Actions stations: March on a flower farm
As flower farmers across the country gear up for the start of a new season, Jessica Roberts of Featherstone Flowers takes us behind the scenes and into a busy world where keeping up with the pace is priority number one.
The 1st of March is the beginning of meteorological spring, and 20th March will be the start of astronomical spring in 2023. Either way, March means spring and brings with it the delights and hopes of a year of wonderful flowers. It also brings a slight frenzy to the flower farmer; now is the time that seed sowing really ramps up, we plant out hardy annuals, prune roses, cut back perennials, weed all the flower beds, finish mulching and start bulb planting for summer cutting. The grass begins to grow rapidly as the warmth returns and so we get to mowing – just once a week for now.
March is also the month where many of us start to cut the first of our flowers, with narcissi leading the way, as well as anemones, fritillaries, linaria, viburnum, grape hyacinths and more. We cross our fingers and hope that we have as many of our own flowers as possible for Mother’s Day.
It’s time to get the beds ready for planting: weeding, cutting back green manure (a cover crop that protects the soil during the winter and is then cut and dug in to feed it) or removing bed covers. We must test the irrigation – flush it through to discover where the leaks are and get them mended. We have just had the driest February in 30 years and it is critical that trees and shrubs grown for foliage and flowers are watered well over the next couple of months, while they draw up sap and put on huge amounts of growth.
We want to make our lives as easy as possible for the summer, when most of our time is spent harvesting and planting new successions of crops, so weeding and mulching beds now is essential. Mulching will help to smother the weeds and slow down their steady advance. Towards the end of the month the weed seedlings will start popping up everywhere and hoeing them off whilst they are small will save many hours of work in the long run.
In the polytunnel big changes are happening; the temperature will climb rapidly given just a small amount of sun and recently germinated seedlings will need constant attention. Pricking them out into bigger pots or their own cells, feeding and very careful watering are essential at this stage. Planting these babies out as soon as they start to touch the sides of their pots will prevent any checks in their growth and make space for the next generation to come through.
There is still the risk of bad weather. Frosts, snow, heavy rain and winds are to be expected and prepared for, although warm sunny days are hoped for in between to begin warming our soil and our hearts, two things which are inextricably linked in any flower farmer.
As well as their first fresh flowers of the year, many of our members are also offering floristry and flower growing workshops during March. Visit our events page to find out what’s on near you.