Sarah Wilson, founder of Compton Garden Flowers, takes us through a week in late November on her flower farm. Sarah and her husband Bob farm in the village of Compton Dando, which can be found between Bath & Bristol.
Well, it is absolutely pouring rain this morning, but to be honest, I don’t mind! It’s been such a dry summer that the ground needs a really good few weeks of rain to recover. Autumn is, at last, starting to deliver some much colder weather – which is a bit of a relief because it means that it won’t be long before the tulip bulbs can be planted. Tulips need a period of cold weather before planting, ideally around six weeks. So I am thinking that mine will get planted around Christmas time this year!
November is the month that you really start to notice the shorter days. Nonetheless, my greenhouses and polytunnel are stuffed full of seedlings sown in early autumn, some destined for planting out in the next few weeks, some needing to be tucked up overwinter – but all in need of as much daylight as possible. Therefore one of this week’s first jobs is to make sure the skin of the polytunnel and the glass of the greenhouses are washed, cleaning off any dirt, dust, and algae that would reduce the amount of daylight getting through.
Members of FFTF South West region at Sarah’s plot.
Today I welcomed fellow Flowers from the Farm members from my region for one of our regular meet-ups. The sun shone, so we were able to tour the field without having to be decked in all our wet weather gear!
Our meet-ups are a fabulous opportunity to catch up with each other’s news, share ideas, swap seeds/plants, and generally have a good old natter. Today did not disappoint. Our conversations were, as always, very varied – from how to manage pests and diseases to the impacts of climate change, from how to manage our workloads and stay sane to how to market our businesses, shouting loud & proud about the high-quality product we are all committed to providing.
I always come away from these sessions energized and excited to explore new ways of working and to put into practice new ideas. One of today’s ideas I have adopted is putting an extra fleeced hoop in the polytunnel to keep our scented leaf geranium crop frost free (rather than just relying on the polytunnel for protection: last year, I lost most of my scented leaf geranium cuttings).
The greenhouse is packed with seedlings sown and ranunculus pre-sprouted in early autumn. Today’s jobs include a lot of pricking out (mainly poppy seedlings) and getting the ranunculus ready for the polytunnel – which will be a job for later in the week.
To reduce our plastic consumption, we have started using soil blocks rather than pots. We have used them for sowing seeds in the past, and this year we are also trialing them for transplanting seedlings. They are ideal for things like poppies that resent root disturbance, as the blocks can be directly planted out once the seedlings growing in them have matured – probably in February, under a caterpillar tunnel. In the meantime, they will be overwintered in the greenhouse.
We also use and reuse old mushroom crates. These are fabulous for soil blocks as you get 38 large blocks to each tray, and, using a water bath, watering is so easy – a quick dunk, and the job is done. This was another genius idea I picked up from a fellow Flowers from the Farm member!
Soil blocks are a way of reducing plastic waste – and, ultimately, of saving both space and money.
It’s raining again, and it really is quite torrential! We were expecting a bulk delivery of compost tomorrow, but the track through the field is now quite boggy, and we are worried that the vehicle might get stuck, so I’ll need to postpone the delivery until next week – it’s just not worth the risk. This is a typical example of the best-laid plans having to change: flower farmers always need to be in tune with the weather and adapt accordingly.
The delayed delivery means I won’t finish getting the dahlia beds ‘winter safe’. Here in the West Country, our winters are usually quite mild, and we are lucky to have good drainage in our cutting beds, so we leave the majority of our dahlia tubers in the ground. They do need a good layer of compost on top to give them a level of protection – but this will just have to wait! Still, I can get on with planting out those ranunculus in the polytunnel – at least it’s dry in there!
Friday and Saturday
Friday is all about preparing for our first Christmas wreath workshop, which will be held on Saturday – the first of six workshops we are running over the next three weeks. It’s always fun to see what beautiful creations our customers make, and it is a lovely festive way to kick off the Christmas season.
Promising ourselves a restful day! We still go out and check everything’s okay in the greenhouses and polytunnel. Then it’s a quick walk around the field, dealing with any immediate issues and catching up on admin. But in the main we will just enjoy some rest and relaxation today and think about the next week to come. #lovemyjob
For more information:
Flowers from the Farm