2018 Planting Schedule

I’ve uploaded my 2018 season planting schedule for those of you, like me, that need a visual display.

I live in Utah in zone 6b-7 so the below example of succession planting and other flower farming tasks for spring, summer and fall may not fit your situation exactly.

Garden Tip: I highly recommend getting your own planting schedule in a Google Calendar. My calendar is linked to my phone so I get handy reminders whenever something comes up for my garden.

The calendar is not all inclusive yet, but I hope to track this first year in order to prepare better for next year. #gardenjournal

Let me know what you think in the comments below! 

 

Cost of Starting a Flower Farm

Knowing the cost of starting a flower farm is a big consideration.

I told my husband (after getting kneck deep in starting my micro flower farm) that I probably would not have done it, if I had known the cost beforehand.

What?! I know. Money. Young kids. New house. Budgeting. Adult stuff.

I probably would have shoved my little hobby flower farm to the side for a few more years in favor of being frugal. Luckily, I didn’t realize how much it would cost to get started and by the time I did realize it… there was no going back.

I basically used our tax return to start my little venture in floriculture.

How much will starting a flower farm cost you? That depends on the size of your plot.

I am working off of 1000 sq ft space and my investment in my micro flower farm is coming in just under $1500… so far.

Now, that may not seem like a lot of money to you, but when you just bought a house, have carpet that needs updated, a roof to be repaired, Lasik goals and hospital bills from having your second baby….it does sting… just a little.

The bright side? The biggest expenses going in are actually one-time purchases.

Below are the biggest expenses for me this year as a first year flower farmer:

  1. Compost: A part of me cringes whenever I think about how much I have to pay to buy dirt. I know. I know. It is fancy dirt with some aged chicken poop mixed in…plus other nitrogen rich nutrients for my plants, but still…”it’s a cup…with dirt in it.” (Brian Regan fans will understand.) For cut flowers, the typical advice is 2-4 inches of compost meaning around a $300 investment if you find a good deal.
  2. Seed Starting Station: The lights are the most expensive part of the seed starting station. Everyone kept saying “cheap” shop lights are good and I guess my version of cheap and their version of cheap are different. It will cost you about $40 for a 4 bulb  shop light for EACH shelf. So if you have a four shelf unit….that is $50*4 = $200. Once you start adding the price of the shelf itself, the timer, cell blocks with humidity domes, heat mats, seedling soil…it adds up fast. However, this is a one-time investment for the most part.
  3. Drip Irrigation: As a busy mom I don’t really see drip lines as optional. I purchased my drip line kit from DripWorks and it cost me around $200. As long as repairs are minimal, I see this as a one-time investment.
  4. Misc Tools: Of course we are new to even owning a yard, so we needed quite a few gardening tools. A temper hoe, snippers, shovel, hand tiller, wheel barrel, garden stakes, netting, etc. I would say those expenses came in around $150. That might not be as big of an issue if you already have these tools. Another one-time investment.
  5. Landscape Fabric: The landscape fabric was about $65 for a 300 ft roll. Add on about $55 for the propane torch and small propane can for burning landscape holes. Another $8 for the hole templates and then $40 for landscape staples…comes in around $168. Again, a one time investment for the most part.
  6. Low Hoop Tunnel: Having a way to extend the growing season or protect your crops is a must for flower farmers (so I hear). I figure the cost of our hoop tunnels (2 at 20 ft each) to be around $100. Again, a one-time expense that should easily pay for itself in Mother’s Day crops.
  7. Education: You will need to educate yourself before starting a flower farm. Flower farming books, local classes or workshops, soil tests, etc. How much you invest is up to you. There are lots of sources online these days, but I purchased two textbooks as well. Lots of farmers spend the winter months reading new farming books to stay up-to-date on the latest techniques. I think I spent about $45 on books (kindles are a pain in the butt to reference, but are half the price). I wish I had been in time for a local Master Gardening certification class that was $200. How much you spend in this category will vary.
  8. Marketing: Your cost will vary in this category, but ignoring it would be a mistake. A domain name for a website costs about $15-20 a year. My server space is $5 a month. The key to a successful website or social media page is your content and pictures. Of course, SEO is important, but no SEO tricks will make up for poor pictures or a boring voice. I own a basic Canon rebel, but my photography skills are subpar so I signed up for a floral photography class that cost $40. If I end up doing a farmer’s market then I would probably pay around $250 for a booth every Saturday (July-September). Plus a farmer’s market would mean buying a 10×10 ft canopy, buckets, display stands, cash box, etc. To sell flowers, I also need to register as an LLC (limited liability) and that costs around $60. Some growers also pay for monthly insurance. Want to host workshops? That is gonna cost you in materials too. You will need tables, chairs, floral wire, bouquet paper, snippers, etc. I am doing my best to source used items where possible from online garage sales. Again, some of this stuff is a one-time cost, but it all adds up fast.
  9. Seeds, bulbs, plants: This category is actually not too bad. I ended up buying extra seeds as I killed many while figuring out my seedling soil and lights. No doubt I will kill more as I transfer them into the yard. I spent about $50 on seeds and $50 on dahlia tubers for summer blooms. I will need to buy some perennials to plant this fall. If something is a perennial is will cost you more, but that should be a one-time cost (unless you kill it). David Austen Roses cost about $25 per plant. Dahlia tubers are about $9 for 3 tubers, but they multiply like bunnies apparently. For my space, I expect to spend about $300 in this category for my first year.
  10. Labor: For my first year, I am counting all my hours as a labor of love (thats a fancy way of saying I get paid nothing) and just hoping to make my investment back. In the future, that might change as I get better at specializing in flowers and growing my market. It would be great to make enough to cover costs plus a little extra on the side. That is actually the definition of a “hobby farm” and I consider myself a hobby flower farmer.

The good news is that you can make your money back!

If I succeed in keeping my plants alive, then I should have around 350 healthy bunches. If I sell half of those for $10 each then I can at least cover costs.

(If any of you Lehi/American Fork/Saratoga Spring locals want to pre-order a seasonal bouquet then go here.)

All that being said, the sad reality is that most flower farmers don’t expect to make a profit the first couple of years.

If none of this has scared you away, then check out my post on “Starting Seedlings for Beginners” where I cover the best lights, seedling soil, and share my seed starting setup.

It is amazing how long it takes to write each post with two rascally kids climbing all over me. However, I do my best to include details (even if it means admitting how much I failed at the beginning). If you can, I would really appreciate it if you left a comment below. It makes me happy to know someone is out there and it gives my website a boost. Happy gardening! 

How to Burn Landscape Fabric Holes

Make life easier and learn how to burn landscape fabric holes. As a stay-at-home mom with a busy church calling, I am planning ahead on weed control.

I have a two part strategy for saving myself time in my micro flower farm: (1) landscape fabric to control weeds, (2) drip lines on a timer.

This week I decided to burn plant holes in my landscape fabric and I wanted to write it down in my Garden Journal while the details are still fresh.

Materials:

Gather the following materials for your project:

  1. Propane torch attachment
  2. Small propane canister
  3. Sunbelt landscape fabric (or similar type)
  4. Particle board from Home Depot
  5. Measuring device (a ruler or tape measure)
  6. Jigsaw
  7. Pencil/marker

Garden Plot:

The first step, is to make your garden plot plan so you know what spacing to burn into your landscape fabric.

I have 4 rows 4 ft by 30 ft plus three rows of 3ft by 20 ft. In each of these rows I have plotted out what I am planting and the recommended spacing required.

For example, one of my 4ft by 30 ft rows will have snapdragons, globe amaranth and rudbeckia. All of these plants need a 9×9 spacing so I need to burn 30ft of 9×9 plant holes (3 inches diameter).

Another row, may have plants that need 6×6 or 12×12 spacing and I mark exactly how many feet of each I need.

Make a Template:

The next step is to make a template. I did this by purchasing the cheapest particle board I could find from Home Depot and having them cut it to size for me.

At home, I measured my boards for 6×6, 9×9, 12×12 and 18×18 inch spacing. I marked them up using a ruler and a Nutella lid (we’re fancy around here).

Then my wonderful hubby, Zach, took care of the hole cutouts. He drilled a hole in each circle, then used the jigsaw to cut the circle out.

The result was a cheap template that is also lightweight. I was worried my template would burn later in the process, but had no problems with it.

Burn the Holes:

Get your propane torch attachment and attach it to your small propane can, then get burning!

(Actually, before you do that make sure you lay out your fabric on a nonflammable surface. Ha)

I chose to lay mine out on a large dirt patch in the backyard and weighed it down with garden stones so the wind didn’t catch it.

The process is quite fast with the templates and they keep the spacing and hole size consistent. (I saw hole burning attachments for sale, but I don’t feel like they are necessary if you have a template. Plus they were like $50 bucks!)

While you are burning your plant holes, I recommend cleaning up any frayed or cut edges on the end of your landscape fabric by burning it as well.

If you want to save yourself days of frustration, hop on over to my post “Top Three Tips for Laying Landscape Fabric.” 

It is amazing how long it takes to write each post with two rascally kids climbing all over me. However, I do my best to include details (even if it means admitting how much I failed at the beginning). If you can, I would really appreciate it if you left a comment below. It makes me happy to know someone is out there and it gives my website a boost. Happy gardening!