We flower farmers were reminded this month that we are at the mercy of the weather when we discovered that our stock seedlings had frozen and died.
We planted stock in landscape fabric in October and covered it with a low (“caterpillar”) tunnel made of Pex hoops and row cover. It started off great guns and grew to about 4 inches tall. Everything seemed to be okay, even in the coldest weather, until a cold, 50-MPH, February wind hit our farm. The wind shredded our row cover and wiped out our baby plants. Wind chill matters!
Weather-induced crop failures are a part of farming. We accept that inevitability and assume the related risks. The key to coping with failures, we’ve found, is contingency planning. In that vein, we held back some stock seeds and have already sowed some in seed trays under grow lights in our basement. We plan to hold them indoors until they are big enough, and the weather is warm enough, for them to survive outdoors. Then we’ll replant. This will set us back a bit as we won’t have stock for our bouquets as early as we thought, but we’ll survive.
At about the same time we were mourning the loss of our little plants, we walked further down the same row, below the dead stock, and found snapdragons, orlaya and nigella hanging on, green and hale, despite the murderous wind. Elsewhere on our farm we saw the first of our hellebores starting to bloom and the very tips of thousands of narcissus plants pushing up out of the ground. Soon thousands of tulips and allium will come up – reminders that even in the face of failures, life goes on at the flower farm!
This winter’s weather will shape which flowers our customers will get in their arrangements and bouquets in the coming season, but it wasn’t powerful enough to put down the coming bounty altogether. Such is farming. Such is life.