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April 10th 2019

Soil Preparation

Written by
Floret

We grow an insane amount of flowers out of our little plot of land. With so much beauty going out the door, we work diligently to not only replace the biomass, but also to build and improve the soil each and every season. I’ve found that the old adage, “you get out what you put in” sums up our approach to growing here at Floret.

Cover crops, compost, rock powders, natural fertilizers, mulch, compost tea and various foliar treatments are all part of our fertility arsenal.

Floret soil and bed preparation

Every fall we take soil samples from our field and greenhouses and send them into the local soil lab for testing. The information from the test gives us a broad overview of our soil health and what we can do to improve it. A good soil test normally runs around $50, money well spent in the long run. This test measures everything from the percentage of organic matter, the pH of the soil, plus any lacking trace minerals.

A good lab will give you recommendations on what amendments need to be applied to bring your soil into good, working order. I always make sure to let the lab know that we farm organically so that they don’t suggest chemical fertilizers. Once we have the information back from the lab, we then set about making necessary improvements. Fall is a great time to add rock powders and trace minerals so that they have time to dissolve into the soil before spring planting.

soil preparation at Floret flower farmOur farm is situated on top of a sand bar (note the silver shine to the soil above) and while the freely draining nature is wonderful in early spring when most other fields are unworkable, it definitely comes with its own set of challenges. In addition to being very hungry, our soil also has difficulty holding water and nitrogen. I often feel as if we’re feeding an elephant with how much organic matter we add each year.

In addition to applying the soil labs’ recommendations in the fall, we also heavily amend each bed before planting in the early spring and again each time it is replanted throughout the season. The same treatment goes for our greenhouses as well.

Compost and organic fertilizer for bed preparation

Floret bed preparation adding compost Floret bed preparation adding compost

To start, we put down a thick 3-4” (7-10cm) layer of compost across the top of each bed, making sure to spread it out as evenly as possible. Our favorite compost is made locally from recycled plant debris. We purchase it by the dump truck load and it runs between $15-17 a yard, delivered. If you have heavier clay soil, you can cut the amount of compost you apply in half.

Floret bed preparation adding organic fertilizer

We then sprinkle a generous dusting of a high quality organic fertilizer at a rate of 1.5 lbs/10 linear feet (0.68 kilos/3 meters) which, for us, is 10.5 lbs per 70 foot long (4.76 kilos per 21.3 meter) row.

One 50 lb (22.6 kilo) bag covers about five of our 4′ x 70′ (1.2 m x 21.3 m) long growing beds.

Our favorite fertilizer is Nature’s Intent (7-2-4) which is made from natural ingredients including bone meal, cottonseed meal, feather meal, kelp meal and rock powders. It may not be available in your area, but you should be able to find something similar if you give the specs to your local feed or garden store.

Tilling compost and organic fertilizer into flower bedsDrip irrigation onto flower bed preparationThe ingredients are then tilled into the soil and irrigation lines are laid down. Because our soil is so sandy, we put down four lines of drip, one foot (.3m) apart. If you have clay soil, you could probably get away with only two or three.

Floret bed preparation adding landscape fabricmulching dahlias at Floret Flower FarmTo control weeds, we cover most of our beds with landscape fabric with pre-burnt holes. Learn more about using landscape fabric to control weeds here.

For beds that aren’t covered in landscape fabric, we mulch new plantings with straw, shredded leaves or grass clippings to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Once plants are in and growing we feed them with a weekly application of compost tea.

After a bed of annual flowering plants such as bells of Ireland or snapdragons finishes producing, we mow the remaining foliage down and take up the fabric, pull back the drip irrigation lines and amend the bed using the same process outlined above before replanting with a second crop. In the fall, we clean up the beds and replant with a cover crop usually consisting of ryegrass, field peas, hairy vetch and crimson clover.

While the process is labor intensive, it has greatly increased the health of our plants on the farm, in turn upping our flower production across the board and decreasing insect and disease pressure.

Floret hoop house flower bed soil preparation Floret hoop house flower bed soil preparation Floret hoop house flower bed soil preparation Floret hoop house flower bed soil preparation with landscape fabric

Pictured above, a hoop that was filled with Iceland poppies in the spring. Once the plants slowed their flowering to a trickle, we pulled out the plants, prepared the beds as noted earlier, and replanted with a late crop of celosia.

floret celosia growing in hoop houseI believe in using natural methods and ingredients when it comes to growing. In our valley organic agriculture is slowly catching on, but there are still so many farms that spray toxic chemicals on their crops and use synthetic fertilizers and other agrochemicals. I understand why. An organic approach requires more time, money and steps. But, in my opinion, if you have the choice, it’s certainly one worth considering.

From day one we’ve only used natural ingredients in our gardens and on the farm. I don’t want to expose myself, our staff, visitors, or the creatures that live here to toxic chemicals.

But most importantly, my children have grown up in the garden and I believe their home and play areas should be safe and free from anything toxic or harmful.

I never could stomach the idea of exposing them to poisons, just so I could get a perfect crop. Instead, I worked extra hard to grow the healthiest plants possible, ones that could resist pests and disease using only natural ingredients.

For you mamas, please keep in mind that whatever you use in the soil and apply to your plants, at some point will probably come in contact with your children. If you don’t have children, but are an animal lover, the same goes for you. Yes, growing naturally is harder, and a bit more expensive, but I truly believe it shows in the quality of the flowers, and in the health of you and your family.

Below little Jasper is spraying an early crop of spring flowers with compost tea, a safe and effective natural disease preventative.

foliar feeding young flowers with compost tea

Like with the other posts, your feedback is highly valued. I would really appreciate it if you would please take a minute and leave a comment. Even a few words would be great!

I would love to know if this post was helpful, what questions do you still have about the topic, what are you struggling with, or if you have any great resources relating to this topic that you’d be willing to share with other readers.

If you submit a comment and it doesn’t show up right away, sit tight, we have a spam filter that requires we approve most comments before they are published.

Originally published in 2016; updated in 2019. 

218 Comments

  1. nancy janosko on

    I am so grateful for all the fantastic advice. This knowledge has inspired me. I do have one question, you mentioned that you do have beds that you have not used the landscape fabric on and have mulched with straw or other organic matter, why is that?

    Reply
  2. Corey Bullock on

    I think this process is fantastic, I will definitely be trying compost tea as well as covering new plantings with clippings/straw to help suppress weeds. You have such beautiful, natural gardens!

    Reply
  3. Mary on

    I am also curious about your compost tea? You just use compost and water?
    Thank you for all you share

    Reply
  4. Samantha on

    Question, what is in the ‘compost tea’? Is this something you put together or a bought solution?

    Reply
  5. Bradley S Burnell on

    I just want yo say how much I value you’re blog.

    I never had interest in farming…though I grew up on 67 acres of farmland. My grandparents raised me, and in my lifetine they have always rented out the land. At 18, I fled for the city, and very much lived the fity boy lifestyle. 3 years ago, I movedback home to assust with the property, because the grsndparents are getting older, and papaw has dimentia….

    While being out here I found an appreciation for the work that any kind of farmers do, and a desire to utilize the land that my great grandfather purchased years ago…but, I had zero knowledge of how…

    I still have to present my plan to the family, but because of you sharing your knowledge, I am able to present my plan to farm floral on some of the acreage.

    I just wanted to say, “thank you”, from the bottom of my heart.

    Brad B.

    Reply
  6. Grace Kreuser on

    This is an odd question, but do you prefer to plant rows North to South or East to West. do you think if makes a difference?
    Your dedication to enviromentally thoughtful practices is inspirational, thanks for the info.
    – Grace

    Reply
  7. Liset on

    what is the process after the cover crop is ready to be removed? I am trying to understand what to do with it after? Does it get mowed down or do you yank it out ?

    Reply
  8. Marian on

    I am so excited to find you surfing about landscape fabric! I am a floral designer, grow flowers for fun- but you inspired me to take it up a notch! Thanks so much?

    Reply
  9. KM on

    thank you for your always detailed and informative posts. I learn something new in each one. Your photos are such an aid too. Best, KM

    Reply
  10. Ramona on

    Plecase.. im such a beginner..but i dont interesant.. you put out one drop of flower and plant another…do you keep the root for next year? Or you start all over with are de. With tulips i know you can keep the bulb..but others? Thank you..i start reading your blog and this is a question in my mind…ots an wanderfull job… you give me courage to start my own small flower garden

    Reply
  11. Terri on

    I have 5 acres I’m wanting to play something? But live in the Deep South north of Baton Rouge, La I want to grow flowers and maybe organic??? Just some recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks Terri

    Reply
  12. Jennifer McDonald on

    Do you think a 8-2-4 organic fertilizer is sufficient? That’s the closest I could find to your recommendation.

    Reply
  13. Eva on

    Are you using soaker hoses or drip irrigation? Or a combination of the two? Thanks.

    Reply
  14. DiAnn Cardona on

    We are just across the bridge in Burlington and getting our fields ready. Would you please tell me where you get your local compost? We have a loamy soil and this will be our first year experimenting with flowers. I have your seedlings growing in our greenhouse almost ready to put in the ground. We usually shoot for Mother’s Day weekend to get veggie starts in the ground. When should we plant the flower seedlings?

    Reply
  15. Michele barthe walker on

    I am inspired by you and when we move I plan on implementing all of your techniques in our new home in Montana thank you so much for sharing

    Reply
  16. Rebecca on

    This post was soooo helpful and I love your commitment to using safe, organic methods for feeding your soil!

    Reply
  17. Nicole Quigley on

    I literally just finished a long haul of creating new beds at my new home in Powell River, BC, Canada (so I can plant some of your seeds!). I am so grateful and so tired! I can’t imagine doing it several times a year like you do! I am intrigued by what compost tea is? I don’t think I have ever heard of that.

    Reply
  18. Viola S on

    Hi Erin. Thanks for your info. I’ve been wanting to do this type of flower production for years and you’ve helped me get started. The questions i have are; how do you make your compost tea and do you use new pots and flats when you seed and transplant? Or how do you sanitize to reuse? Some of my seedlings did not appreciate transplanting and look like they either didn’t have enough nutrients or had a root bug (however i see no signs of them). I was thinking it could be mineral deposits from the reused pots. I would appreciate some feedback if you have the time. Thanks again. (PS: love your book!)

    Reply
  19. Katie on

    Thank you so much for sharing all these helpful details! When you first started out did you have the money to invest in the soil right away? I am in my second season of growing flowers for the farmer’s market and I don’t feel I have the resources to invest in the soil like I want to. Did you work your way in to being able to afford all the amendments?

    Reply
  20. Nila Howard on

    Hello-
    Love your posts and blog. You grow such exquisite flowers and I’ve followed you for some time now. I’ve been an organic gardener since 1980 and am wondering about something. You say you use cottonseed meal as a fertilizer for flowers which I think is fine, but would you use it on an organic vegetable garden? I’ve always felt that because it was a product from the textile industry which is allowed to use whatever chemicals they want, that it was too toxic to use with vegetables. I’m wondering about leftover chemical residues like herbicides, insecticides, etc. in it that may get into my vegetables and herbs.
    Thanks for the info.

    Reply
  21. Theresa Emmons on

    This is my first article and although it took me a few days to sit down and read it; I was excited to receive it and I was not disappointed. First, my applause for all of your exceptional work at putting all of this together for yourself, your family, and all of us willing to listen. Second, I have been on this journey for a few years; although, not with the intention of cut flowers, but with the intention of growing, and building an income property.

    I originally purchased an acre and a quarter with the intention of learning how to grow organically and grow in the climate I chose to purchase my property in. I tried many theories and was successful with all of the practices you have implemented in your fields.

    In my recon efforts what I did not implement were planting rotation timelines, the information you provided has given me a clear picture – to the point without unnecessary fluff.

    I recently purchased five acres with the intention of cut flowers and natural soaps and shampoos. Your hard work and gracious attitude inspire me. – Thank you. te

    Reply
  22. FREDERICK V ASAY on

    Have you considered using BIO-CHAR as one of your soil amendments . There has been extensive studies here in Utah at USU which shows very promising results. With all your compost on the farm, you could easily make your own.

    Reply
  23. Katie Pence on

    Great article as are all of yours. My gardens are more landscaped with perennials . I infill with annuals. I’ve been heavily mulching with wood chips. Although the year I put them down I don’t get as many annuals reseeding . I weed a lot, encouraging reseeding.
    My soil is sand as well. We took bare acreage, cleared the trees and shrubs, started adding compost and manures. I try to keep it all “ in house”. Even organic fertilizers get their product from confined animal feed lots- it can be contaminated with all kinds of chemicals. So I use a lot of our own compost.

    Reply
  24. Ann Brooks-Waller on

    This is great information! Thank you for sharing! It is my 3rd year growing flowers, but this year I am tripling my crop. Luckily I have great soil. I grow organically and your information is so helpful. You are inspiring me to follow my dream! Blessings to you and your year ahead!

    Reply
  25. Ann on

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

    Right now I’m trying to find natural alternatives to lawn chemicals. Our lawn looks terrible.

    Reply
  26. Maureen MacDonald on

    Hello and thank you for sharing your rich knowledge of growing plants and flowers.
    Would you mind telling me how to make compost tea. That is, the amounts of water and compost to make tea, and also the type of compost you use (fish, chicken manure, kelp, etc).
    Thank you,
    Maureen
    Victoria, BC

    Reply
  27. Michele on

    Great article with lots of helpful information. Thank you! I also appreciated your honesty. I would also like to know what your compost tea is made from and if you use horse manure for the tea?

    Reply
  28. Connie on

    Thank you for sharing this information. Your diligence in preparing the soil certainly shows in your beautiful flowers. I have a small veg. garden interspersed with flowers( for beneficials and my pleasure)and herbs. I have only grown organically as well. Gaia Green is a company in B.C. whose products I use, making similar fertilizer as your choice. This year trying some stinging neetle compost tea and my usual fish/seaweed liquid feed. I like to apply fresh seaweed under my veg. around my roses either in the fall or early spring. It’s labor intensive ,especially for me at 73 and not always attainable but the results are wonderful.
    I love your posts and one day hope to visit your farm.
    Cheers for adding beauty to the world.

    Reply
  29. St John on

    How do you make compost tea?

    Reply
  30. Candy on

    Since I wasn’t a follower in 2016, I missed the original post, but I am so happy you reposted! I am an avid vegetable gardener who moved to a new home with a bigger and better garden that had been dormant about 5 years. I too am in the process of replenishing soils and adding organics to my well-draining soil in the high plains.

    Reply
  31. Joni Burke on

    Thank you for sharing so much information. I feel as though we are friends.
    Quick questions: what does your compost tea consist of? Just compost? How sweet that would be!
    Do you ever use horse or cow manure?

    Reply
  32. Ashley on

    Love your organic approach! I feel like ornamental gardening still hasn’t caught on to organic practices as fast as produce gardening has and I commend your efforts! I also want to say that I really enjoy and look forward to reading your blog posts. I have only recently gotten into flower gardening and your articles have been so helpful to remove some of the nerves for a newbie like me. I planted my first anemone corms that I ordered from you last fall and I just love, love, love them!

    Reply
  33. Sonja DUCE on

    Thank you so much for the amazing information you share. I was wondering, if I use grass clippings to mulch, how deep should it be and is it ok to top it up as the season goes on, if needed?

    Reply
  34. Tracy Lee Sievers on

    I am loving the daffodils that I got from Floret last Autumn and they are blooming beautifully here in Eastern Washington. (Thank you again for the amazing gift as I won these bulbs in a blog contest this past Fall!) I see you use fabric to prevent weeds for your Spring plantings. Do you also use fabric on beds with Fall Bulbs? If so, are the holes larger to account for the plants coming up on their own? I have a terrible weed issue in my new daffodil bed that I’d like to address but I worry that my beautiful bulbs will get caught under the fabric preventing me from enjoying their blooms. Any advice would be most welcome! I already have plans to pull the bulbs up this coming Autumn and amend the soil as we have clay soil here in The Palouse but intend to put those bulbs right back into the ground again to overwinter.

    Reply
  35. Christine on

    Thank you for your extra effort to garden organic! Round up, along with the other chemicals cause cancer and is destroying our Earth! For smaller home gardening, I highly recommend using several layers of newspaper or cardboard with several inches of mulch on top. This method is excellent for suppressing weeds and slowly decomposes improving the soil.

    Reply
  36. Leigh Greener on

    Do you always lay your drip lines UNDER the landscape fabric? I just invested in the heavy duty fabric but have always payed my lines on top.

    Reply
  37. Kimberly Preston on

    Hi Erin, I’m so envious of your knowledge and the product that results. Thank you for pouring that into us. Could you give me the compost tea recipe you use on your gardens? Thank yoi

    Reply
  38. Madelaine on

    Does the compost an fertilizer get tilled in or incorporated into the planting holes when plugging in? It appears that the compost and fertilizer is spread out evenly on the surface as a top dressing instead of being cultivated in, is this after a seasonal till to loosen the un-amended soil? Or after just one till when first creating the bed? In areas where you are mulching with straw instead of plastic, is this because you just ran out or is there a preference for annuals/perennials? How do you feel about using arborist’s wood chips in the pathways of rows, especially perennial crops? Is there a concern with the wood chips sponging up/locking up nitrogen in the fertilizer or do you take a more long-term approach that everything will break down eventually, as with straw? Is your fall cover crop followed by a period of fallow dormancy in the winter, or by the time it is done are you already planting again? (I grow in subtropic zone 9a so the only chance for soil rest or cover cropping I have is deep summer) Do you shut off irrigation when certain rows are not in use? Or is there a benefit to preserving soil fertility by keeping the ground moist? Sorry so many questions. Just curious.

    Reply
  39. Myra Moreira on

    What an extraordinary amount of insight, integrity and absolute dedication you bring to what you do. I always look forward to your posts because I know I’ll learn something valuable, as well as enjoy the beauty that results from your efforts. Being able to produce flowers (and food) organically is the future!

    Reply
  40. Nancy Viseth on

    We live near a compost producer too, but here it coast $60/yard! So we are only able to do 1″ deep. $15/yard would be a dream.

    Reply
  41. Kayla on

    Do you cover all beds including green houses with the cover crop in the fall? Do you think that this contributes to higher weeds/unwanted plants in the spring & summer? Really loved this article.

    Reply
  42. sheila malmberg on

    Thanks for the link as to where to buy the organic fertilizer in our area. Great timesaver :)

    Reply
  43. WellSpring Farm on

    We have a very short season and don’t really have time for multiple crops or even fall cover crops. We joke that our cover crop is snow (300+inches this year). But whenever we open a new bed we try to grow soybeans or greenbeans on it the first year. It is essentially a vegetable garden bed that year. This has proven effective for nitrogen inputs when cover crops are impractical and we get a winter’s supply of vegetables.

    Reply
  44. Betsy on

    Your post are always so informative. Thanks for taking the time to share. I hope to incorporate some of your routines in my garden.

    Reply
  45. Heather Iris Starkel on

    Thank you for this post! Specific details (adding 3-4 inches of compost and sprinkling on powder fertilizer, covering with hay, etc.) are so helpful. I, too, would love the recipe for compost tea. Delish!

    Reply
  46. Margaret on

    Really interesting – very glad to hear that you grow organically. Would like to know more about the compost tea. Thank you. Margaret

    Reply
  47. Jodi on

    Thanks so much! We are trying to use compost tea this year and would love to hear more about this topic.

    Reply
  48. Rebecca on

    Thanks for this post! Sooo interesting! Do you have resources to recommend if one were to want to learn more about soil chemistry/ composition? Do you make your own compost tea?
    Growing your flowers for the first time and getting a bit disheartened as the rabbits have cleaned out a few varieties of my new seedlings. Do you do anything to prevent four legged animals from munching on your crops?

    Reply
  49. Danielle on

    “In the fall, we clean up the beds and replant with a cover crop usually consisting of ryegrass, field peas, hairy vetch and crimson clover.”

    Do you plant these to add nitrogen? What do you i with the cover crop? Do you cut it, till into soil, let it decompose by itself, etc?

    We planted fields with ryegrass and crimson clover. We have beautiful red fields! But now we don’t know what to do with the crimson clover. The fields are normally hay fields. If the cover crop is successful (meaning it improved the soil by adding nitrogen), we will plant it in more areas in the fall.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  50. Diane Woloshyn on

    As well as growing flowers, we also raise chickens so we have lots of chicken droppings. I have been told that chicken manure must decompose for a year before using it as a fertilizer because of the high acidity. I am wondering if we mix the manure with water to make a “poop soup” would that be beneficial to the soil? I appreciate your thoughts.

    Reply
  51. Mari Beth on

    Would love to know more about how to incorporate cover crops. Love your healthy methods and lovely blog. Thank you.

    Reply
  52. Karen Davis on

    I would LOVE to know more about compost tea!!!! I’ve never tried/used it… and it’s the second time today that I’ve read about it!

    Reply
  53. margo on

    Just starting a small cutting garden and will be using the natural method as well…I am getting so much information from you. My daughter is taking your course and I am taking 5Mary’s Farm’s course. You woman are so motivating and have given my daughter and I the courage to take to jump with our dreams…thank you so much!!!

    Reply
  54. Melanie on

    Hi Erin,
    So fabulous that you are using and promoting organic growing methods, sharing your reasons why and showcasing your resulting beautiful blooming inspiring example of the results. Your soil amendment and preparation regime looks great, everything to produce a yummy soil that any plant would love; I would like to add a recommendation if I may…Biochar. Biochar is particularly helpful for the type of sandy soils you are working with and the kind of benefits it brings are long lasting and increase with time. In your context it’s property of increasing the water holding capacity would be a big plus as well as the particular talent Biochar has of holding the nutrient in place and preventing it from leaching away (which is a problem in sandy soils), therefore improving fertiliser efficiency. Additionally, being a stable form of carbon, it increases the carbon content of the soil, also increases the cation exchange, provides habitat for beneficial micro-organisms and fungi and more. All this creates stronger root development and more stable conditions in the soil (moisture retention and nutrient availability) resulting in plant resilience and increased immunity to pests and disease. I know that another product is another cost and all that but I strongly encourage you to have a look as it is an enduring benefit that keeps on giving and you may even be able to produce it yourselves on farm from any woody waste, prunings, weed material or such like (quite quick, easy and low tech using a Japanese style moki-cone or a Con-tiki cone style kiln). We taught our local organic regenerative intensive market micro-farmer how to make it and now it is an invaluable part of his amendment regime which he also teaches and recommends. The greater environmental benefits of sequestering stable carbon long term in the soil and offsetting the release of methane and nitrous oxide are just a happy little side-effect you can claim Brownie points for!
    Your flowers are incredibly beautiful and thank you for all your generous giving of information and eye-candy.
    Melanie

    Reply
  55. Meredith on

    Thanks this is great. I’ve always struggled with how much organic material to put in the soil. If the beds were perennial, would you do the same?

    Reply
  56. Mary on

    Thank you for sharing so much about how you produce such beautiful flowers. I would love to know more about your compost tea. thank you so much!!

    Reply
  57. Flowers galore on

    Erin, awesome post! I do have a question, when you are using your black fabric, do you ever notice your flowers get too hot and die? How big are your holes? I invested in it several years ago and was totally saddened by many flowers dying. I have since invested in bio360 and loved not pulling the fabric but I still have all that black fabric left and we are expanding. I may reconsider trying it again. How do you anchor it to keep the wind from ripping it up? I covered with soil but struggled with the wind. Thanks for all you do and share, this farmer truly appreciates it! Be blessed because you are a blessing!

    Reply
  58. Sally on

    Great information! Thanks!

    Reply
  59. victoria fairbanks on

    thank you so so much for the amazing information you share and the wonderful photos that accompany the information. i have not used plant compost as i haven’t found it here on Whidbey Island so i use (phenomenally pricey!) aged organic cow manure. As the others above i would greatly appreciate what you make your compost tea with. Thank you for your great generosity of beauty as for sure it feeds this beloved planet….and all of us who read your blog are nurtured likewise.

    Reply
  60. Beth Tuttle on

    There is a discussion circling in my community about pesticide/herbicide-free straw. Do you know a place to get such a thing?
    Thanks for all the great info- you are inspiring growers all over the place!

    Reply
  61. Jude Maglione on

    So enjoy any email from Floret! ALWAYS informative, inspiring and relatable. I too, am curious about the compost tea as I have read both good and bad.

    Reply
  62. Steven Heller on

    Hi- Thank You very much for your post and your wonderful organic philosophy? I grow fruits and
    vegetables on Lopez Island . Our farm is organically certified. I would like to know which soil testing lab you use and where you procure your organic fertilizer. Also please share information on what minerals you apply to the soil. I’ve used rock phosphate and azomite mined in Utah.

    Reply
  63. Britiney Slaughter on

    I too would love to know about compost tea. Thanks for all of this great info!

    Reply
  64. Sandie Leonard on

    I am trying my hand at my first flower garden. I have a garden 24′ x 48′. I am hoping to produce enough flowers to make arrangements for my church and to take to the local farmers market. I love all of the information you share. It has been very helpful. Although I am full of questions, I will start by asking about compost tea. How do you make it or do you purchase it?

    Reply
  65. Patty Eisner on

    I too, would love to hear more about your tea. Last year, I grew dahlias for the first time in my cutting garden. This year, almost the entire ( small ) garden will be dahlias! I’m in love!

    Reply
  66. Laura on

    You feed my fresh cut dreams from across the nation!! Thank you for all that you do, including sharing/educating others to take the necessary steps on our own farms.
    I would also love to hear more about your compost tea. Is it just from a compost barrel? And does one barrel produce enough tea for your 2 acres?

    Reply
  67. terry on

    Thank you so much and congrats to you and your team/family on accomplishing your wonderful flower filled world you so generously share. Would love to know if you share the compost tea(s) ingredients. The article mentioned the pest preventive one. Do you have other teas and seasons, specific uses? Thank you.

    Reply
  68. Wendy on

    I appreciate all the great information! I am interested in your compost tea. Could you possibly do a post on how you make it, ingredients, etc? Thank you so much!

    Reply
  69. carolyn on

    Thank you! Which soil test service do you use in WA?

    Reply
  70. Holly C on

    Your blog posts are always so helpful. I have been growing organically for many years and have noticed that my plants get far fewer diseases than those in other non- organic gardens nearby.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful knowledge!

    Reply
  71. Jerri on

    What a helpful post! I appreciate your dedication to farming organically. The issue for me is natural pest control. I would love for you to share how you manage pests.

    Reply
  72. Clarisse Wilton on

    Your posts are always so informative and sooo cherished by me!!! Thank you for sharing all of your amazing information- it’s so awesome of you- love all the pics and the links!! Only questions is compost tea? Thank you again!!!

    Reply
  73. Darcanne Nixon on

    You’re an inspiration! I eagerly read all your posts. I agree wholeheartedly that the effort to be a conscientious gardener is worth it in every way.

    Reply
  74. Christine Donovan on

    Thanks for the extra details. One thing worth mentioning; I’ve had the hardest time finding the landscape fabric that is shiny on both sides. I’ve ordered and returned three that ended up being fuzzy on the bottom. Maybe if you post an item number or sku or something of the Dewitt Sunbelt rolls it would help. Best of luck with your growing season ahead!

    Reply
  75. Sarah Bailey on

    I completely agree with your philosophy regarding organic gardening! What a great example for your kids.
    I have had a hard time finding comparable fertilizer on the east coast, but trying Fishnure this year. Anxious to see how that works.
    Where do you find rock powders? Have not seen them in Ga – maybe looking in the wrong place.
    Thanks, as always, for such helpful information! Sometimes I feel like I am alone in this endeavor!!

    Reply
  76. Stasha on

    I love the nitty-gritty practical stuff! THANK YOU!

    Reply
  77. Lisa on

    I’d appreciate it if you would please share your recipe for compost tea.

    Reply
  78. Andrea M. on

    Do you have any resources for compost tea? Would love to know more about what you are using for that. Thank you for showing us a natural, organic method as that is important to me and my family.

    Reply
  79. Leslie on

    This is such helpful information! And as a beekeeper, I am grateful you are going (growing?) the organic route. It’s the only way to ensure the ongoing survival of our pollinators and other garden creatures. Thank you SO much.

    Reply
  80. Deb on

    Hi, thank you for sharing your invaluable knowledge and experience. I am one of many thousands of fans! We are hoping to start growing flowers next year here in New Zealand and one thing that bothers me is the use of landscape fabric. It seems to make weed control so much easier but can it be reused? Or has anyone used jute fabric or coffee sacks successfully?

    Reply
  81. cathy yatson on

    Would love to know more about compost tea! thank you for all you share!!

    Reply
  82. Janis on

    Your posts are so informative and have great visuals as well. Really easy to follow. I so appreciate that you are showing how to do this WITHOUT toxic chemicals! Thank you so much. I can’t wait for my flowers to begin growing and blooming . You and yours are such an inspiration! Thank you for your wonderful contribution to health and beauty.

    Reply
  83. Patricia Christensen on

    Thanks for this information. I would love to hear how you produce compost tea. Will peruse your blog and see if you’ve already addressed this. I LOVE your work and so appreciate how much you share with us!

    Reply
  84. Katrina Litwiller on

    Please share your ingredients and methods for compost tea…. thank you! I love your book about flower farming! I am a new grower this year.

    Reply
  85. Elisa on

    Do you have a resource that you recommend to learn the basics of organic farming? I’d like to utilize organic methods but am a bit lost as to how to begin as I’m on 30 acres. Do you worry with the surrounding land that you aren’t actively farming?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  86. Tori Cole on

    Lovely! Thank you for taking the time to share such thorough step by steps!

    Reply
  87. Resa Yamamoto on

    I am very curious what you use for irrigation line on your beds and what system you would recommend for small garden areas.

    Reply
  88. Marjorir Flores on

    I second wanting to know where you get your compost! I live in seattle and all the bulk compost I can find is from municipal yard waste (like cedar grove) and who knows what is in it, or woodchips with steer manure. I’m still picking pieces of plastic and glass out of my yard from a garbage filled load 4 years ago. I’d start my own compost but the rats get so bad! I feel like borrowing a truck and heading up to Skagit would be well worth it

    Thank you!

    Reply
  89. Michele Thomas on

    I applaud you for your total organic practices. Do you have a problem with cucumber beetles in the Northwest? If so, how do you keep them from devastating your flowers? I’m looking for some way to combat the beetles that will not harm bees. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Saves us from wasting time re-inventing the wheel. Plus, your beautiful pictures make my day!

    Reply
  90. Pat Reid on

    Would you share your compost tea recipe?’ I’m wanting to make it in a 45 gallon barrel.

    Reply
  91. Melissa on

    Great information thank you. I made my first ever batch of compost tea. Do you use your compost tea exclusively for disease prevention?

    Reply
  92. Patty on

    I see a few others have asked about what type of drip lines you use down you beds? Are they a driptape as they look to me or an emitter hose with a certain amount of spacing between the emitters? Hope to read an answer when time allows as I am planning my beds
    Have your book and love it.
    Thank you,
    Patty

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Hi Patty,
      We like 15 mil. Drip Tape from Dripworks. We put them a foot apart since our soil is sandy, but if your soil holds moisture better, you could space them out more. I hope this helps!

  93. Heather on

    Do you use soaker hoses? Or drip lines? I have 6 acres and I’m slowly but surely trying to establish my plots, two zones are setup with timers and drip line systems. But I’m having one heck of a time figuring out the correct tubing to buy. It looks like you have an initial tube that feeds the water to the branched off hoses? Do you just add attachment deals to each branch off? these hoses will be the death of me ?

    Reply
  94. Anita on

    This is great information, I only use organic material in my garden too, and have to prepare my own compost. I enjoy composting just as much gardening. Looking forward to this year’s gardening my husband bought me a greenhouse ?.

    Reply
  95. Ren on

    This makes so much sense – replace the harvested organic matter. Thank you. I am just starting to create flower beds for the first time. Do you have any suggestions for new beds that have grass / weeds – have you used solarisation? Or should I just dig weeds out? So time consuming – is there an organic way to deal with grassy new ground? Thanks any suggestions greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Barbara Ottolino on

      Read Patricia Lanza’s “Lasagna Gardening”. I have used it only on a small scale, both on a farm to develop soil atop a flint road, and on a small suburban lot, to expand beds and improve soil. I am not sure how well it scales up, but don’t know your situation. In the suburbs, I gather all my neighbors’ bagged fall leaves usually disposed of by the city, and shred them on my garden beds. (many are already shredded by lawnmowers.) Free leaf mold for small scale gardens.
      Eliot Coleman’s books and U-Tube tutorials describe measured amounts of various recycled organic material, with careful descriptions of their integration on a 5 acre farm. Use of cover crops and specific nutritional value of each are described in detail.

  96. Erik on

    What kind of irrigation hose do you use? I have used soaker lines but those fail so not sure what is reliable.

    Reply
  97. Marie Tuttle on

    I have to thank you for a very well explained piece on ground preparation. It is invaluable information for the novice and experienced alike. I write a gardening blog and I know the time and effort involved so thank you for taking the time and putting in the work to do this. Great stuff!!

    Reply
  98. Kat on

    Thank you so much for taking your time to write all of this down. You are so inspiring!

    Reply
  99. Heidi on

    Very helpful information! Thanks so much for sharing!!

    Reply
  100. Eloise van Dyk on

    I’m so inspired! Thank you! Please continue!! I am soaking up all the information..

    Reply
  101. Peter McAlpine on

    I am most impressed by your “Never give up” spirit. Your summary of how you have got to where you are now indicates a lot of worry and fears, and probably also enough tears to cover one of your raised flower beds. I wish you continuous success, and for you and your inspiring family, good health, happiness, and an abundance of blessings!

    Reply
  102. Tammy Chinn on

    Thanks again for all you do I rely on your information and inspiration so much! I am curious why you use a 7-2-4 fertilizer instead of a more P heavy fertilizer for flowers. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Haley Carter on

      i am curious about this too!

  103. Ana Wieman on

    I just learned about Floret Farm after reading this week’s issue of the New York Times Style Magazine. It’s thrilling to hear that the place (Mt Vernon) we plan to move when we leave our day jobs is host to an organic flower producer who is so generous with knowledge and transparent about challenges while sharing passion for the beauty nature creates. For years I’ve been worried that commercial flower production and sustainability weren’t compatible, but Floret Farm seems in harmony with nature while producing a profusion of georgous flowers. My little 20’X80′ P-Patch here in Seattle is home to some fabulous dahlias and poppies and the soil here at Picardo Farm is probably the reason why. I hope to learn how to have the same success when I move to Mt Vernon!

    Reply
  104. Chelsea on

    You’re the best. Every time I read one of your entries I seem to reflect with morning dew from the inside out. Thank you times bloomzillion.

    Reply
  105. Patti on

    Love your blog, your book, and all the information you so freely share…thank you!!!

    Reply
  106. sheri singh on

    So thankful for your comments and sharing. Tell me what the tractor attachment is that “fluffs” your soil so nicely and leaves a nice “crumb” to it. Doesent look like a tiller job. Im putting in beds now, and have downloaded your free planting packet that came with the book I preordered. I have to hire the tractor work out and need to be savy about what to request. Blessings to you and your generous spirit! You have saved the farm in my heart with your sharing and love for others. May you be blessed 100 fold for your recognition of true love for your countrymen.

    Reply
  107. Mike Dunnigan on

    Thanks for all the good ideas you are sharing here. We just purchased some drip tape online and were surprised that it was already prepared with emitters every 8 inches. We had thought that we’d need to punch holes roughly the distance of the spacing of our flowers–from every 6 to 24 inches depending on the varieties. Do you use the same spacing for all your plantings?
    Thanks

    Reply
  108. wenda vince @sandyhillfarm on

    dear Erin and family

    Your info is so complete thank-you. I have always grown my crops whether vegetable or now flowers and shrubs with little or no motorized equipment however age takes a toll and I found your info on landscape fabric so helpful. It addressed my concerns about it being too wasteful in particular and the how etc. of it all just wondering about the best irrigation equipment and will no doubt find this info in another blog. thanks again for your help to all of us out here!!

    Reply
  109. Anna Gregory on

    I’m just now reading this, but keeping it in mind for this Fall and Next Spring! We have a few chickens, and we regularly clean our their coop. After that we are left with alot of straw and chicken poop. We generally just throw it on our tomato beds (which works like gangbusters) but how do you feel about using that in place of a flower bed fertilizer, and would you still add more amendments? Thank you!

    Reply
  110. Amy Bee on

    Hi Erin

    Thank you for all the work you are putting into these blogs – I’m in New South Wales, Australia, and considering the big change from working in Education in the Sydney city to flower farming! Even though I’m on the other side of the world to you, our farm is in a colder area than most might expect for Australia so a lot of what you have to say is very relevant for our conditions, if only we had the same rainfall! I’ll be watching your blog closely and spending the next little while reading over your past posts, I so grateful to have come across all your resources! Soiling testing and prep is where we are at right now so I was very interested to hear your tips and suggestions. We have pretty hard clay soil with very little organic matter so we are also considering growing a crop of canola (rapeseed) first to start breaking things up a little with their tap roots.

    Thanks
    Amy

    Reply
  111. Amy Young Miller on

    Your how-to posts and beautiful photos are invaluable to me, as a small organic farmer! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Keep ’em coming!

    Reply
  112. Elise Stubbs on

    Thank you that has answered some of my earlier questions! Elise

    Reply
  113. Mollie on

    This was one of the most helpful posts for me. I really appreciate you taking the time to put it together. It was simple, straightforward, specific and practical. All of which I really appreciate. Thank you!

    Reply
  114. Tara on

    I am loving all your blogs! You are so generous with your information and resources. I am planning my first year as a flower farmer and your blogs are informative and inspiring!!! Thank you

    Reply
  115. Angela on

    Thank you for these easy to follow instructions! I’ve been looking forward to the post about soil prep and was happy to see this!

    Reply
  116. Sara Davies on

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing, I have loved reading your blog, having stumbled upon your article in Living just a few weeks ago in a stack of magazines my grandmother gave me… I have worked on an organic vegetable farm for the past ten years in different capacities, from farmers markets and CSA to managing the greenhouse to bookkeeping and blogging for them and during that time also grew flowers wherever I lived, sometimes for a wedding or two. I’m also a mom, I have two daughters, 22months and 5… I have always dreamed of having a flower farm someday and you have inspired me to bite the bullet and till up my 1/4-acre yard! I feel so happy to have found you and this amazing resource, I hope to be able to come to a workshop next year! Thanks again for all that you do and for creating this vibrant and open learning space

    Reply
  117. Beth on

    Thank you so much for your great posts! The information that you share so generously and the accompanying photos are invaluable.

    I have two questions:
    1. Have you used composted manure? Would you recommend avoiding cow manure because of the possible antibiotics and hormones possibly given to the cows?
    2. Do you ever find it difficult to reach into a 4 foot zinnia bed for cutting because of the height of the flowers and the closeness of the plants?

    Reply
  118. Shyla on

    Thank-you Erin!

    Reply
  119. Wendy on

    I have only recently found your blog and love it. I’m getting the first patch of soil tilled in a few weeks, so looking forward to seeing what I can grow. I too would love it if you could post your recipe for compost tea. Love all the photos. Thank you so much for sharing :)

    Reply
  120. Sadie on

    Great post! I’m in Whatcom County, WA and curious – where do you purchase your compost from? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  121. Alaina Noel on

    Erin, thank you so much for sharing! Gives me hope for our very sandy garden!
    Alaina Noel

    Reply
  122. Amy on

    Hi Erin,

    Would you be willing to share your compost tea recipe and application rates?

    Wonderful posts. Always inspiring.

    Reply
  123. Julio on

    Erin-
    This post is great! I didnt know you had sandy soil, so I’m glad to see how you treat it, I have the exact same issue here. But, instead of living in a sand bar, I live in a river bed, so lots of rocks too. :/
    This post reminds me of the “fish guts” treatment/amending you posted a long time ago! lol
    Thank you!
    PS.: I got my answer from the previous post, no fabric for dahlias!

    Reply
  124. Growing With Landscape Fabric - Floret Flowers on

    […] Before laying the fabric, beds are amended with compost and fertilizer, then lightly tilled and given four lines of drip irrigation each. You can get the full scoop in my recent post about soil preparation. […]

    Reply
  125. whitney on

    Couple things to maybe work into that weed fabric post… you actually run your mower over the top of the fabric? And that works okay? And the fabric always goes down before the plants, right? You’re never trying to line up the fabric with something you’ve just seeded or planted out, right? Also, I’ve harped on it a bunch of times, but please talk about how your tractor “pulls up” your fabric without tearing it! Thanks!!

    Can you tell what a noob I am??

    Reply
  126. Saneth on

    Do you have a general recommendation for how deep your soil layers are. We are in the Texas hill country and have a lot of limestone and hard compacted soil. Not sure if true raised beds will be cost effective, but I definitely want to add enough good soil for the roots to develop.

    Thanks again for all the great information.

    Reply
  127. Laura Winslow on

    Your blog posts are terrific! The information is so valuable!! I am eager to learn all I can about raising beautiful flowers! I don’t sell them, I give them away and paint pictures of them ! Your flowers have always inspired me to pick up my brush!! But then I love gardening and growing them! Thank you Erin and team for all your hard work to make such beauty!!

    Reply
  128. Jackie on

    Love it! I would love to hear a quick rundown of the crops you typically don’t use landscape fabric with. Thanks Erin!

    Reply
  129. Ali on

    Thanks, Erin! Another great article, feeding the soil is key! Interesting to hear you numbers, our organic compost runs $25/cy.

    Would love to hear more on your irrigation schedule and also IPM strategies. Here in northern Illinois, our corn flea and Japanese beetle pressure is insane!!!

    Reply
  130. Randy on

    Thanks for sharing your information and asking for comments. My mother-in-law is a wedding florist here in MN and keeps trying to get me to grow more flowers in my vegetable garden, and this year is the year where some flowers (that aren’t attached to weeds) will be growing where some veggies were last. I am pretty excited I also am very grateful to see someone that grows on sandy soil like I do.

    I have two questions and one comment. Have you researched or been told by your lab analysis if growing flowers changes soil fertilization recommendations/targets from the well known food production targets? I was wondering if you know if they follow a Reams, Albrecht, or other methodology for their soil nutrient targets and if those are changed at all since those were developed with food production in mind.

    Also, does the testing lab know what your compost application rate is and take that into affect when providing your recommendations? I am asking this because if they don’t, many (vegetable) gardeners fall into a trap where adding potassium-rich compost as well as potassium fertilizers will over-saturate the soil ratio and start replacing nutrients. When this occurs with vegetables, you get potassium ending up in places where other elements should be in the tissues, sap, and fruits. They may taste okay, but they do not keep as well and ultimately are less nutritious for biochemical reasons. We would all like to think organic food is more nutritious, but usually it is just less poisonous because what is kept out of it. This would be intriguing to see if flower “shelf life” and cold hardiness could be improved like vegetable/fruit shelf life/hardiness can be improved when soil ratios are kept on target.

    Lastly a comment about gardening in your area. Have you gone to take the tour of Paul Gautschi’s garden in Sequim? Even if you can’t do what he does on your scale or if you have automated harvesting (I don’t know if you do), it is worth it to take his tour and watch the Back to Eden documentary that was made about him. It is free to watch on YouTube. It was the best 1h 45m I have spent on gardening. With my sandy soil, I was constantly watering and weeding. When I implemented his methods, I have not watered my vegetable garden in three consecutive years and weeding is so much more under control.

    You have a lovely operation here. I am glad I visited. Hope to hear from you during the blog blizzard!

    Reply
  131. Bibi on

    Great tips again Erin, I would also appreciate your recipe on compost tea! Last year was our first year with cut flowers and we found the straw mulch was great, helps to keep the flower moist through the hot summers! Thanks again!

    Reply
  132. Yeng on

    Hi Erin. Thank you so much for you generous wealth of info. I would love to see a how-to blog on your hoophouses. I’ve been searching high and low and have yet to find something similar. They look simple but yet sturdy and functional.

    Reply
  133. Meriwether on

    Your blog is very very helpful and so appreciated! Thank you !!!

    Reply
  134. Kel on

    Thank you so much for the February frenzy of information, you are so generous with your knowledge! I’d love to know how you make your compost tea. I use worm tea, but sadly nowhere near enough of it available for all my beds!

    Reply
  135. Dennis on

    I cannot, cannot thank you and your team for these posts. They are SO encouraging.

    I don’t know how far I’ll get this year, but I’m doing my best to knit together a plot here, a plot there to grow some of these beautiful flowers and get them into people’s lives.

    And I’m loving and learning from the arrangements that you post. I had already started to forage when I stumbled onto your Instgram page.

    Cheers to all of us here

    Dennis

    Reply
  136. Heather on

    Your posts are one of the highlights of my week. You have me fully inspired! Currently surrounded by seed packets, garden drawings and a calendar. Happy gal. :)

    Reply
  137. Molly on

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and organic practices! Your generous spirit shows forth in your beautiful flowers and abundant garden. Love and appreciate your blogs. :)

    Reply
  138. lou desena on

    erin, enjoy reading your posts and phto’s.thank you for the “knowledge you give us.

    Reply
  139. Terri on

    I love the picture of little Jasper doing the compost tea application. I have a future firefighter who would love that job I think. I am excited this year to have found a source for rabbit poop which to me, is better than a sleigh full of Christmas presents. I have a friend whose daughter is in 4H and she has a friend (also in 4H) who has 30 poop-making rabbits. She agreed to save it all for me over the winter and even said that the kids like to do community projects so if I have any projects that need to be done, they’ll help me with that too. I can think of a few…. Wonder if they’d build me a little flower stand? And a cute arbor for my farm’s entrance? They will rue the day they volunteered their services to me!

    I have wonderful soil (thank God) which is the main reason that despite filling my home to bursting with children, I WILL NOT MOVE. My neighbors are apple farmers and are huge proponents of spraying chemicals but I will not. I think it’s an important point you made- as parents (of pets or children), we should try to avoid toxic chemicals at almost any cost.

    I am thrilled to hear that I can probably get away with not using four lines of drip like you do. I thought because Erin does it, I must do it too. You just saved me a couple bucks.

    P.S. Would you be insulted/a little freaked out if I named one of our hens after you? If there is a rooster in the bunch, I promise I’ll name it Chris if that would make you feel better. But there won’t be a rooster because they are sex-linked! But seriously, can I?

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Terri, you a too funny!

      Of course you can. But promise me you’ll post a picture of her and send me a link!

    • Terri on

      It’s a deal!

  140. Aisha Crawford on

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful tips! I love each and every one of your posts. I am wondering what your take is on adding things like Mykes brand mycorrhizae? I have had my father in law bring me natural mycorrhizae from his 325 acres in the upper peninsula in Michigan. He has an organic farm and organically raised bees there. However sometimes I can’t wait and have bought the brand for plants and veggies. I grow organically as well and would be so sad to find out that it’s not as natural as they claim. Thank you for any input you have ☺

    Reply
  141. Sherry on

    I haven’t even planted the first seed and I had to go back to your first February article and remember why I’m doing this. It isn’t about the money, its about a legacy. It wasn’t cost or profit that was on my mind when I sat with tears streaming down my face and read the article in Country Living about your farm. It was about a promise in Isaiah that the Lord would bring forth beauty where there were briers and thorns. It was a memory of being mesmerized at the age of 8 as I watched my grandmother, who we called Honey, put an armload of bright colorful zinnias in to a vase as she made an arrangement for a neighbor. It is about wanting to bring that same beauty into my daily world and the world of my children and grandchildren. So I will gladly spend $162.00 for a cubic yard of organic compost and put in my first row of zinnia seeds. And I will trust the Lord to help me find the resources I need as I go forward. Thank you floret for all you do.

    Reply
  142. Laura on

    Erin, these posts have all been so fantastic! I was wondering if you’d share your compost tea recipe? (If there is such a thing?) All the best and thanks again!

    Reply
  143. Jillian on

    I’ve been scouring your blog, & read that 100 year old book on Sweet Peas that says, “Cow manure”, more than any other manure is better for sweet peas. Do you ever use aged manures? & if so, what kind? I have access to aged chicken manure & horse manure. What do you plant as a cover crop?

    Reply
  144. Elizabeth on

    Enjoyed this post, found through insta. I have been starting the initial stages of flower farm planning and have been keeping an eye out for soil amending advice. I will be working on clay. Also I have been torn between conventional sprays, biopesticides, & full organic. Always good to head more points of view.

    Reply
  145. Melanie Deyton on

    I love this blog. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. It really sparks my passion and keeps me very motivated. Looking forward to the landscape fabric post.

    Reply
  146. Aleida on

    Just a dreamer here but reading these posts with concrete information has been such a joy! Thank you! Will you be doing a post about cover crops or farm equipment you find absolutely essential?

    Reply
  147. Prince Snow Farm on

    What a great post! I grow lots of veggies and 2 beds of zinnias. This year I am taking over a few of my veggie beds with flowers. I literally sat with a notebook yesterday taking notes from all of your posts. When to plant, when to pick, which plants to succession plant and how often. I feel like I am taking a gardening course and it’s wonderful! We have a nearby horse farm who had his compost certified organic last year. So we filled our beds from him and we are going to top the beds this year. We also us Neptune’s Harvest organic fish and seaweed fertilizer. I really like the idea of the compost tea and would also love a recipe. REALLY looking forward to your description of ow to use the landscape fabric. We have used it on the paths between our raised beds, but would love to use it on the beds themselves. Thanks for taking the time to educate and help us do what we love!

    Reply
  148. Dennise Bamberry on

    I love reading your blog! I’ve been an organic gardener from the beginning (everything raw and natural from my household – except meat/dairy/oils – goes out to the compost heap) and believe wholeheartedly in being responsible to the environment. I enjoy everything you share, and am likewise guilty, as another reader posted, about forgetting to test my soil, so thanks for sharing that tip. Well worth reading, and sharing!

    Reply
  149. Emily Nekl on

    Very helpful indeed. I see that you cover entire sections of your farm with a fabric. Do you worry about air exchange and heat for your soil organisms? While compost, fertilizer etc are right at the top of key ingredients, so are worms, soil bacteria etc. love your thoughts on this.

    Reply
  150. Marisa on

    So wonderful! I had no idea weekly compost tea was a possibility as I only did it monthly last year — this year I’m doing more plants and will try the weekly application. Thanks!

    Reply
  151. Joy on

    Thank you for generously sharing this information. I always look forward to reading your post and learning your process. Yesterday I gave myself the Valentine gift of planting some of your Floret seed. We have pet rabbits, they are really sweet and their droppings provide us with an excellent natural fertilizer. Keep up the wonderful work.

    Reply
  152. Corina on

    Jasper on the tractor! Kai and Luke are jealous!

    Reply
  153. Katie rosemancreekranch on

    The pictures are just a great way to communicate. I had no idea you had such sandy soil. Remember Findhorn garden and Golden Gate Park were both built on sand dunes…

    Reply
  154. Tracey on

    Middle of the day and stinking hot outside.Am laying on the bed ,reading your much anticipated and appreciated Blog. I am up at first light doing my chores and observing Nature ,at the best time of the day. I have prepared three 16 metre rows ,each about one and half metre wide. My soil is black with a sprinkling of rocks. Yesterday I threw Gypsum along the rows, hoping to help break down the clogs of soil. I have a pile of compost and old cow manure at the ready. The irrigation shop was very helpful in selling me drip tube ect. I won’t be using three lines , as my soil will hold moisture better than sand. I have not yet purchased the Weed Mat and am waiting with baited breath for that information. Any particular wire netting spacing ,there are so many sizes.!!many thanks and have a smiling day today.

    Reply
  155. Holly on

    Thank you for this fantastic post! Sharing what you have learned over years of hard work feels like such a gift to us. I’ve so appreciated reading your blog posts this month. Again many thanks and blessings to you!

    Reply
  156. Connie Gauthier on

    Thank you so much, I feel like I’m taking a course with all your information. Erin, you have a generous spirit! Blessings to you and your family.

    Reply
  157. Trish on

    Thank you for the info and please keep it coming!! Your blog and Instagram are getting me through Wisconsin winter!!

    Reply
  158. Cill on

    I’ve been looking forward to this post! Living in the Southeast all my life, I have been fortunate to garden in the wonderful Ridge and Valley, Southwestern Appalachians, and the Mississippi Delta ecoregions before permanently moving to Southeastern Alabama in the sandy Southeastern Plains ecoregion. In the last 5 years since purchasing property here, we have had more problems with disease and low productivity than I ever could have imagined (this has been a recurring sore-spot for my Botanist husband). After following your blog, I am embarking on a new, intensive soil-building regime. I would also love more detail about your drip irrigation, since I think this way of watering may help with the terrible disease problems that we have been dealing with.

    Reply
  159. Andrea on

    I love all of the details! This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise.
    I can’t wait to hear about the landscape fabric. Weeds are my worst enemy! I apologize if you’ve covered this elsewhere, but how do you decide what flowers you use the hoop house with and which you don’t? Also, do you have many bug problems there and if so what organic methods work well? We live in Illinois and the Japanese Beetles love the Dahlias. It seems they just appear overnight and the next day they’ve devoured many petals. It’s so disappointing!

    Reply
    • Barbara Ottolino on

      Johnny’s Seeds sells super fine net and hoop benders that allow you to protect dahlias from japanese beetles. Quick Hoop instruction manual will teach all you need to know. Proteknet “Biothrips” Insect Barrier protects crops without overheating them, but if you need more heat, or wider fabric, there are dozens from which to choose.

  160. Eleanor Burke on

    Erin- your blog posts, as always are terrific. As a novice gardener and flower grower, your willingness to share your years of experience here is a gift. Thank you!

    Reply
  161. Mary Hegnes on

    Thank you. I have sweet peas starting to poke up. They are looking a little “gangly” should i put more potting soil around them and for support or just let them go? Thanks again you are amazing and so generous to share your knowledge.
    Mary Hegnes

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Mary, they always start out spindly. Just let them keep growing and they’ll soon fill out.

  162. Jessica on

    Thank you for sharing all of your insights and practices! Here it seems like very few take the time to do things naturally and we are surrounded by big crop farms (beans, wheat, and corn). I have three little girls that crawl around in the dirt with me so we keep things natural. We are blessed to have neighbors with horses that share their compost. All of your posts show how much you truly care about flowers, the people who enjoy them and the planet we all live on :)

    Reply
  163. Joan on

    What a great post! I’ve enjoyed your February “blizzard” very much! This post was especially relevant as I have a 7 year old daughter and two cats who are my helpers in the garden all summer long. Growing flowers (and veggies) without dangerous chemicals is top priority on my farm. Thank you for this informative post and I can’t wait for your tips about landscape fabric later this week! :)

    Reply
  164. Tara on

    Thankyou – perfect timing and great, honest information. We too have sandy soil and are waiting on our soil test result as I write.

    Reply
  165. Brittany G. on

    Loved the post! I only wish that all the pictures were labeled. I had to re-read the article to figure out what the progression of photos was showing. I may just be too much of a garden newbie to understand this all yet, but I’m enjoying the ride!

    Reply
  166. Lexi on

    Thanks for your detailed posts. I’m LOVING them. When you don’t use landscape fabric and just mulch, what is your weeding approach? I know hula hoeing is tough with a bunch of mulch in the beds. Curious how you manage that. With thanks! Lexi

    Reply
  167. Jennifer on

    Can’t believe I’m saying this and don’t want to ginks myself, but I love this “February Blizzard”!
    The details and specifics of this post are answering our present questions as we are trying to create beds now. The link for Natures Intent was great as well. More specifically the info and clarification on when a bed is done and how you mow it down and re-supplement the bed before next planting is just what we were trying to sort out in our heads of what this looks like. The pictures you’ve included are so helpful as well.
    Always grateful for your time & generosity!!!
    Cheers, Jen

    Reply
  168. Shannon on

    Wow, there is some really helpful information here. Thank you so much for generously sharing your knowledge!
    Is rotation advised…. as it is with veggie production?

    Reply
  169. Dani G on

    Erin,
    Thank you once again for the thorough post! Ive learned an insane amount from you over the past year. (Loving this series!!)
    Where do you purchase your compost? How wide are your high tunnels? Thanks! :)

    Reply
  170. Sherry on

    The info you are sharing is wonderful. Using the information you have shared about soil amendments and groundcover fabric and drip line I did a cost analysis over the weekend and am a little unhappy with the results. What I need is not something you can provide but maybe someone can point me in the direction I need to go to find resources for organic production. I have called our local ag center and emailed several local certified organic farmers and so far have not gotten any response. The least expensive compost I have found is about $50 a yard with minimum purchase of 20 yards. The OMRI listed source I found delivers by the cubic yard but even with a volumn discount the cost is $132.00 a cubic yard. How important is the OMRI listing for organic production? Most soil amendments that are OMRI listed that I have found have to be shipped which is also cost prohibitive. I know there are people in North Carolina doing this I have see several on your posts. Is this the kind of info I can get if I join ASCFG?

    Reply
  171. Diane Miller on

    Thank you Erin for putting together this information. It is well appreciated. Cheers From Canada!

    Reply
  172. Jilly Snell on

    I drinking in your advice day by day- so grateful!
    What do you use for your tea?

    Reply
  173. Jardine on

    Erin, your time and generosity in sharing your hard won knowledge is so appreciated and truly inspiring

    Reply
  174. Les on

    Wonderful, thank you! How about a compost tea ingredients recipe?
    Thank you for your generosity.

    Reply
  175. Killoran on

    Really great information! Thanks! I’m building beds and haven’t decided if it’s a better idea to just mound the soil/compost, or to use boards, what I should fill it with (because of flooding, I have to build and build and build – the garden is under INCHES of water right now), but this has given me some good ideas!

    For other small-timers/newbies like me: I live in Victoria, BC and I just learned that my city offers free workshops about irrigation! Just something to look into!

    Reply
  176. Anna on

    Thanks again for a great post! It is reminding me that I need to get on the stick about getting my soil tested. Here in Fairfax County VA, you can pick up kits from any library and send them to VA Tech and they will do it for $10 a sample! A good deal.
    I also would love a post on managing expenses. I am much, much smaller scale than you are but still struggling to figure out when it makes sense to spend and when to save.
    And thanks for the organic gardening plug. As a mama like you, I try to grow organically whenever I can afford it.

    Reply
  177. Melissa Smith on

    Erin,
    I received my Floret seeds and can’t wait to start sowing!
    Thanks very much for all the information on preparing the soil and also for growing cut flowers! It’s so great to know that you grow organically. I have not tried fertilizing with compost tea, but have had wonderful results with fish emulsion. I’m going to try making compost tea this season, can’t be that difficult, right?
    Cheers!
    Melissa

    Reply
  178. Brooke on

    Thank you for the organic ideas! I’m so excited to hear your ideas on weed control!

    Reply
  179. Stephanie on

    Another Awesome Post! Thanks so much Erin. I try very hard to be organic in my own garden and it’s very discouraging when the landscape company at the neighbor’s house over sprays fertilizer or pesticides or who knows what into our yard. Organic is important to me because I want to stick my nose right into my flowers and touch my plants. Thank again for sharing.

    Reply
  180. Siaran on

    Hi, just wanted to say I am finally giving myself time for my garden and find your blog really inspiring.
    Just moved home and I now have the garden I have always longed for, cottage garden in the country.
    Really value your posts and can’t wait to find out about your compost tea!
    Any tips for small scale cut flower newbie gardeners are welcome! Keep up the great work. UK fan x

    Reply
  181. Laura vollset on

    Again,just right for where I’m at! So great to hear how to keep fertility high in an organic way and still farm intensively on a small plot!

    Reply
  182. Alyse on

    Thank you so much for all of the work you are putting in to this blog series.The information is beyond valuable and I look forward to each new post. I want to also thank you for your writing style. The way you write is very comforting, if that makes sense. You are bringing the info to the masses without hyperbole or weird innuendo, which seems to be the trend in blog writing. I feel very empowered to take on my dreams of flower farming namely due to your blogs! Thank you!

    Reply
  183. Kelly on

    Thank you so much Erin & Co. This is just what I needed to read RIGHT NOW!

    Reply
  184. brenda on

    Great information! I also garden in sandy soil and have a question regarding watering. Do you find that the drip watering system is enough water for your plants? I find in the middle of a hot summer that it does not keep up. How long do you leave yours on at one time? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Barbara Ottolino on

      Adding organic matter as often as possible will radically change your soil and watering needs in a few years.

  185. Alexandra on

    Eagerly waiting for your landscape fabric post, my weeds are rampant! There are a few areas of the garden I just throw my hands up and give up. The sad part the soil is so good on those areas but it’s going to the weeds. It’s almost black! We have a creeping Charlie weed. I should call it strangling vine. It has killed shrubs, and I’m always fighting it off my dahlias and I have to keep an eye on my sweetpeas or they kills those vines too! So eagerly awaiting for that post!

    Reply
    • Megan on

      You should also look up your local extension service. They usually have people with tons of weed management experience who can give you several ways to manage the plant-as well as advice on the best time to take action. Also, there are a several plants people call creeping charlie, so it will be important that people know which one if they are going to offer advice-so referencing the botanical/scientific name is a good way to do that. Good luck!! :)

  186. Sarah on

    Thanks so much for this step by step! This is exactly where we’re at in our prep for the year. Do you have any posts about your compost tea, its makeup and application tips? Thanks again!!

    Reply
  187. Donna on

    A soil test is so important! Last year I skipped this step for the first time in a few years, and boy, did I regret it. I always wait until spring, but it really makes more sense to do it in the fall.

    Thank you for the fertilizing tips and mulching tips. Also, the soaker hoses photos are very helpful. Can’t wait to learn more about the fabric!

    Reply
  188. Melody on

    This is great. I’m having trouble figuring out what type of compost to add to the soil. I can find composted plant matter from landscape companies fairly easily and there is also composted dairy manure for sale for quite a bit more, but I’m not sure which is better. Thank you!

    Reply
  189. Christine O'Brien on

    Hi Erin,

    thanks for the great post on soil preparation. Very helpful and important information. We are very fortunate to have rich soil where we live (Missouri), and when we feed our soil with extra nutrients it’s only with organic matter, such as old chicken manure and compost tea.

    We make our own compost tea and it’s the easiest thing to do. Here’s a link how to do it: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/120682464991140417/

    I think it cost us $100 to get a barrel, lumber for stand, etc. The “juice” from the compost drips into a bucket and we call it liquid gold. Feeding our veggies with it all summer long and they thrive like crazy. Growing cut flowers for production is new for us this year, so we’ll be certainly going to feed those beds with compost tea.

    Thanks again for all the excellent information! Can’t wait to buy your book.

    Christine

    Reply
  190. Lynn on

    Erin – this was a very timely post, as I’m trying to figure out the new beds I’m adding this year, and your information is priceless!! My question that sort of goes along with this is on the drip irrigation. I want to save money on water, so this is what I would like to do, but am kind of lost on what to purchase – where – how to lay it out, etc. That would help immensely!! My soil is so bad and I can’t go very deep because of utility lines, that until I can move, I have to put in raised beds. Thank you for another great post right in line with what I need!!

    Reply
    • cali Walters on

      I second this question, I’d love some guidance on irrigation

  191. Linda Q on

    Erin you are so right about having your soil tested not only for nutrients but for the ph as well. Plant that are growing in Soil that is too acid or alkaline will not grow well no matter how much fertilizer you apply! Many state universities and extension location will test soil for free and it does make sense to do this in the fall as the wait time for test results is shorter than in the springtime. Thanks for all of your great tips and I look forward to your post on landscape fabric!

    Reply
  192. Liz on

    Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii! Your soil preparation information is priceless! As of course are all your other blogs too! Thank you for taking the time to share this information with us! I was just up in Waimea(2500 ft. elevation) installing drip irrigation for the first time. Luckily I had done my research, come up with a plan and had the right tools. I had prepped my soil but do not have my own compost tea. Do you make your compost tea or do you buy it? I would venture to say the you probably make your own. Many thanks! Happy President’s Day to you & yours!

    Reply
  193. Jan on

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog, I garden in northern England, frost dates mid/late May to early/mid October and just grow 3 x 12 by 4 foot beds of flowers for myself, friends & family but the joy i receive from doing this is immense. I do have a green house & cold frames for raising plants so i try to have plants ready to go in when a crop as finished. Will your book be available to buy over here when it is published? I do hope so as i will definitely be buying it if i can. plus can you post your compost tea recipe. many many thanks from your friends over the ‘pond’

    Reply
  194. Helen on

    Great post! I hope you’ll talk a bit about your compost tea system. I looked into getting one like yours (wow, they are expensive!) and wondered what you did before you got that, for those of us who can’t quite invest that much yet. I’m thinking of a huge aquarium pump in a 55 gallon drum.

    Speaking of investments, I wonder if you’ll write a post about managing expenses, and when to invest versus save. It’s clear that your compost tea system was worth the price tag.

    One other thing – do you use a bed shaper on the tractor, and are your beds 4′ wide because the shaper is 4′ wide, or did you decide your bed width based on other criteria? Your beds are wider than most other growers’, is why I ask.

    Thank you so so much as always for this fantastic and inspiring blog!

    Reply
    • Kee-ju on

      Second Helen’s excellent request about managing expenses and investing vs. saving!

  195. Meredith on

    This is such great info, and so often overlooked, I’m glad you wrote about it! And personally, I feel like I understand my plants a whole lot more from growing without chemicals. Really happy to see you sharing your beliefs in regard to chemical use. That’s the only way we as a country wok move away from it!

    Reply
  196. Steven on

    Holy cow, I had no idea you guys had sandy soil! For some reason, I had always envisioned in my mind that you had that perfect, rich and elusive garden loam that everyone dreams of having. It gives us hope for our very sandy plot, and I totally agree with you on the feeding of the elephant metaphor with water and organic matter. We are ordering extra compost this week to get our plots ready for the growing season.
    Thank you also for the plug regarding organic as well. We hear a lot about organic vegetables and the effects they have on our bodies through ingesting them, but we don’t hear as much about A) how productive they can be in comparison to conventional and B) even if not consumed how the effects of certain substances can have a negative effect on ourselves, our family, our pets, and surrounding environment.

    Keep it coming, and thank you so much for the wealth of knowledge you have provided us so far!

    Reply
  197. Paula on

    Hi Erin!
    Can you please recommended a gardening journal for me? I want to start tracking favorite seeds, what is working, what isn’t, etc – ideally over a 5 year period. Thanks so much!!

    Reply
    • Angela on

      Lee Valley Tools carries a nice ten year, hard cover journal

    • Deana on

      Pinterest has several printable ones for free. I found one that’s fabulous. Take a peek, I’m sure you’ll find one that fits you perfectly.

  198. mtmanor on

    Thanks for this flurry of info. It’s right on target.
    Around here, our soil is very shallow, heavy, wet, clay. We are guilty of feeding the soil but not testing it.
    I don’t have any excuse because in central Ohio we have wonderful soil testing resources, especially CLC Labs in Westerville, and the Ohio State Extension office.
    Organic compost is easy to find here, too. Like Price Farms in Delaware.
    Luckily, we were able to create our own from wood chips mixed with horse manure/hay/sand. Recycling at it’s best.
    This year, my resolution is to get our soil and compost tested.

    Reply
  199. Grace on

    You are right on track!! This is the info I’m figuring out currently so it was very timely!! Thank you so much

    Grace e

    Reply

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