When you really start to dig into the idea of growing seasonal flowers- you quickly realize that there’s a lot of moving parts that go into it. I know from personal experience just how overwhelming it can feel!
Knowing when to plant bulbs vs seeds; when to divide dahlia tubers or when to buy supplies- it can frustrate you to the point where you just don’t ever get started with growing anything.
I know that when I first started out, I didn’t understand the cycle of the year, as it related to flower farming, at all. And so in this blog post, I wanted to share my experience.
Whether you have interest in growing seasonal blooms yourself or you just want a behind the scenes peak into how we do, today I’m breaking down my process for how we plan our full year of in-season blooms.
So let’s get started…
Growing seasonally is something we have achieved over time. Our first season we grew only tender annuals- those flowers that bloom in the summer. The following year we added pumpkins so we could offer a fall farm stand to our customers. The year after that we added winter porch pots. And this fourth year is really our first attempt at spring offerings- we’re dipping our toes into it this spring, and then really going to hit it harder next year once we have some experience under our belts.
So as you can see, seasonal flowers has really been a gradual progression for us, not something that we attempted to do all at once.
Now, I know even planning for one season, especially when you have little to no experience can feel intimidating.
Whenever we take on what feels like a big project there’s a lot of different options we can choose from. Specifically when we’re talking about flowers, there’s really no limit to the choices you have. You have to decide on what varieties to grow up and what colors and how many of each variety to plant. And when we’re faced with all these hard decisions at once, that’s when things can start to feel paralyzing. Honestly, most of us are just afraid of making the “wrong” decision.
And this is why step one of planning, for me, is: beginning with the end in mind.
Step One: Beginning with the End in Mind
When I have a clear idea of what my end goal is; and when I have at least some idea of what I’m aiming for- that’s what ultimately gives me clarity with those hard questions that I just mentioned.
I know it can be tempting to dive right in, but if you don’t have at least some idea of the direction you’re heading, its truly anybody’s guess of how you’ll get there.
Seriously, there’s no wrong way to plant any type of flower garden. Let me show you with an example…
… if my goal was to plant flowers that I could sell at a farmer’s market and that was my business’ main focus, the types of flowers and the colors I choose would be very different than if my goal was to grow flowers that would be used for event florals like weddings. In that case I’d plant more pastels, and whites, and apricots. And my garden would look very different too if I were growing flowers purely for my own enjoyment- I’d definitely grow much less.
Now I’m a very visual person. and while I love a good spreadsheet and running the numbers and knowing the analytics of everything, I really have to be able to “see” my goals before I get started. And that’s why almost every year before the season gets underway I spend some time creating a pretty standard vision board.
It’s nothing too fancy. I simply print out pictures that I find on the Internet and cut + paste everything onto some poster board. It’s pretty basic but having this hang in my office is what honestly keeps me inspired and excited to take action. It really helps me to see the bigger picture especially during the hard days when I feel like I’m stuck doing those sort of mundane tasks that just need to get done.
To help you get a better idea of what our vision at two sisters flower farm looks like, it goes something like this:
We aim to provide a flush of unique, early spring blooms- think tulips + daffodils, ranunculus + anemones. We then focus on mixed garden bouquets that showcase sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias all summer long. Our goal in the fall is to have plenty of heirloom pumpkins and potted mums available, and then once winter hits we enjoy being able to help you decorate your homes with fresh porch pots, evergreen wreaths and festive centerpieces.
Once we have an understanding of what we hope to accomplish from our season, the question then becomes how are we going to achieve this?
Taking this vision and turning it into a reality is really accomplished in STEP TWO of our planning process where we “work it backwards”. Step two is where we identify the best we can, the steps that are going to help us reach the goals that we have set for ourselves in step one.
Step Two: Work It Backwards
I really find it helpful to work that big goal down into its small parts because it allows me to, in a sense, connect my big goal to reality, the place that I am at currently.
And taking that big goal and chunking it down into manageable steps is the only way that I can make progress toward my goals without feeling the overwhelm from trying to tackle such a big project all at once.
Now again, let me show you an example of how this plays out for us.
Because we’re working with mother nature, much of what we do is affected by our first and last frost dates.
Our summer flower garden blooms during our frost-free growing season. Here in Michigan our frost free growing season usually lasts from Mid May to Mid October. In order to grow a quarter of an acre of cut flowers during that time we have to have either seeds or transplants ready to go in the ground about May 15th. Now I’ll go into more detail of how we specifically plan our annual field in another blog post, but this means that if I plan on getting a jump on the season then I have to start seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks prior to May 15th which for us lands in Mid March- which again, means that supplies like seed starting mix, seed trays, and of course seeds need to be ordered well before March.
In the fall, our goal is to have a fully stocked fall farm stand. We tend to associate pumpkins with Halloween but because I want to allow enough time for people to purchase their fall decorating items, my goal is really to have pumpkins ready for sale early September. Most pumpkins take between 90 and 100 days to mature, so I need to plant our pumpkins Late May or very Early June. And I obviously need enough pumpkin seeds for that task so I need to place my seed order well before May to make sure everything arrives in time.
These are all simple examples and for the sake of time, I’m skipping over some detail but the general concept is how I plan everything for our farm.
My goals when I first got started with seasonal blooms were largely based on just getting familiar with growing different crops of flowers or pumpkins or mums. As I’ve gained experience and dedicated more time to turning my hobby into a business my goals have centered more around hitting certain revenue goals. And working it backwards has again been my lifeline in that.
Instead of planting as many flowers as I could and hoping for the best- I’ve found it easier to name my revenue goals because I know that if I wish to make $1000/month from selling mixed bouquets then what really needs to happen is that I need to sell about 50 bouquets priced at $20 each per month or about 13 bouquets a week. If each bouquet has about 20 stems in it then I need to be able to harvest about 260 stems each week to meet that goal.
Knowing what milestones I need to hit to ultimately reach the big goals I have set for myself is what has helped me most in actually being successful with what I have set out to do.
Step Three: Executing on the Plan
Executing on my plan and recording what’s worked and what hasn’t is the last step of my planning process.
Doing this enough times is what has helped me find my rhythm with flower farming so that planning an entire year of seasonal blooms no longer feels as daunting as it once did.
Now I know that this step may seem minor, but its important so that I can not only repeat the wins that I’ve experienced but so that I also don’t repeat the same mistakes year after year.
After all, the only way that I’ve been able to refine my systems is by keeping track of what I’ve done and continually improving upon them.
For me, the best way that I’ve found to do this is by getting everything out on paper in a format where I can see it all in a single glance.
Every year I print out one of those giant wall calendars and tape it to my wall. I make sure to jot down the dates which I completed each task. Now, I also keep much more detailed notes in a large spreadsheet- but being able to compare what I actually did with the results that I got allows me to know when something needs to be adjusted.
For example, one of my goals is to plant sunflowers weekly so that I have a continuous flush of them all summer long. Last year, I didn’t get my first round of seeds planted until mid June which meant it took a while for those seeds to bloom. This year, it’s important to me to get those seeds in earlier so that I have sunflowers blooming sooner.
Now trust me, even with this three step planning process that I have outlined in this blog post- things still go wrong for us. We make mistakes, we hit resistance, we still get nervous to sometimes take those next steps that we know we need to take
But I will say that the planning does get easier with time. At first, it can all seem like too much but as you gain experience and find your rhythm- planning seasonal blooms, whether you want to grow them for yourself to enjoy in your backyard or you want to start a business like we have, it will start to feel like second nature.
Here to support you! XO,