2022 was another year in the gardening learning curve, full of successes and failures, and a big note-to-self for one major thing NOT to repeat in 2023.
This past fall, I participated in a Bible study of the book of James. It is hard to read that book without having serious introspective moments. While it is necessary to make plans in one's life, and certainly when one has a farm that requires detailed planning for crop selection, seed sowing, seedling planting, and harvest schedule, etc., as I reflect on the past year and contemplate the upcoming one, I will keep the following in mind because none of us really knows what tomorrow will bring.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 [g]Yet you do not know [h]what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 [i]Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
In 2022, we continued to supply the Dillon Town and Country Foods with fresh cut flowers. During the winter months, we also supplied some amaryllis, followed by tabletop herb garden planters, and some pansy/dusty miller planters. Overall, our flowers and planters went well, and sales were significantly more than 2021. Growing under lights right now are 3 kinds of basil (lemon, thai, and amethyst), 3 kinds of pansies, and I just sowed cilantro and dusty miller seeds today.
In addition to the Dillon Farmer's Market, we attended the Sheridan Market on Thursday evenings, and the Ennis Farmers Market when the season in Dillon was over. Ideally, we will do all three markets this year (Lord willing). Hopefully the logistical parts of that will work be worked out. Even though there is always room for improvement, I would consider all three markets part of our 2022 success. The other market we moved into this year was supplying flowers to other florists, including FreeRangeFlorals, a local florist who does weddings and events, and Wildwood Floral and Gifts, one of the local florists right here in Dillon. It was a fun working relationship with the Rebecca, the florist/owner, however, she is in the process of selling the business and I do not yet know if our relationship will continue with the new owner. We will find out in 2023!
We had many crop successes to varying degrees. One thing I tried this past year in response to what was observed in 2021 was to grow more variety and colors of crops with smaller quantities of each. I believe this was a good move considering the size of our growing area and our current volume of sales. The dahlias bloomed well into September- much better than last year- and the snapdragons were wonderful. New sunflower varieties were delightful and will be grown again. I have changed up some of the zinnias for next year- am super excited about new colors and sizes, plus I will be bringing back the favorites from 2022. I grew Catherdral Bell vines for the first time in 2022, and while I completely loved them and they did well, I will not grow them this next season because of the short length of our growing season. They were started in February and even then didn't bloom until late August. Plus if the clematis vines make it through the winter, they will be taking over that area of vertical garden. Of course, I may bring them back in 2024 once our hoophouse is established....again, we shall see.
The final success of the season was being able to put together dried floral bouquets and wreaths that I was happy with. Those were shown at 3 markets plus an open house event here in Dillon. Most of what I made sold out, so I am pleased to have dried enough flowers and foliage that I can make more at a relaxed pace during these next few months. Dried floral wreaths store well and last for years. They are a beautiful way to enjoy the pleasure flowers bring us year round, plus they can be hung on a wall like a painting.
Stock. I grew stock for the first time and it was a total flop. I think I may try it one more time, but maybe wait and plant it out in the fall in the hoop house. It may have just been planted out too late in the season and it was too hot for it. I don't have enough experience with it yet to know. Red Spike Amaranth was also a total flop, but I planted it too late. The Emerald Tassels and Coral Fountain Amaranth both did great. I was trying to stagger the crops, but it is hard to get the timing on that with a 90 day growing season. Many of my sweet peas were also a total failure. Some of that I attribute to the kind of potting soil I used (which is a mistake I won't make again in 2023, but not the BIG mistake mentioned in the first paragraph). I had bought about 6 new-to-me seed varieties, and all but one died. The root systems were too weak when I set the plants out, and that was the fault of the potting soil. And with the exception of the rudbeckia triloba (which I love!) the other rudbeckia were pretty much toast. I have a few nice blooms, but they were no where as productive as the zinnias or dahlias....so I am not going to bother with them this year.
The amaryllis bulbs I just ordered for Valentines came in completely frozen and are currently in a 5 gallon bucket rotting while I am waiting for my supplier to be back in the office next week so I can either get a refund or get them reshipped. Since the bulbs I ordered last year at this time also froze, I think it might just be a losing battle to try and get bulbs shipped to MT this time of year, triple winter packed or not. I had been hopeful the amarylls would be in bloom for Valentines Day, but it is now even more uncertain. I will not share pics of the dead Amaryllis bulbs here----just too sad.
There were definitely more failures...I just don't have time to list anymore right now.
THe big mistake
The big mistake was allowing myself to get seduced by the warm October weather we had this past fall. Instead of cleaning up the beds and prepping for winter and the big hoophouse build (it is 30' X 72'), I continued cutting flowers from the garden for customers thinking I would be able to do all that prep in November. WRONG. The weather flipped from a warm fall to a freezing winter with snow, seemingly overnight. Pulling up landscape fabric with a foot of snow on top of it is no small feat. That is why the landscape fabric is still in the garden to this day. While I have managed to cut down most of the foliage/dead flowers/stalks, and pull out the T-posts and caterpillar tunnel supports, I have to wait for it to warm up to be able to pull up the fabric with all those landscape staples in it that are frozen in the ground. Maybe we will have a January thaw? And maybe we won't. I know eventually we will be able to finish the 2022 clean up, lay out the greenhouse perimeter, get an auger in there to dig the 38 2 ft deep holes to set the cemented posts in the ground that will keep the hoophouse from getting blown away in the wind...it just isn't going to be this year which ends tomorrow night.
In the meantime, my seeds have been ordered and I am starting to plan out 2023. It will be a completely different year than last because we have the hoophouse construction project which should be a game changer. My entire fenced garden will need to be reoriented with the addition of the hoophouse, and while it will give me 2160 sq ft of enclosed and protected growing space, I will ultimately lose available square footage because of how it needs to be laid out. Because we can't even start building it until I get the fabric up and the holes dug, my plans will be close estimates, and everything will be subject to change.
That's all for 2022.
Happy New Year, everyone.