on a small scale.

That means we have a finely tuned method of making sure that as soon as one variety is just about done blooming, we have another one ready to plant in it’s place.  I’ve been accused of being heartless, ripping out perfectly nice anemones to make room for the scented geraniums and field grown zinnias.  I used to feel bad, not letting a crop fade and die naturally, but after years of experience, I now know it’s just part of the master plan. I need to have every bed be as productive as possible for my own wedding designs and for our wholesale customers.

The fact is that today’s flower farms are what could be considered “micro farms” compared to the vast expanses of corn and soybean farms that make up much of the farmland across the great plains.  Most of the flower farms in the seasonal flower movement are actually under five acres.  If you ever hang around a bunch of flower farmers, anyone growing on more than ten acres is considered one of the “big guys.”  It’s all relative, I suppose.  Unlike commodity crops, and even most vegetable production, flowers are typically planted, cultivated and harvested all by hand. Very little mechanization beyond field preparation is actually involved, which means production is more often limited by labor than by land.

View More: http://wildflowersphotos.pass.us/floretWith farmland commanding premium prices in many areas of the country, flower lovers are employing some very creative ideas and innovative methods of growing their flower crops in small spaces. Some feisty flower farmers across the continent are having tremendous success growing flowers on small urban lots and in tiny back yards (more on that in a bit).

After flirting with the idea of investing in a major expansion of our operation, we decided against growing larger and instead we’re dedicated to perfecting the fine art of high-intensity, small-scale flower production.  Utilizing such methods we estimate we can produce on our two-acre plot what others utilizing traditional methods might produce on 4 or 5 acres.

We’re now investing more time into developing resources and teaching others how to grow amazing flowers on their own small plots. Serving as a model is a role in which I–and the entire Floret team–find great satisfaction.  We absolutely love helping aspiring farmer-florists succeed and bring more beauty to the world with local, seasonal flowers.

Erinphoto11-6Still not convinced you can have a flower business on a small plot?  Then let me introduce you to a few farmer-florists who operate entirely within the bounds of urban communities—even on land they do not own.  Over the next few posts, I’ll profile a few flower lovers who are part of the seasonal flower movement who employ enterprising approaches to grow flowers in small spaces.  Each is a bright and shining example of how to enjoy the beauty and the bounty of fresh cut flowers no matter where you live.

MY LUSCIOUS BACKYARD

Sarah Nixon is an “accidental” pioneer of the urban farming movement.  Sarah first moved to Toronto from Gabriola Island in British Columbia in 1998. The transition from a tiny island to Canada’s most populous city was difficult and Sarah responded by planting flowers in her small yard.  And more flowers.  And more flowers.

My luscious backyard“I started bringing a few bouquets to the Farmers’ Market thinking it would be a good way to recoup some costs.” she shared.  “As my yard began to overflow I started to look at the neglected yards surrounding me. Maybe they wouldn’t mind if I planted some flowers? I started by asking friends, then got bolder and dropped letters in mailboxes and then put an add on Craigslist that said, ‘Flowers Seeking Gardens.'”

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IMG_0934Now, years later, there are hidden gardens scattered throughout Toronto that overflow with sustainably grown flowers.  Sarah’s micro-farm, My Luscious Backyard, is just 1/16 of an acre that is spread across 9+ residential yards in the heart of Toronto.  This season she’s hoping to increase the number of yards she tends to 12 or 13.  Each plot is intensively planted with flowers from which she is able to supply five florists weekly, operate a subscription service and provide floral designs for about a dozen weddings each year.

Sarah’s tips for successful “backyard flower farming” include:

— Succession planting.  Make sure you have flowers ready for after the first flush of blooms in mid summer.

— Crop planning.  This is key to planting a variety of flowers and foliage in the colors and shapes you need for bouquets. Planning is also key to timing bloom times so you have a season full of flowers.

— Netting/staking plants appropriately.  This is key, because every bloom will count!

— Narrow paths.  Narrow pathways mean more room for flower beds, plus, there’s no money to be made in the pathways!  Paths of just 18″ work well for Sarah.

— Amend your soil.  To have beautiful blooms, you’ll want to build nutrient rich soil that is high in organic matter in order to support the intensive growing in a small space.

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Meanwhile, over in Brooklyn, a lack of a yard hasn’t stopped floral designer Joshua Werber from creating a small rooftop cutting garden to supply supplemental floral material for his designs.  The garden is just 10 feet wide and 20 feet long with a fire escape in the middle and the entire garden is made up of containers.

Joshua Werber rooftop garden

I love all the examples of industrious flower lovers finding creative solutions to growing beautiful blooms even with limited space.  Tomorrow, I’ll continue with yet another inspiring tale of small space flower farming.  Stay tuned!

 

43 Comments

  1. colleen hamson on

    Looking to buy a piece of property near Lassen. Would you know if I could grow lavender on an 1-2 acres in that area? California laws are so strict. I’m not finding any information.
    Thank you

    Reply
  2. George on

    I read with great interest your blog and now feel even more inspired to follow my long dream/desire to start my own cut flower business. We currently have a small up and coming farm here in the Cayman Islands were we supply local resturants and individuals with fresh eggs, peppers and eggplants. In addition we have re-entered the landscape plant market on a very limited scale. I am not sure if you know anyrhing about my reigon or its own unique set of challenges but I would be greatful for any advice you could give me.

    Reply
  3. Pedi on

    Hi, first of all tahnk you so much for explanation that was super great so I have a question how can I start to have Farm flowers, i’m in California and would love to own my farm flowers and i dont know what do I need for starred like how do I know what kind of flowers is good and I’m living in California as I said where we combine them obviously if you go to Home Depot or Walmart is good for just a star but this was a business you need to find a place they sell the seeds cheaper could you please help me out and put me in the right direction where can I start and how can I start thank you so much

    Reply
  4. Rebecca on

    Your blog is a goldmine. Ive always been slightly obsessed with flowers (and all plants really) and decided to grow the flowers for my wedding coming up this September. I found your blog while doing my research and I don’t think I’ve ever been so inspired. I decided within a couple days of finding your blog that I’m going to start a small flower farm. I only have 1/4 acre to grow on and thought I’d have to wait till I get more land, but this post was just what I needed. I’ll hopefully be starting next year and will be using your farm as a model. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your wisdom, you are making my dream possible.

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Great, Rebecca! So glad you found it useful!

  5. Cynthia keogh on

    I would beery interested in ANYclasses which you may offer.

    Reply
  6. William Hamilton Bevans Jr. on

    Growing up in Texas; riding horses, fishing, hiking, simply being around nature I’ve developed the respect and love of the land. Recently I have inherited 7 acres of land at the head of Lake Whitey on the Brazos River. I’ll be the 4th generation of my blood to tend said land. My intention has always been to cultivate the land while working a mainstream job in hopes of transitioning to growing fulltime. What species to grow has been my dilemma over the past 2 years as I’ve been clearing bed sites and preparing for such an adventure. Berries? Grapes? Small Orchard? Cut Flowers? While searching the financial aspect of high demand agricultural products I came to the conclusion the vast majority of our cut flower we so adore are imported! (around 80 percent) Stumbling across Floret Flowers and reading about your journey has solidified what I will pursue as my passion and lively hood. Keep up your brilliantly vibrant soul for us all! Much love!

    P.S.
    I’m a 24 year old male

    Reply
  7. [email protected] on

    Love your blog Floret ,I’m over here in England trying to set up my own flower growing business to supply my own love of flowers and to sell as an income for myself as I recently changed from employed to semi retired ,I’m presently looking for land to rent locally and dream of growing all the gorgeous flowers that I love ,thanks for all your helpful tips

    Reply
  8. Jenny Flynn on

    I’ve been carrying a dream to grow and sell cut flowers at farmers markets for 2 years now. I was coming close to digging up my front lawn and start the garden this fall to seed some varieties if spring flowers but I was still scared. Waking up this morning I was very sure I could do this. I thought I’m sure there’s someone who has turned their lawn into flower farming and I was amazed to find Floret!! I felt like I’ve been behind in time. This evening I searched if you did classes to start business and YES you do, but it’s sold out! I’m happy I found you but at the same time really sad that it’s sold out. I’d love to be in your cancellation list. What other ways could I get started with my dream even if I don’t make it to the weekend course? Your suggestions I am certain will help lead me into realizing my dream or at least out it into action. Hopefully I’ll sign up for the next one ahead of time. Thank you for your love for growing flowers and being there to shar e what you know to make this world a better place.

    Reply
  9. Andrea on

    This is so inspiring! I started gardening in Spring 2015, and I fell in love! We have an acre of property we having been thinking about how to make profitable for awhile now, and I’m hoping and dreaming flower farming is the direction we go!! I’m so glad I found your website!

    Reply
  10. Kelly ricker on

    I am so glad I found this sight. It has been my dream for yes to have a florist. Got my start in Safeway’s floral dept. Fell in love and started working at a florist, and doing arrangements for my church, friends and families weddings. I currently clean houses, due to the fact it’s better for me financially.Recently my hubby and I moved to a 116 yr old farm house it now only has 2 acres due to new developments coming in. My idea was to grow my own flowers to provide arrangements to local restaurants and business’s and do dome weddings and such also. I read a lover the net trying to find anyone who’s done this.Know one until. You. Thanx to you, my dream is still alive

    Reply
  11. Krati on

    Hello,
    I am a small scale beginner vegetable farmer from new jersey, USA. I am wondering how much do you make selling flowers from 2 acre plot of land ? I am just trying to find out the financial feasibility of this business. I was thinking of going into flowers next year along with what I am doing now.

    Thanks much

    Reply
  12. Ann on

    I loved this post – it’s so inspiring and feeds my dreams of one day being able to quit my day job and becoming a small scale grower as well. Looking forward to Part 2!

    Reply
  13. Send flowers in India on

    I am following you, And your great work and have a wonderful blog. I appreciate your work, Many time I try to cultivate flower but not get that much success. I love to work in my garden as gardener. Thanks for sharing Nice blog.

    Reply
  14. Catherine on

    I’ve been following your blog for years. You are such an inspiration you make me cry at times!! :) Thankyou so much

    Reply
  15. Maribeth on

    You are so inspiring! And keep the dream of farming flowers “one day” alive in me! Thanks sweetie xoxoxo

    Reply
  16. Sophie on

    Thank you Erin! I haven’t caught up with your blog for a while…. This is just the inspiration I need as I am cultivating my dream of setting up my own small commercial flower growing business on rented land as we don’t own our home/land! I grow flowers in our beautiful terraced garden in England and my lovely neighbour lets me raid her garden for extra foliage when I need to! I look forward to reading more….

    Reply
  17. Melvin Graf on

    I always try but unfortunately, it not happen so sad. when i go to market collect best seeds of flowers, some problem arise that is, some of the seeds are effect by some of germs. so the flowers are not enough to grow healthy. You are so lucky to cultivate these different variety of flowers.

    Reply
  18. María Yepez on

    Hi Erin Thank You for a wonderful blog and an inspirational business. I am planning a garden in my backyard and will someday take your course. You are an inspiration to all of us floral designers out their.

    Reply
  19. Kelsey Lythcott on

    I adore this blog. I’m not a farmer or florist, just a flower lover. I don’t read blogs except for this one. It’s immensely inspiring to read about floret and be introduced to other flower farmers. My grandma (a botanist and veggie gardener) gave me a bit of seed money to begin my own garden. I think I’ll put it towards flowers. Thank you for pursuing what you love

    Reply
  20. Sarah Nixon on

    Hey Erin! Thanks for including me in your wonderful blog. Such a pleasure to be involved in what you are creating here. More power to the micro growers! Happy growing, flower lovers…Sarah

    Reply
  21. Gail on

    Thanks Erin for another inspirational post, and for showing what can be done on a smaller piece of land. I have a 12 acre block waiting for me to get my act together and as I have one of the smallest blocks in the district I was always quite envious of everyone else’s space but now I can see I have more than enough room :)

    Reply
  22. Killoran Moore on

    This is badass. Land here is prohibitively expensive – I’ve been lucky enough to get 1/2 of my aunt’s tiny backyard. I was trying to find more land and learned that my city has recently allowed easement gardening! So that’s what I’m going to do for next year – I figured I should have one year of growing stuff and learning first. I got a bit ahead of myself. I’ve only seen TWO houses in my area taking advantage. It’s such a shame – it’d really help pollinators, make the neighbourhood look nice, provide food if that’s what people go for. Love this! Love multi-part posts!

    Reply
  23. Jonna on

    Thanks for sharing! So amazing :) Since farming flowers can be so labor intensive, how much extra help to you have to employ?

    Reply
  24. Ferriss on

    I grow enough flowers on an 1/8 of an acre for 28 flower members of my flower CSA. My problem is that I can grow the flowers but can’t increase my market for them somehow. Would love some marketing ideas for small scale growers. Thanks Erin, you are amazing. Don’t know where you get this energy!!!

    Reply
  25. Vera on

    Thank you for this inspiring post! The creativity of the growers is amazing – I love the idea of backyard flower farming! There’s a small nursery in Belgium (run from a bacyard) specialized in unusual annuals that plants up the front yards in the whole street. The front yards then serve as a kind of display window for them.

    Reply
    • Nastia Gladushchenko on

      Hi Vera,
      What is this nursery called? I am based in Belgium and would love to visit it!

      Thanks

  26. KJ on

    Love the creativity involved with “yard-sharing” to grow flowers. I am impressed by the floral material that is able to be harvested from the small spaces. Looking forward to reading (and implementing) the rest of the small space flower farming series!!

    Reply
  27. Jenny Rae on

    love, love love this article! gave me some inspiration that I needed. Can’t wait for my seed and bulb purchase to come in soon!! thanks for the floral inspiration, and as always, the honesty!

    Reply
  28. Sharika on

    Oh Erin, this post is exactly what I needed!! Lately I’ve been SO overwhelmed and discouraged and frustrated it’s all I can do to hold it together. I look around me and see so much potential and so little space… Yet I have at least an acre that I could grow on! I see so much work and feel like it’s far too steep a mountain for me to climb alone. Then the flowers start to bloom and I’m reminded that there’s no way I CANT do this. I’m counting down the seconds until the May workshop.. I know it will be just what I need and so much more!

    Reply
  29. Sarah on

    It’s so funny to see the look on people’s faces when I tell them I only have 5 acres and will be flower farming in just less than an acre to start. Seems daunting to me as I just begin though!

    Reply
  30. Stefanie H. on

    I was a little discouraged looking at others in big business today. I’m so glad I read your post!

    Reply
  31. Belinda McDermott on

    Looking forward to the next installment! X from a fellow #farmerflorist down under :) x

    Reply
  32. kristin burrello on

    hooray for the small growers! I have a little less than 4 acres at my homestead which includes our house, a barn, a pond and the ever so important football field-size lawn for my 3 boys. that leaves muddy feet flower farm less than 2 acres to cram as many flowers as possible for 2 farmers markets, a dozen floral design customers, a 20 person bouquet subscription service and 25+ weddings. I am landscaping our entire property for the business, including shrubs around the house, willows around the marshy pond, narcissus along the side of the road, roses up the side of the barn! I can’t wait to learn more intensive techniques to enhance our small plot even more. as always, thank you erin!

    Reply
  33. Heather O on

    Love it! I just got some seed in the ground last night – in some extra space in my grandparents’ garden. We’ve got plans to sell at the farmers market this year, but even if that doesn’t turn out like planned, I’m getting in some good visits with my grandpa and grandma!

    Reply
  34. Stefanie H. on

    Where there’s a will there’s a way! It’s not about that big guy that has loads of $ took pull from (with a huge overhead ta-boot) It’s about the individual within us all that can do BIG things! Thanks Erin, you are an encourager!!!

    Reply
  35. Kristine Albrecht on

    Thank you for writing on such an interesting topic. Your blog is so timely and informative too! We small farmers ( I have a half an acre of dahlias -less this year because of the drought) love to hear all these stories. Thank you for taking the time to encourage us all!!!

    Reply
  36. Nancy on

    Hi Erin,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such inspiring articles! I found your website a year or so ago, and have kept it in the back of my mind since. This year, I have decided to start a cutting garden in a plot at our community garden. I have been drooling over all of your photos and articles, and I thank you for all that you have shared. The small gardens that you featured today have encouraged me! One question: I have planned my garden to have tubers, corms and seeds for the first planting, but I am stumped on what to do when they have finished blooming and I need to plant the second round…our local garden centers have annuals, but they are generally not the varieties I would pick for a cutting garden. Starting the next round from seed in the ground seems like it will be too late in the season to work. Do you have any suppliers of plants (mail order) that you would recommend? Thank you so much for any suggestions you might have!
    Nancy in NJ

    Reply
  37. DaNae Smith on

    Oh so inspiring!! Can’t wait to hear more!!

    Reply

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