Welcome to the inaugural Water Boy Farms blog post. As I am typing this blog entry, we are in the depths of our Gala week. Gala in the Garden is this Saturday, and we are pushing our final details before the big event. The Gala is the highlight of the farm and the biggest event that we host on location. This is the perfect time of year for me to write to you about the struggles we had to get us here.
In 2020, Water Boy Farms decided to supply the flowers to our restaurant Harvest Seasonal Kitchen. Like many businesses coming out of Covid, we needed to control our expenses as much as we could. Flowers were already growing on the farm because we believe that they were important for the bees that live at Water Boy. We quickly learned that if we cut annuals such as Cosmos and Zinnias that they would keep giving you flowers. We squeezed the life out of every flowing plant growing on the farm. Even when the wind knocked over our zinnias, we loved on them and cut crooked flowers. The farm was not planted in 2020 with the intention of providing flowers for a restaurant, but we provided flowers from June until the freeze from the farm.
Going into 2021, I had big plans of filling the farm with flowers. I read books all winter long and was ready to shower the world with flowers. I learned quick that I was basically already a season behind. It turns out that the fall is actually the biggest part of your next growing season. All my hardy annuals went in way too late and did not produce. Not to mention we had the freeze of 2021 followed by the rainiest spring in a long time. Water Boy Farms has an area that we call “The Back 40”. “The Back 40” never drains and is a trouble spot for standing water in a normal spring. The horrible drainage of this section with the added stress of a rainy spring left much of the farm a swamp. Most of what I planted in the spring had to swim its way to germination. Spring 2021 did not provide flowers for Harvest, and we ended up buying flowers from our sweet friend Amanda at Bishop Hill Flowers.
Amanda has been growing flowers for market for 30 years and I asked her to come by the farm and see what I was doing wrong. Nothing was growing. My plants were all still small and struggling. Amanda helped me to realize that on top of the curve balls mother nature was giving us, our compost that we used to fill our rows was not finished cooking and therefore was sucking the life out of my plants. We added in amendments, the rain stopped, and the ground finally started to dry up. By June, we had some flowers.
I was able to take many of the lessons that I studied over the winter and get some traction. We went from barley enough flowers for Harvest to dreaming of flowers for our entire company over the summer. We still have flowers falling over from the wind, and we still love on them with their crooked stems, but one day I will finally figure out trellises. And that “Back 40”, well we conquered it. We worked the area along with members of our community to level it out and help the whole farm drain better. It is now our perennial garden which is planted with flower arrangements in mind.
Growing season 2020-2021 was my first full year on the farm and some might say it was difficult, but I would like to say I learned a lot. I am so excited about the lessons from this season that I can not wait for spring. Well, I am excited for a few mornings of sleeping past 5:30 am, but then I am ready for spring!! I look forward to journaling and sharing the next farm adventures with you on this blog. Share your struggles and success with me and we will cheer each other on. Until next time…
“I never lose. I either win or learn.” Nelson Mandela