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May just might have been one for the record books. The weather this month especially proved to be a challenge. We experienced everything from a late season frost to record high temperatures.
While some may find the unpredictability of Mother Nature aggravating, I think that, in part, it’s the uncertainty of it all that makes farming so wildly rewarding.
Having to go with the flow + work with variables outside of your control- that’s what build resilience. You do it for long enough and you learn some tough lessons like how-to take a loss or how-to pick yourself up after failure..
…and somewhere on the rollercoaster of it all you learn to keep faith that next season will be better.
Working with nature isn’t easy; it’s a lot of pressure at times- and yet, despite it all, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
If you’re curious how the month of May shook out for us, keep reading because I’m sharing it all below!
Warm-loving, tender annuals have been the backbone of our flower farm ever since I started growing flowers- And even now, we spend a good chunk of our spring preparing for warmer weather by sowing lots of seeds in trays. The majority of our seed trays actually get planted in the earliest parts of May.
Understand that while our last frost typically occurs around the middle of May and while I could start our seedlings much earlier, I’ve learned to pace myself with this task.
You see, the demand for our flowers is often higher in late summer. Families tend to be busy with vacations + other commitments in July (when our summer flowers would typically start blooming) and to match our flower supply to flower demand, I’ve learned that it’s better for our garden to hit its stride in late July/Early August. My goal is never to have the first flowers of the summer season rather I aim to have a garden that continues to produce well up until our first fall frost.
It’s easy for me to over-do the seed starting- I have to remind myself that each and every tiny seed will eventually grow into a robust + mature plant- but I just love stocking our cutting garden with plenty of beautiful ingredients- you know, old-fashioned favorites like zinnias + cosmos, plenty of textural ingredients like strawflower and celosia and a variety of fragrant herbs to act as greenery. The seeds we sow now in the spring is what will supply our flower subscription customers with garden-inspired bouquets throughout the summer.
Preparing Our Flower Beds:
Of course, those seedlings will need somewhere to go and so as early as the soil can be worked, we do our best to prepare our annual beds for planting.
Our annual field is a blank slate every spring as we tear down the entire garden in the fall. It’s taken me a number of years of trial + error but I love how with each passing year, we get just a bit more seasoned at growing our cut flower garden and I’m feeling more confident that we’re finding the best configuration that works based on our needs.
Now In the fall, I like to cast a cover crop over our annual field to help give back to the soil. And so come spring this ground gets a light till and then we lay a combination of plastic mulch for our garden beds and landscape fabric in our walkways. I prefer to do these tasks in late spring before the heat of summer sets in + makes this task a bit less enjoyable.
After the threat of frost is behind us, we’ll plant this space with our dahlias and those seeds that we sowed at the start of this month.
Our annual field isn’t my only area of focus in May. Pumpkins and potted mums are two crops that we grow; they help extend our season so that we can bring in sales well into the fall- even after our first frost wipes out our annual flowers in mid-October.
And so prior to planting our pumpkin patch (which we always aim to do late May/early June) we’ll work the ground and heavily amend the soil.
As for our potted mums, our mum plugs don’t arrive until mid-June. But since we fill all of our pots by hand, I use the time I have in early spring to fill each pot with soil. I also work to fix any existing irrigation problems and set up new lines for the additional pots that we’ll be growing this year. I want to be ready so that when our plugs do arrive I can just plop them into their pots and let them grow.
What We’re Planting:
This is the month where I finally get my hands in the ground!
As I’ve mentioned our last frost typically occurs around May 15th. While many of the seedlings I sowed in trays aren’t yet large enough to be transplanted outside- I do spend time getting our dahlia tubers in the ground.
Every year, I like to start with dahlias as they can take sometimes take a bit of time to ‘wake up’ and grow. Planting tubers first is also my way of mitigating risk should we receive an unexpected late frost…
I still remember a number of years ago when I was first starting out selling flowers- I was eager to get my transplants in the ground so that I could start selling blooms as quickly as possible. May 15th rolled around + the 10-day forecast looked promising so I planted every last zinnia that I had started in trays the month before. Much to my dismay we received a hard frost a few weeks later on Memorial Day weekend- my tiny seedlings were toast!
It was a hard lesson to learn that year- but I’ve since learned the importance of patience especially when you’re working with Mother Nature (I’ve also learned to have plenty of back-up seedlings in case the weather throws a wrench in my plans).
The beauty of planting tubers early in the season is that since they’re buried beneath the soil, they’re generally protected from any late season frosts.
What’s in Bloom:
Ranunculus! Ranunculus season always feels quick here, I don’t grow our ranunculus under cover like a lot of flower farmers do and so our flowers tend to bloom a little later than most other growers.
Despite the fact that ranunculus are short-lived around here, I can’t resist their fully double petals. Ranunculus may never be our most profitable crop here at Two Sisters Flower Farm- but that’s alright by me. I look forward to these blooms each and every year + perhaps its their fleeting nature that make them so special to me.
Things I’m Loving:
The more experienced I become at growing flowers, the more that I fall in love with that feeling of deep satisfaction that comes with growing a crop well. Despite having an unnaturally green thumb- I feel proud at how successful we are at growing a number of different flower varieties. Still, there’s always room for improvement. This year in particular, my goal is to become more adept at growing + caring for dahlias (and dahlia tubers!).
To help with this goal I purchased this book written by Kristine Albrecht, who is an absolute expert about all things related to dahlias. I’ve only just thumbed through the pages of this book but already I’ve picked up different tidbits that I never knew before. I’d recommend this book to anyone that wants to grow dahlias in their garden!
I absolutely love learning from more experienced gardeners- one grower who I was most inspired by this year was Claus Dalby- a Danish floral designer that has a truly unique signature-style centered around container gardening. I took the lessons I learned from his book to recreate a much simple version of some of his jaw-dropping displays.
As simple as this “installation” was, I was surprised by just how much attention it received in our small town. I’ll be updating this trellis area (which is located near our flower stand) later in the year because I just love being able to showcase the beautiful seasonality that occurs in nature.
In the meantime, I encourage you to seek out Dalby’s book. He shares such unique combinations of container grown plants- and he has design ideas for each + every season.
And that’s a look at what happened in May here at Two Sisters Flower Farm. I’ll be the first to admit, May isn’t always the most exciting month. There’s definitely a lot happening; however it’s not always the most beautiful time on our farm as its honestly just a lot of dirt…
…but I absolutely love sharing with you the way things are now, the sort of before shots that give you a little perspective into just how much transformation can happen in a short period of time.
Now it’s your turn- I love hearing what other growers are up to this time of year, so let me know in the comments below what tasks you’ve been tackling lately.
P.S. If you feel behind- have no worries! There’s still plenty of time to get started with your very own cutting garden.
If you’d like some guidance as you plan, don’t forget about the resources we have available. Both our Garden Planning Workbook and our Quarter Acre Cutting Garden Plan can help ensure you have the best season ever!
Wishing you a beautiful and abundant season ahead