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September 6th 2012

walk with me

Written by
Floret

a grower friend called yesterday.
we discussed business growth, cut flower varieties, green weddings, growing… it was so nice to talk shop with someone who cares.

one thing that was hard to communicate though was how on earth we get so many flowers from our little plot. you see we only have two little acres in cultivation.
not a lot of land but a whole lot of flowers.

 

i promised i’d help her pack her garden plot the same way i’ve done here. the huge myth is that you need expansive rolling fields and unlimited space. every year we increase our growing capacity while barely expanding our footprint. if you only have a backyard, a friends half acres, a city plot, a few flower beds, you can still do amazing things. definitely more on this later!

 

 

two of our main tricks for getting so much bounty from such a little plot are feeding the heck out of the soil and planting massively full beds. each spring we invest a lot of money into dump truck after dump truck of compost and manure. when it comes planting time we are able to fit five rows in each four foot bed bed by planting on a staggered grid. when most growers can fit 75-150 plants in a row, we squeeze 450. it’s a little like John Jeavons approach to vegetable gardening, only with flowers. again, more on this later.

 

 

here is a bed of statice.i know this will strip me of any coolness i may have had but i. love. statice!
in each of these 4x70ft. beds we fit 466 plants! Yesterday we harvested an entire truckload out of this little space and in just a couple of days we’ll do it again.

sunflowers are squeezed even closer. in this bed we planted roughly 700-800 babies. the more room you give them the bigger their heads and stalks become so the tight spacing ensure nice, useable stems.

zinnias are squeezed in equally tight.each bed has a mass of plants and our walking paths are a measily 12″ wide.
 i’ve been asked if such close spacing increases disease. so far as i can tell, no. the only real time we deal with disease is if there is a very long wet stretch or if the plants get stressed. if you feed and care for them properly (just like us!) they will ultimately thrive : )

just so you don’t think every beds is full of perfect flowers here’s a couple of past their prime spot.

if you look close you can see in the bed on the right our close plant spacing. we try and grow as many crops as possible in landscape fabric. it keeps weeds down, heat up and dirt from splashing up into the plants.

another past its prime spot! now bells of ireland are a bit tricky outside, at least for us. rain is there enemy and if you live in a very wet climate like we do, the greenhouse is a much better place to grow them.

another patch of sunflowers.this tiny plot holds 3,500 babies. crazy eh?

 

lilies are grown even tighter, in these nifty black plastic bulb crates with potting soil.we planted nearly 17,000 lilies this season and all were grown in one small greenhouse!


so if you’ve only got a little parcel of land and are thinking it’ll never be enough to grow a flower based business, think again. with a little creative thinking and some serious planning you can grow more flowers than you ever thought possible : )

 

44 Comments

  1. Laetitia on

    In fact, just a very specific question, do you as well plant spring flowers (such as tulips) with landscape fabric? Can't find any info about that on the web and i am not sure it is a good idea… Thanks so much for your help!

    Reply
  2. Laetitia on

    Erin, this is soooooo inspiring! I am just planning my cutting garden for next year and your post is really really helpful. I guess i'll go with landscape fabric. Will you write more on that topic? Did you start writing this book about green flower farming? :)

    ps: i love statice too…

    Reply
  3. megan on

    p.s. I love you for admitting you love statice.

    Reply
  4. megan on

    Love this post so much. Seeing your space makes my heart happy. I wish I had someone like you to buy from here in LA. I buy as much as possible from local farms, but it seems like they're growing less every year.

    Reply
  5. Belinda @ Wild Acre on

    Whoop Whooop! That will be a pre-order on Amazon one day for sure! Erin, if do that book, it will be groundbreaking I am sure. x

    Reply
  6. Floret on

    oh geeze, i'm always cussing,getting tangled, mowing over it and mine is bright white…i hate netting!!!

    a book, yes.
    haven't made the space in my life quite yet for such an undertaking but that's certainly the direction things heading : )

    Reply
  7. Floret on

    i feed them so much it's scary ; )
    my motto: compost,compost,compost!

    Reply
  8. Belinda @ Wild Acre on

    And do you end up tripping over it, like I do, and getting it all in infuriating knots? No, didn't think so, I am a total liability with the green netting that seems to go invisible anywhere near grass!! And a really important question, Erin, are you going to write a book about growing flowers for cutting – it would be a total killer!! Pretty pleeeaaase!:)))

    Reply
  9. Deborah Jean at Dandelion House on

    Hello Erin! Love this post… Thank you for sharing the nitty gritty details of how you are able to grow so much on a small acreage… It can be done! I started my backyard flower farm this spring. I got myself a 10 x 10 green house and planted 500 square feet of cut flowers. I'm happy to report it was a successful ' experiment'. I'm already dreaming of next year and I'll be ready for the slugs and earwigs too! HA! Thanks for the inspiration and happy growing !
    Deb ( MJF Beachfarmgirl blogger )

    Reply
  10. yourtablecloth on

    Those flowers are beautiful! If you are organized and thought out you can accomplish so much!

    Reply
  11. Anouk Fleurs on

    Beautifull and very inspiring as usual ! These pictures encourages me to plant closer to increase my microscopic production.Thank's for sharing. I love the light on the flowers in your pictures, very nice.
    Anouk

    Reply
  12. eva on

    Amazing photos!! I especially love dahlias; do you fertilize then? if you do, with what? Some say don't fertilize dahlias. You're growing an amazing crop of dahlias, so I'd trust what you say.

    Eva

    Reply
  13. Botanique on

    Thanks Erin! I would love to get together in person this fall, that would be lovely! Once things slow down we should make a date. And dahlia tubers are always welcome :)

    Reply
  14. T Opdycke on

    Packing them in…what a great idea! The beauty outside your door simply amazes me all those lovelies to savor and create with. I see a cutting garden in my future.

    Reply
  15. jwblooms on

    Oh, I need to come and help out one autumn! Do you take volunteers? (I have my own tent…) J

    Reply
  16. Floret on

    i just love what you are up to down there in the city!!so inspiring!
    this fall we'll have to meet in person.
    i'll certainly have lots of extra dahlia tubers to share if you need some for the cutting garden.

    Reply
  17. Floret on

    our neighbors do love the view!!!

    Reply
  18. Floret on

    ha,ha! you know i only show you the good parts right? just left or right of these beds are weeds galore, disasters, failures etc. we've got some things really dialed in and a lot more to master ;)

    we lay and pull up the fabric each season. under each beds are 4-6 drip irrigation lines. in the fall after the fabric and drip come out we amend with rock powders (lime and rock phosphate) and plant a cover crop. in the spring we till the cover crop in,fertilize, top dress with compost and reset the beds with drip and fabric.
    lots of labor but a very worthwhile result!!!

    Reply
  19. Floret on

    i bet your perfect plot is just around the corner :)

    Reply
  20. Floret on

    awesome and thank you!!!

    Reply
  21. Floret on

    we do love to net most of our beds. this spring was so busy we didn't have time and lost quite a few plants (bells,scabiosa,snapdragons) to toppling.
    next year we will just have to make the time since it makes all the difference : )

    Reply
  22. Floret on

    the first few seasons i spread things out much more in fear of just this but as time passed, demand grew and i had to figure out how to get my little plot cranking at full tilt. i started slowly packing things in.
    so far, no thin, weak stems here. only in beds that are partially or fully shaded do we have that issue.
    for cuts, you want long stems, so the stretching is welcomed. since our plants are basically on compost crack they are big, lush and stocky.

    Reply
  23. elisegriswoldart.com on

    OH my gosh, I needed this today! What gorgeous photos, and what stunning flowers! I am so impressed by the love and attention that you pour into all of these plants-they obviously know they are well cared for! I can't get enough of those Dahlias or zinnias-and the scent of those lilies when they bloom must knock your socks off!
    Thanks again, I always look forward to your posts-they are a breath of fresh air!!

    Reply
  24. gardeninacity on

    Very impressive, but I'm not sure I get your technique. How does packing them in so tightly not produce long, thin, weak stems?

    Reply
  25. Botanique on

    Erin, thank you so much for your openness to share! It is so inspiring to see what you are doing, and to hear encouragement for very small scale growing. I am starting to make plans for revisions to my cutting garden for next year, so all of this information is super timely. Truly inspiring.

    Reply
  26. Erin on

    Thank you for posting about this subject!

    Reply
  27. This Girl's Hands on

    You're killing me with those Dahlias. So scrumptious. Such incredible love and hard hard work goes into what you do and I think a lot of us florists have NO idea.

    Reply
  28. Happy Homemaker UK on

    Ironic bells of Ireland doesn't like the rain :) do your neighbors just love you for the view you provide? Goodness, I would! Stunning photos of the dahlias at sunset.

    Reply
  29. jwblooms on

    You are SO inspiring! Every time I think I'm getting there, I look at your farm and realise I should be doing it better! How do you water if you grow through weed fabric? And do you lift it every year to dress the soil? No perennials? Jan

    Reply
  30. Kay on

    like Becca Blue i sometimes feel that I'm stalking you….in a good way!!….totally inspiring and love the facts you give here…we just need the piece of ground but we are working on it..x

    Reply
  31. Rondi on

    Erin you are such an inspiration! And a blessing to others too!!

    I'd love someday to mix selling cut flowers with selling plants especially native prairie flowers. Here we have to water unless it's native. Now if I could find natives suitable for selling as cut flowers it would make life easier.

    Love your posts!!!

    Reply
  32. Becca Blue on

    Oh Erin, I love this post! (I love all of em, really.) I think I'm ready to go public and admit I have the biggest girl crush on you!
    You have also just given me a small boost in my "more is more" tendencies! :)

    Reply
  33. Clare Day Flowers on

    Great post Erin! You were so helpful to me when I was expanding my flower operation; it's wonderful that you share your knowledge this way. Love your dahlia supports!

    Reply
  34. Terri on

    More plants–less weeds! Definitely true in any garden. You have mastered the art of mass planting in small areas.

    Love your hen and her babies :)

    Reply
  35. FlowerLady on

    WOW, I'm amazed at what you are doing with your two acres. All looks wonderful and I love that last photo.

    FlowerLady

    Reply
  36. Laurie (Fleurie) on

    Thank you for sharing. It is great of you to encourage people to grow something, anything, on even a little bit of land. It is amazing what you squeeze into your 2 acres. My theory is to plant so thick the weeds can't grow!

    Reply
  37. Belinda @ Wild Acre on

    What a fascinating insight into how you work with your land to produce such bounty! I produce a teeny weeny fraction of the amount you do in my not quite an acre, but it does astound me still how many plants you can grow if you pack them close – and it helps to self stake (at least the stronger varieties) and suppress weeds at the same time. Do you use netting to stake? But 17 000 lillies – crikey that is a lot!! Bx

    Reply
  38. Amanda on

    Such magical photos and very inspiring!

    Reply
  39. annamaria on

    Always lovely to visit you here. This last photo is precious!I am really impressed with the facts about the size of land you have been using. I too thought that you probably needed much more. Good to know. Thank you for sharing this;-)

    Reply
  40. Zoe Tilley Poster on

    I agree – really great post! I never intend to be a professional flower grower, but it is fascinating nonetheless to learn how you do the amazing things you do. Thanks!

    Reply
  41. Julie on

    Fabulous and inspiring post! We grow a lot in our less than an acre suburban yard, but I've been hunting for a few acres of land. It's so true–feed the soil well, because the results are amazing. (17,000 lilies? Holy planting hell–but stunning!) ;-)

    Reply

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