My oh my. Mother nature hasn’t been showing us her warm and friendly side. This April is starting off mighty windy, chilly, and wet, wet, wet here on south Whidbey, leaving many folks with a sense that the joy of flowers might be a long ways off. Never fear! Years of blindly throwing seeds into cold, soggy ground give me reason to believe our sweet flowers will grow and prosper, even in adverse conditions such as these. Already, out in Deep Harvest’s boggy fields the Blue Jubilee Jem Bachelor Buttons, Alpha Calendula, French Flounce Poppies, and sweet peas are showing their bold, enduring will to thrive. Echinacea and Double Click Cosmos are getting strong in the greenhouse and will be planted out in the elements in the next couple weeks—they, too, can handle this! Come May and June we’ll sow our more heat loving flowers; Lovelies Bleeding Amaranth, Salmon Rose Zinneas, Jasmine Scented Nicotiana, Nigella Exotica, and Soraya Sunflowers. It’s a hopeful, beautiful act to plant seeds, especially flower seeds, in the midst of spring dreariness. Just go for it. If they don’t come up, there’s always re-seeding. If they do… bliss!!
I’m guessing you’re not a big flower eater (am I wrong?) so seeking out blossoms grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers might not seem as vital as buying organic groceries. However, the joy and beauty flowers bring might be seriously diminished if you consider how they were likely raised.
The average grocery store bouquet gets shipped from countries often in South American that haveminimal, if any, herbicide, pesticide, and fungicide regulations. According to the CA Cut Flower commission, a whopping 80% of our flowers are imported. In 2007, the International Labor Rights Fund discovered Ecuadoran flower companies use over 30 different pesticides and that 20% of the chemicals applied on flowers in Colombia are restricted or banned in the US. The global flower industry is dangerous for field workers, florists and consumers alike and does serious damage to soils, waterways, pollinators and environmental health. The International Labor Organization found more than 60% of South American flower industry workers experience headaches, nausea, blurred vision or fatigue and suffer more than the average number of miscarriages.
Luckily, we have more opportunities than ever to buy flowers that support safe working conditions and a healthy natural world. In 2005, U.S. consumers bought $16 million in organic flowers and according to the Organic Trade Association that demand is increasing by 50 percent a year. “VeriFlora,” a labeling and certification program started by U.S. consumers, growers and retailers helps fuel that growth. Over 30 farms Colombia and Ecuador boast the VeriFlora label, which bans more than 100 chemicals and requires transitioning to organic growing techniques.
Also, the burgeoning Slow Flower Movement, started by flower farmer and activist Debra Prinzing, encourages consumers to know their flower growers and buy flowers raised close to home. Doing so hugely lowers the carbon footprint of your bouquets—and it’s not hard to do as the local flower movement is exploding. Between to 2007 and 2012 the number of US cut flower growers grew 20%! Knowing your farmer is a worthy and attainable goal for your flowers and foods alike.
Of course the surest route to chemical free blooms are to grow your own from organic, local flower seed. If you’re not a gardener, no problem, just seek out a local flower farmer or florist whom you can talk to about their growing practices and flower sources.
Let’s stop rubbing our noses and hands on the toxins of conventional flowers. With the rise of the local, organic flower movement, it’s easier than ever to ignore anonymous blooms. Show your friends, family and the earth your love buy supporting organic, local flowers.
We get so many questions from gardeners about the best times for planting different vegetable seeds. The truth is that there is no perfect answer, as the best planting times depend on your soil temperature, microclimate, whether or not you’re using plastic cover or mulch, and when you hope to harvest your produce (to name a few variables). For example, while we advise seeding tomatoes in mid-march or early april, you can plant much earlier if you have a heated greenhouse into which they’ll be transplanted. Also, it’s often best to plant single harvest crops like radishes, head lettuce or carrots several times per growing season, or in many ‘successions.’ Succession planting requires a bit or extra planning, but can result in a prolonged harvest period for you favorite crops. For example we plant beets every three weeks from March through July and arugula every week from March through mid-Sept. During our first several years of growing in the Puget Sound, we consulted the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide for wisdom on the best first and last planting dates for our region. Now, after many years of trial and error, we’ve put together our own Pacific NW Planting Calendar with a more comprehensive crop list and dates that are more specific to the Puget sound. This simple tool will help you identify the window for starting vegetable seeds in your own Northwest garden. Months with an asterisk (*) indicate that it’s best to start seeds indoors during this time for later transplanting outdoors. Click here to download your planting calendar!
Every year, we pick a handful of crops that we want to test in variety trials. What’s a variety trial? Thanks for asking! A variety trial is like a pageant for vegetable varieties, but instead of evaluating for congeniality or swimwear we test for color, vigor, flavor, and other things a gardener or farmer might care about. The variety trial winners are the crops we grow for seed the following season. Only the best for you! This year, we’re trialing six types of dill, six yellow bush beans, eight red leaf lettuces, six different cilantros, five kinds of popcorns, five serrated arugulas, and four varieties of purple sprouting broccolis. It might be an overly ambitious list, but our nerdy biology brains can’t get enough of this stuff! We plan on publishing the results on this blog so we all may learn how varieties stack up to one another and our customers will understand how we choose our seed crops.
We just returned from a a three-week vacation in Laos, where we rested our weary brains and celebrated our honeymoon. The best part of the trip was exploring the vast, smelly, colorful markets full of fresh vegetables, live catfish, odd forest products, and… squirrels? We did our best to taste every strange food we encountered and fell in love with the traditional Lao soup served for breakfast on the street corners. A highlight was trekking through miles and miles of farmland where we observed more rice patties than previously imaginable, as well as diverse vegetable fields full of asian greens, eggplants, pumpkins and herbs. Pigs, chickens and water buffalo roamed freely, unrestrained by fences, roads or any kind of property boundary. We took heart in seeing so many fields dedicated to growing seed, often just the remnant, unharvested food crops left behind to dry down. In a country with little to no commercial seed trade, (we saw a few Chinese seed packets at the grocery stores, but that’s all), seed saving still remains a vital and intrinsic part of the farming culture.