If you haven’t already done so, please read the FFY Introduction.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’re covering in May:
- Let’s Go!
- Plant Support
- Business & Taxes: Keeping up with bookkeeping
- Content Creation: Making it efficient plus favorite backdrops
We are heading into summer, LET’S GO! Am I the only one that feels like they need a pep talk this time of year?
If you’re joining from the other side of the world and are heading into winter, here in the northern hemisphere, we’re wrapping up spring and heading into summer and whew! I’ve gotten some notes from some of you and while spirits are high, some are also feeling overwhelm and well, questioning everything. If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. We’re right there with ya.
It’s easy to look around this time of year and think that everyone is crushing it. Especially if you’re in a zone with a shorter growing season or things may not have turned out like you had planned. But it all still feels within grasp . . . even if it’s that panicky, clinging-to-sand type of grasp. You know, that moment right before you throw in the towel in and say F it, it’s going to be what it’s going to be (lol if this is *not* you, I am honestly glad, please keep crushing it, maybe I’m just talking to myself, ha).
But if that’s you too, please know that my laundry is miles high and my field is *literally* taken over by weeds (and I’ve definitely already said F it to them). Trust me, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
And while I’m totally going to say that cliche thing about focusing on what *is* going well, I’m also going to tell you what I say to myself when I start feeling this way: stop taking yourself so seriously!
I know this might come as a shock, but Magnolia Network is not coming here to film (and thank heavens, because THAT would be embarrassing . . . what’s that lush patch over there? Oh that?! Well, that was a bed of zinnias, but now it’s these native plants called weeds . . . I’m really good at growing them).
In fact, no one is watching my show but me . . . in my head. And really, most of these “failures” I’m “suffering” are just bruises to my own ego and it’s my own thoughts that are causing the suffering. No one cares, honestly.
So yes, some of the field is an atrocious dumpster fire and should probably be burned to the ground. But other things are thriving. Things like 1500 baby dahlias weeded and mulched. Things like the feverfew, and the snapdragons, and the peonies, and the roses! MY gah, the roses. And when things are thriving, that’s what we should be focused on: Focused on the positive and how we can share that to brighten someone else’s day (whether that’s the flowers themselves, a picture, or a happy attitude).
I have some super loyal customers who order flowers each week. One is the sweetest young mom, and she and her daughter always come to the door when we deliver. Last week, instead of deadheading the roses, I filled a few mason jars to give to her along with her regular order. I sheepishly told her they probably wouldn’t last long, and she said: I do not care if they last for 20 seconds! She wrote me the sweetest email later that day, and we were literally both crying lol. And it’s in these moments that I remember that this journey is not about me and my ego. The wins and the failures are not about me at all. It’s about growth: growing the farm, nurturing the land, and sharing with others.
And when the Japanese beetles showed up and munched away at them the following week, I didn’t care, because I was happy for that small shared moment.
Other than restocking vases and flower food (I love these compostable ones), I did put in a late order for bareoot peonies with Ball. If you are looking to order wholesale, peony bareroot is starting to dwindle (though Ball does do a late sale of overstock items in late fall). It’s also the perfect time to order bearded iris and a good time to review and finalize bulb and corm orders.
June is all about the tender annuals (planting out, succession sowing). While the majority of our dahlias were planted in May, we had a few stragglers and extras that were planted in June. They really have taken a huge portion of our attention this spring (rightfully so). We’ll continue to sow sunflowers and then finish planting any summer annuals I can manage.
Adding this here as a reminder to support your flowers that need it. Nothing is worse than doing this task later than you should (saying this as Matt and I waited far too long for the snapdragons this year, making it a tad frustrating to do once we got around to it).
We don’t support all flowers, but I’ll share the ones that we do. First, why support flowers? Providing support keeps them from falling over and stems breaking or bending.
Snapdragons, for example, are geotropic. In biology, a tropism is a phenomenon where an organism, usually a plant, displays growth or turning movement in response to an environmental stimulus. Geotropism is when plant growth is affected by gravity (as opposed to heliotropism, where plant growth or movement is affected by the sun, like sunflowers). Anyway, what this means for snapdragons is that if their stems are horizontal or at an angle, the flower ends will reorient themselves in an upward direction. If a snapdragon topples it over, it’s difficult to fix that curvature (though not impossible). I’ve had a snap fall over and it grows at almost a perfect right angle, it’s pretty wild (try it).
Support, though an extra step, is important for flowers that may otherwise topple over, bend, or break. On our farm, we use two types of support: Corral Method and Support Netting.
For the corral method we use either wood stakes or T-Posts every 5-6 feet and then corral the plants with twine.
For support netting, we use the same hoop/support structures as we do for low tunnels (great video on constructing them here), just without the plastic and with the addition of hortonova netting. Honestly, I don’t love hortonova, but we do use it for some crops (see below).
- Corral Method
- Dahlias (this really is a must . . . I have not done it a few years and while some plants are ok, others fall over and it’s a mess).
- Support Netting
- Lisianthus (although I should note that Jennie Love grows certain varieties at close spacing and does not need it . . . I definitely do so far . . . they even toppled over with one layer last year . . . I wouldn’t if we didn’t have to though).
- Canterbury bells
Everything else: I DON’T! Yes, you read that right, I do not. Occasionally, things will topple over (usually scabiosa, and the worst this year was yarrow, which in the past has not been issue, not sure if Poppy (our puppy) ran through it or what, oy). If that happens, I’ll quick build a little coral. Otherwise, it’s not an issue for us. Zinnias, celosia, cosmos, do just fine . . . maybe it’s because our plants don’t get as tall as other growers, but my feverfew is past my waste and supporting itself just fine!
June is also all about pinching tender annuals and dahlias. Pinching refers to pinching out the growing point of a plant to encourage fuller, sturdier growth and more blooms. Some flowers we always pinch are: amaranth, celosia, dahlias, branching sunflowers, and zinnias.
There are others that you can pinch, but we don’t or we “pinch” by harvesting the first bloom (ageratum, baby’s breath, basil, calendula, Chinese forget-me-not, cosmos).
We used to space our snapdragons 9″ apart and pinch them, but now we plant them at 6″ spacing, 3 plants per hole, and do not pinch (though I’ll report if they put out another flush). Thus far, I really like this method and feel like we are getting more quality stems this way.
We don’t pinch any other flowers, but some that you should never pinch are those like stock or single-stem sunflowers (like the procut series) because these only have one flower per stem.
Some growers do not pinch their dahlias but we always do. Pinching your dahlias may set them back a tiny bit, but it will give you sturdier plants and way more blooms (and more useable stems . . . that first stem on that first bloom if not pinched is about as thick as broomstick, HA!). Because dahlias all wake up in their own time, we’re usually monitoring and pinching the dahlias as needed (versus every plant in a row). We pinch our dahlias when they are about 8-12″ tall or have 4–5 sets of leaves.
Our primary harvests this month are ranunculus, peonies, icelandic poppies, anemones, roses, snapdragons, stock, bells of ireland, feverfew, calendula, cress, yarrow, canterbury bells, orlaya, berry greens.
Business & Taxes
I removed this so as not to be redundant each month, but I’m thinking it’s important to keep it in:
Every month, I review our income and expenses and apply the profit first method (at least, that’s my goal). If you haven’t read the book, I highly suggest it, but basically for everything that comes in (revenue) you are making target allocation percentages for things like profit, owner’s comp, taxes, and expenses, and moving those allocations to separate accounts.
It’s actually recommended to do this twice a month, but I honestly consider it a win if I do it once and bonus twice. If those terms are foreign, that’s OK (they were for me too). He breaks it all down in a simple (and even entertaining) way. My only regret with this method is not starting it sooner. It’s given me more confidence as a business owner, especially as I do not come from an entrepreneurial family. If you’re not ready to dive on into the book, it’s important to understand your income and expenses. I don’t even use a fancy system like quickbooks, just a spreadsheet!
Content Creation: Making it Efficient
At the beginning of this post I talked about overwhelm, and now I am suggesting you spend your precious time on content creation?!
Yes, yes I am. And the reason is because in this day and age, content is king and your content needs to make a lasting impression. If you are on social media, you already know this. While social media is not everything (your newsletter and website are, ahem), it is like a mini portfolio, and you better be d@mn sure that anyone interested in your business is peepin’ your profile.
The great thing about good content is that it can be used across everything (your social media, yes, but more importantly, your website, newsletter, marketing material, etc.). You want to be intentional with it, because it’s a reflection of you.
According to a recent study, 92% of consumers will visit a brand’s website for the first time for reasons other than making a purchase. If you manage to get a prospective customer or client to visit your website, you want them to take action (like sign up for your newsletter) and you want them to remember you. And they remember you by making a connection with you (your story).
More and more consumers are looking to spend their money with brands they care about, and the way they get to know you and your business is likely online (your website, newsletter, social media, etc.). This is a good thing, you are doing awesome things to help others and make their days brighter! Taking time to capture moments that tell your story connects you with your people.
When you are in the thick of things is also when you can capture great content, because people want to see what you are up to! This is the stuff that people get excited about 🙂 We’ve all gotten to the end of a season and realized we didn’t capture a dang thing, it’s a bummer. But if you can take a few extra minutes to take a picture or video of that awesome dahlia you grew, I don’t think you’ll regret it, even if you never use it.
Remember: We’re not taking ourselves too seriously here! Worst case scenario, it’s a video you end up deleting or a spot you learn not to photograph again. The idea is to make it a regular part of your process, so you can improve and make the content side of your business a little easier, so you actually have some content once you decide to launch/share/whatever.
Although I personally love photography and the creative side of business, I still need to make it as easy for myself as possible. Whether you prefer photos or videos, here are few things that have helped me make it easier and more efficient.
Making It Easier
- Don’t over think it. Just take the photo. You don’t even have to read the rest, actually taking the photo or video is like 95% of the battle.
- Identify your favorite place to photograph or film (if you’re not sure, walk around and take random photos/videos and see which ones you like best . . . you can carry around any random thing and take a photo of it in different places to see the light . . . great photos and videos are less about equipment, and more about the great light). It’s also good practice for learning your camera, so that when you do want to take a photo or video, it’s second nature.
- Have your camera (or phone) accessible and keep a backup charger/battery too. I keep my camera in our shop and always have a backup battery charging. We also keep extra cellphone chargers down there.
- Have props and backdrops handy. In our shop, I keep a couple of my favorite props (old benches to set arrangements on) and backdrops (more on these below).
- Have tripods handy (I have one for my cellphone, one for my camera (which I got for free as a black Friday promo with a lens purchase), and a C-Stand ready and set up for when inspiration hits). These make it easier for videos or photographs where you need to film yourself and no one else is around.
- Learn how to remotely trigger your phone or camera (whether you purchase a remote trigger or put your camera on a timer, learn how to do it, so you can do it quickly without thinking about it).
- Don’t just take one picture. Take as many angles as you can (90, 45, top-down), close ups and far away. If you’ve already gotten as far as taking a photo (bravo), it only takes seconds to get a few more. There’s no need to develop film these days and digital images and videos are simple to delete, so might as well get a few extra angles.
- If you’re taking a photo, take a short video or vice versa. Virtually all cameras and phones are capable of both and you can likely use them for different purposes.
- If you’re the subject of your video or photo, take lots of angles and don’t take yourself too seriously, HA! Angles are weird (like how does my arm look that big, how???). Being on camera or video is awkward enough for most of us, try different angles, give yourself grace, and don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. Honestly, laugh at yourself. Sometimes I laugh at the absurdity and those end up being great photos (especially imagining someone watching you do this). It can help you loosen up and look more natural. And remember that you don’t need to be like full-smile in camera. Some of my favorite photos are when there is just a hint of a person (hands, a hat, someone in action like harvesting or holding flowers . . . this can relieve some of the pressure of being in front of the camera)
- Photograph extra flowers! Every week, I put all the flowers that don’t make the cut into the cooler, to photograph that weekend. You can use it for many seasons to come to show your audience, clients, and customers what’s currently in bloom.
- Don’t feel bad about spending time creating content, learning your craft, or “wasting” something you could have sold for content creation (one great picture of mason jars sells many mason jars).
- Get creative, put on good tunes, drink a cocktail, and let yourself have fun with it.
A Couple Examples from My Own Life
I’m just as guilty of not getting in front of the camera. Floret’s Course was a great reminder to me that you are the face of your business, and people want to get to know you. A farming friend reminded me of this when she posted some photos of a photoshoot she gifted herself.
So, in my second season, even though I felt like I was drowning in to-dos, I decided to gift myself a night of photographing . . . myself! It was the end of the season, these lisis were past their prime, but perfectly good for me. I put on good music, maybe drank a little whiskey, and took photos . . . of myself. Did it feel ridiculous? Yes. Did I look ridiculous while doing it? Absolutely. Are they the most technically-perfect photos? No.
But am I glad I got them? Hell yes, I use them all the time and they are some of our most-shared photos. And the whiskey tasted great.
P.S., having a partner take photos for you is also wonderful if that’s an option (Matt was actually working out west at the time). But you also don’t need anyone but yoself.
I never almost never take photos on flower delivery morning but I had zero photos of our mason jars for our website. At the last minute, I decided I should just take a few photos (even though Matt had already loaded the car).
I honestly figured they may not even turn out, but they’d be fine enough for the newsletter. I already had a backdrop and bench in the shed. I set them in a spot I was comfortable with for lighting, kicked away a super-gross green rug, and grabbed a few photos at different angles really quickly (while Matt was reminding me I hate being late on delivery mornings 🙂 🙂 ). Anyway, I say this because they did turn out and I was able to use them for our website, newsletter, and social media. And you know what? We were not late because it literally took 5 minutes to take the photo. Yes, I have many years of experience taking photos, but that’s only because I just started taking a lot of photos. You don’t always know what’s going to turn out, but you just gotta try.
The two most important things in photography are good lighting and an engaging subject. The next most-important thing is the backdrop. What backdrop you choose has a lot to do with what you’re trying capture, but having a consistent backdrop is good for branding.
A good backdrop does not detract from your subject and instead enhances it. I was obsessed with finding the perfect backdrops when I first began photography, maybe even too much (your subject still needs to look nice, HA!).
I was always dismayed when I asked someone about a backdrop to find out that it was just what they had laying around or they made it. But honestly, you might be surprised by what you have around. Something might not look that interesting to the naked eye, but can be the perfect backdrop! Now, some of my favorite backdrops are simply what we have on hand (but don’t worry, I’ll share my favorite backdrops I’ve ordered as well).
Backdrops on hand
- Old wood makes an amazing backdrop. In fact, the more beat up the better. Same with old doors and windows (the photo with tulips/hat the backdrop is old wood that I stained).
- One of my all-time favorite backdrops is concrete flooring. I *love* the concrete floors in our polebarn. A quick sweep and they are prefect for flatlays (not shiny).
- Plants! Your garden beds and plants are a wonderful backdrop.
- Sunsets. Classic.
Purchased backdrops can be a bit pricey, but these are works of art and these folks know what they are doing! Many you can purchase double-sided, so you get two backdrops in one footprint. The creators are also usually artists and small businesses (like us), so I’m happy to support them. Tag them with your work and they may even share your work with their audiences 🙂
Here are some of my favorites:
Check out their websites and social media (many of them show how other folks use their backdrops and share the names).
OK, my friend, that is IT for June. What do you think? Did you find some useful nuggets? Is there anything that’s unclear or you wish I would have covered?
This link will be live until the end of July, at which point you’ll get a PDF copy, so you can always refer back it. You can also use the buttons below to save this as a PDF or print at any time.
Tip: use the find shortcut (Ctrl+F on a PC or Command+F on a Mac to search for any word or term either online or in PDF format).
Have any questions or something you want to share with me or others? I know I say this ad nauseam, but I truly believe in the power of the collective and that we all have something unique and powerful to share, so please leave a question or share a comment below. We’re all better for it, and I thank you in advance!