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What I learned growing fall flowers

With the end of September came the end of Sourwood Creek Farm's first official subscription year. Our 2022 subscriptions were broken up into three seasons: Spring (April & May), Summer (June & July), and Fall (August & September). September was the final month in our fall subscription season. While I am still selling individual market and dahlia bouquets, bouquet subscriptions are over for the year.

August and September were great months on the farm. I appreciate the opportunity to look back, reflect, and have a record of what I learned these past two months.

I was able to get some bigger projects done while continuing to stay on track with hardy annuals, deadheading summer annuals, and harvesting dahlias. I am thankful for this small farm and all the blooms it pumped out (and continues to produce). One of the reasons I can *try* keep up with the farm is because it is small. By small, I mean tiny. At any given point in time, my to-do list is still a mile long. However, having a tiny flower farm means that I only have one 8-ft row to deal with (of whatever plant) instead of a 50-ft row.

It is satisfying to harvest flowers for drying. These are flowers that I planted from seed, watered, fertilized, and tended. Harvesting them and hanging them to dry is satisfying because I know that they will continue to be used in dried wreaths, bouquets, jewelry and arrangements. I am excited for what they will become.

Always plant more sunflowers. These guys grow so quickly, I really need to be sowing sunflower seeds every week or every other week until the end of August or beginning of September. They really help bouquets to pop and are great on their own. I liked the branching and single stem sunflowers mixed together. My sunflowers did get hit with sunflower blight. To combat this in future years, I will be rotating crops away from the affected area. Some of the sunflowers that grew this year popped up as volunteers and spread blight that overwintered in the beds.

I enjoy growing dahlia seedlings. Dahlia seeds produce completely new varieties of dahlia plants. I look forward to seeing what new blooms come from the seeds of dahlias in the dahlia patch. The beautiful blooms above came from a first year seedling. The fluffy blush and white blooms work well in arrangements. We will see how their tubers do this winter in storage.

I get really tired of weeding by August. Yes, I have spurts of weeding responsibly followed by resignation that the weeds are going to win for now. I try my best to mulch, hoe, and stay on top of it; but weeds just keep coming. At this point, I'm waiting for winter to get rid of the weeds.

"Water seedlings" needs to go on my schedule. When I start hardy annual seeds in the late summer, it is hard to remember to water them unless I have it in my schedule. Until I figured this out, I had dead seedlings and had to start over again (and again).

I enjoy researching dahlias and figuring out what varieties I am growing. Two years ago, I purchased mixed bags of dahlia tubers and planted them. They grew, were labeled by color, and died back in the fall. I dug up the tubers, divided them, and stored them over the winter. This year, I grew at least one of each of the color varieties. I decided to figure out if these dahlias have names. Using the great resource, I have been able to identify most of the varieties.

Some flowers have a better vase life than others. Yes, this seems obvious; but I had to figure out for myself what flowers are going to work best in long-lasting bouquets and arrangements and how to make sure those flowers last as long as possible for customers. It was a good process to go through. I am thankful that failing made me push forward to find a solution.

I love fall colors. A friend and I got to make arrangements for a local event, and the fall colors from the flowers on the farm were perfect for bouquets and arrangements. The deep red (Ivanneti and Jessie G), coral (Sunspot and Milena), and orange (Valley Rust Bucket, Cornel Bronze, and Lake Tahoe) dahlias were wonderful additions to the arrangements. Other important additions were Shiso, Mahogany Splendor, and foraged Goldenrod.

Friends are an essential part of this farm and business. These past two months, I have had the opportunity to visit friends' farms and gardens and create with friends. I had friends who gifted me beautiful foliage, friends who joined in creating arrangements for events, and friends who invited me to sell flowers beside them. Many friends visited my farm and other friends sent me beautiful ideas to inspire creativity. Friends and family purchased bouquets, dried flower arrangements, and were beneficiaries of beautiful flowers. I received photos from friends of flowers grown from seeds and tubers that we grew here. Sourwood Creek Farm does not exist in isolation. It is the result of community and friendship. I am thankful for that and for the connections that I have made as a result of growing flowers.

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