July is a milestone on the flower farm. The flowers switch from early summer to late summer varieties, which of course include the dahlias (the first Josudi Andromeda dahlia is pictured). Although without a doubt the dahlias are the real showstoppers they are joined by many others – zinnia, aster, cleome, amaranthus, cosmos, sunflower and ageratum, to name a few. I don’t sow or any more annuals for this year now. Many flower farmers experience a period of burnout now, from the intensity of the work and start to dream of the end of the season and clearing beds for new plants. But of course now we have to work even harder to make sure there will be plants to put into those newly cleared beds. I still have the odd tray of plants for flowers this year to pop in but the main focus in the greenhouse now is biennials, hardy annuals and perennials for next year. Many are already growing strongly in their modules – foxglove, hesperis and honesty look good. Some are just ready for pricking out – sweet williams, stocks, yet more aquelegias and lupins. At the end of the month I will start sowing hardy annuals for overwintering either outside, under low tunnels or in the polytunnel. Where they go depends on just how hardy they really are and how early I would like to start cutting them.
The flower trade is still very busy. Our turnover has more than doubled since last year (and I thought I worked hard then!) However as I write the autumn sown barley has been harvested and the rest of the arable crops are not far behind. I have no idea how we will cope when the combine starts to roll properly and I take up my late summer role as harvest support worker. I don’t do anything big on the main farm, ferry harvest workers and vehicles between the two farms and do two refreshment runs a day around the fields. But these seemingly small tasks take at least two hours out of every day. So that actually adds up to a day lost every week. So now is the point when I switch from making progress to survival. I cut flowers, deadhead, work in the greenhouse, fill orders and water. I don’t weed unless its really desperate. I don’t do any but the most essential paperwork. In fact I don’t do anything unless its vital (that includes eating, drinking, visits to the toilet and sleeping). Life is about to get just a little more manic. Brace yourselves, here we go!