Somehow, we have successfully navigated the back-to-school marathon and all the music ensembles, athletics, and extracurricular activities that come with it. My son’s event calendar was enough to keep me on my toes in September; after all, I am his primary chauffeur, personal administrative assistant, and head cheerleader at all his events. Such is the wonderful life of being a mom! But, despite how busy his schedule kept me, I had plenty I needed to accomplish on the farm. Between weeding and harvesting, I’m also starting to prepare for the end of the growing season because while it is now officially fall, before we know it, winter will be knocking on the door. So, let’s dive in and talk about what’s been growing on here this past month.
My hands have spent plenty of time in the soil lately as I finish up the fall planting of the perennials. Barely a day went by in September that I didn’t have to clean soil out from underneath my fingernails. But, to be honest, I’m enjoying the fall planting ritual and relishing every minute I get to have my hands in the soil, for I know it will soon be covered in snow. Besides planting perennials, I’ve also been preparing the beds for the tulip, daffodil, allium bulbs, and bare root peonies that are set to arrive in October. All this digging has undoubtedly given me a workout, but I think it will be worth the effort when I see the results of my labor next season.
We still had plenty of blooms to harvest in September, with zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, and cosmos being the most abundant. We continued to offer special orders and weekly bouquets throughout the month, and I created some bouquet recipe combinations that I was fond of and hope to repeat next season. Towards the end of the month, I had the immense pleasure of working with several other local flower farmers/florists in creating arrangements for a charity gala. The workroom was beautifully stocked with a vast selection of flowers from each of our farms. I was like a kid in a candy store, getting to work with them all. Working with such talented individuals was a wonderful experience, and they were so generous in sharing their knowledge with me as a first-season grower. Their support and kindness went a long way in helping me gain confidence in myself.
September was also the start of what I call seed season! Not only are the seeds that I ordered for next year arriving in my mailbox, but I’m also starting to save my own seed here on the farm. I have stopped deadheading specific blooms so their seeds can develop for future collection. Celosia, nigella, cosmos, ammi, dahlia, and zinnia are just a few of the seed types I’ll be saving from our flowers. Saving seeds now will ensure a beautiful and abundant 2023 season.
Speaking of looking toward the next growing season, I am starting to make some tough dahlia decisions. Because of our limited growing space, I have to be ruthless regarding the varieties we grow. Dahlias can take up a lot of space, so I want those we grow to be highly productive, reliable, hardy, and as long-lasting as possible. I also need them to perform well as cut flowers rather than simply look good in the garden. I trialed a few new varieties this season and some favorites from last year to see which ones will make the cut. I’ve reluctantly decided to delete some types from our offerings based on whether their size or color didn’t work well for us. Others I knew right away were keepers for their strong stems, gorgeous blooms, prolific blooming, or vase life. The verdict is still out on others as I determine whether they are worth growing again. I wish I could grow them all, but our small growing space doesn’t allow me that luxury.
I’ve also been enjoying all of the pollinator activities this month on the farm. The bees and butterflies seem to be working extra hard as they prepare for the changing seasons. It makes my heart happy to provide habitat for these creatures and to watch them work alongside me. I have been especially thrilled to see an abundance of monarch butterflies stopping here to fuel up for their long migration. Monarch butterflies were recently added to the endangered species list, so whenever I see them flourishing here at Whistling Bee Farm, it warms my heart.
Besides being out among the blooms and with my hands deep in the soil, I’ve had plenty of other projects to keep me busy this month. Behind the scenes, I’ve been diligently working on a new website for the business and setting up a newsletter. Hopefully, both of those will launch by the end of next month. We’ve also made some progress in the new growing space and Floral Studio, although, in all honesty, we have not made as much progress as we would have liked. The Floral Studio porch got a new coat of stain to match the fencing, and we placed some heavy-duty landscape fabric down the cutting garden’s main paths. The landscape material will help cut down on weeding chores and give a clean work surface for our harvest buckets. We haven’t decided yet whether we will cover these with mulch, but for the time being, it has made a considerable difference in the space. Hopefully, we will continue to work on this project in October and complete the interior of the Floral Studio.
As we roll into October, I have been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and have noticed the nighttime temperatures dipping into the 40s of late. I know that at this point in the season, we could get a season-ending frost at any time, so I’m soaking in all the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of the garden while I still can. I hope you can do the same. That’s what’s been growing on in our garden; what’s growing on in yours?