How is it possible that it is August already? Time certainly has been flying this summer. Our lives here at Whistling Bee Farm have been hectic this past month as the annuals we are growing are finally hitting their stride. The flowers are at their most abundant, and we are trying to keep up with the daily care they require while juggling family schedules. I mistakenly thought summer would be more relaxed without school and many activities. I was hoping to focus solely on the flowers during these fleeting summer months, but life with a busy teenager doesn’t always make that possible. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m soaking up these moments while I can. So, let’s dive into what we’ve been up to this past month here on the farm.
The first item I’m excited to share with you is that Whistling Bee Farm & Florals is now a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG)! This association is a community of growers that provides a support system and creates educational opportunities and research for growers. They have been a valuable educational resource for me as I navigate my first year as a cut flower farmer. So when I got the ASCFG welcome packet in the mail, I was very excited to be a part of this group. I think it brought some validity to this dream of mine.
Speaking of learning as I grow, I have been practicing my bouquet-making and arranging skills. Little by little, I feel that I am starting to get the hang of it and am gaining confidence with each one I finish. It has been rewarding to pass on the flowers I have lovingly grown and arranged to others. It may sound cheesy, but seeing the joy our flowers bring to people’s lives has made all of the bug bites, early morning harvests, sunburns, scratches, and body aches worthwhile. Bringing joy through flowers is why I wanted to start Whistling Bee Farm in the first place. And I’m happy to say that we are successfully fulfilling that goal so far.
Mother Nature has brought many challenges in July, from pests and disease to drought. First, I discovered that some of the new dahlia tubers I planted were infected with a mosaic virus, leaving their growth stunted and the leaves discolored. These plants needed to be removed and destroyed to avoid spreading the virus. It was disheartening to throw plants you had such high hopes for and had spent time nurturing in the trash.
Equally disheartening has been our pest pressure this season. We are encountering lace bugs for the first time on our property, and they have proven very destructive. The culprits hitched a ride on a plant I agreed to house temporarily for an organization I volunteer for, and they spread before I realized the source. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say, although it certainly provided a valuable learning experience. After trying unsuccessfully to eradicate the pests using several natural methods, we were forced to destroy the infected plants before the problem spread further. Unfortunately, these insects lay their eggs within the leaf tissue, so you can’t get to them until they hatch, making them very difficult to control. As a result, we lost all of our asters, solidago, and a significant portion of our verbena and sunflowers. With each plant I yanked from the soil, I felt a piece of my heart go with it. Flower farming is not for the faint of heart.
Mother Nature’s final obstacle this month has been drought. Soaring temperatures and lack of rain have made farming challenging to say the least. Our rain barrels where we store rain from our gutters are low and have become insufficient to water the entire farm. Yet, each day I look at the forecast and cross my fingers that rain is on its way.
On the bright side, we have had some successes despite the curve balls Mother Nature has been throwing at us. We grew poppies for the first time this season, and they were spectacular! The flowers are beautiful but don’t last long in a vase. These poppies are mainly grown for ornamental seed pods, giving bouquets a whimsical touch. As much as I fell in love with these blooms, I’ll need to decide whether to grow them again next season. Despite their beauty, short vase life, and the fact that they are like candy to aphids, may persuade me to leave them off the grow list due to my limited space.
In the edibles department, we harvested our garlic this month, and they are ready for storage after curing and cleaning. The blueberry bushes still provide ample harvests whenever I can beat the chipmunks to the berries, and we have picked our first peppers, bush beans, and tomatoes. Boy, do they all taste good!
We have also focused on adding more perennials on the farm this season to help fill the gaps that the annual flowers sometimes leave. Daisies, Agastache, veronica, hydrangea, and rudbeckia are on top of the list, with several new shrubs for foliage.
Lastly, the dahlias have finally started to bloom! After a slow start due to an unusually cool spring, I am excited to see several new varieties bloom alongside the varieties I saved last season. So, hopefully, we will have dahlias to share soon.
Amongst all the hectic days in July, with the flowers and our personal lives, we somehow managed to etch out some time to get away. We left the farm and its responsibilities in capable hands and stepped out for a week to reconnect as a family. We made many new memories, giving us the rejuvenation and connection we craved and desperately needed. Although while away, I did find my mind occasionally straying back to the farm missing the flowers. But, we are back now, and while life is not getting any less hectic, I once again can be found among the blooms.
That’s what’s been growing on in our garden; what’s growing on in yours?