Interview: Erin from Floret Flowers
We are starting a new series (and a podcast!) on the blog this year with authors of flower-related books! I'm delighted to have Erin from Floret Flowers with us this month! In this article we’ll discuss soil testing, amendments, cover crops and how much to charge for the flowers you grow. If you’re a florist, you’ll enjoy learning how you can source local flowers and tips to start a small, productive garden at home. Erin is also sharing her #1 tip for growing a flower related business. You can read on or hop on the podcast to listen...
Soil Tests, Amendments and Cover Crops
Kelly: Merry asked how you care for your soil.
Erin: Great question. We test the soil every fall. At the end of the growing season when we clean up the garden we go around and take our soil samples. We do it from the main field, and then we also test our greenhouses individually and send that off. Really what the soil test is telling us is what our soil is lacking or what we have too much of, kind of like your body. It shows us how to adjust that to get better results.
We have a local soil lab that we use here, but you can also send yours off if you need to. Then, we ask for certified organic recommendations because we don't want any chemical recommendations. Within a few weeks they send us back the sample and tell us what we need to be adding to our soil. We do that in the fall and then plant a cover crop.
Then in the spring when we till the cover crop in we add compost, different fertilizers, a little bit of lime. Just the basics. You can read more about this on my blog. We give a whole how-to on how we prep our beds on the farm.
Kelly: Oh, that's awesome. Does it talk on the blog about the cover crops, like what some options for those would be?
Erin: I haven't written a cover crop post yet. We usually use a mix of rye and field peas. Just basic, easy to get stuff at your local feed store. This keeps the soil covered so that it doesn't leach away all the nutrients in the winter.
Kelly: Okay. Fantastic. Then you just run the tiller right over that cover crop and that all goes into the soil as well?
How to Start a Garden in a Small Space at Home
Kelly: Fantastic! The next question comes from Victoria. She would like to know how to start a small space for gardening at home. I think that this is something at your new book actually discusses. Since the book is not out yet, what are a few things that she should consider while she waits for that book to arrive?
Erin: A couple of tricks. My mom has a city garden and I have a lot of experience helping her have a really abundant garden in a tiny little space. We built some raised planter beds and then she has some large pots placed around. We just fill them with really good potting soil. You can grow a crazy amount of stuff in a really small space. I would suggest using containers if you have them.
I also recommend going vertical. Use a trellising system to get vines growing up and then choose some flowers with drape, spilling out of your pots for a double use!
You can also spacing your plants pretty tight together. Plants can be spaced a lot closer than you think. The book goes into all of that. It's going to be out in two short weeks.
Kelly: Oh, fantastic. Well, you are definitely a pro at utilizing space and maximizing resources. I think those are some great tips for Victoria and I'd love to try that on my back deck too.
Pricing Your Farm's Flowers
Kelly: Josephine and Genevieve inquired about pricing. Do you feel like you ever undersold your flowers whenever you were starting off? Was there a turning point when you really felt like you hit a sweet spot with pricing, or perhaps even premium pricing? What were some of the circumstances surrounding this?
Erin: When I was first starting I generally was pricing my stuff low because I was insecure and I didn't realize how amazing our flowers were. I was probably pricing about 20-25% lower than what flowers were normally being sold for. When I signed up for an account at my local wholesaler and I got the price sheet I was blown away because I was totally not getting enough money for my flowers. When I saw what they had for sale and what our flowers were like, there was such a huge difference. I quickly raised my prices to at least meet what the wholesaler was selling them for. Now we usually run 10-15% over our local wholesale averages. I think local wholesale pricing is a really great place to get some rough pricing just to get your feet wet and get an understanding. That really helped me in the beginning.
Sourcing Local Flowers
Kelly: The next question that we have is from June. She has inquired about you shipping flowers. June is a florist. I know that this is not something that you're offering now, but where would you recommend that June connect with dahlia growers specifically? That's what she's on the hunt for. She's in North Carolina near the beach.
Erin: Okay. There's a couple of places to try. The first is the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. You can go onto their website and actually search by crop by state and see if you can find somebody in your area there.
You can go to Slowflowers.com. Debra Prinzing has done a wonderful job listing floral designers who use products, local flowers, and then farmers that are selling to florists or to the consumer.
We also have the Farmer-Florist Collective on our website which has a whole listing of anyone really all over the world who are growing local flowers, selling local flowers.
Growing a Flower Related Business
Kelly: Agnes wonders what next step you would recommend to somebody who's seeking to grow their business. I know this is a really loaded question, but is there maybe a book or a resource that you used when you were starting that you would recommend to give her a little bit of a jumpstart and some next steps?
Erin: There's a really wonderful book called Start With Why. I read it a few years ago. It really gets to the heart of why you're doing what you're doing. Not what you're doing or how you're doing it, but the why, like the heart and the soul of what really fuels you. It helps us as business owners lead with this — our story and our passion.
Kelly: So good.
Erin: Yeah. That is a turning point book. Start there. Start with that, Start With Why.
Erin's New Book
Kelly: Jennifer chimed in whenever I had reached to to everybody with some questions. She's really excited about the book and she pre-ordered her copy. I thought maybe if you don't mind sharing a little bit about the process of writing the book, maybe a few of the things that stand out to you as being favorite parts. I mean, it really is truly a masterpiece. It's one of those books that I know that I'll be coming back to year after year after year for reference. Just so rich and full of fantastic information.
Erin: Thank you! The book was a true labor of love. From start to finish it's been about three years from when I really solidified the idea to actually am holding books and signing them in my garage and getting ready to ship them out. It was a long haul, but it's the book that I wish had existed when I was first starting out. It gives you all the foundational things, like how to plan your garden, how to amend your soil, how to set things up. Then it goes season by season giving you all the key things that you need to be thinking about and doing in that season. Then, we go through so many different flower varieties. There are 175 or so covered.
You can just flip to summer, go to garden roses, and look up why they're great, how to grow them, and how to get the most vase life out of them. My goal is to have it both be beautiful, but also really practical and helpful.
Kelly: Well, it's absolutely that. Did you say? 175 different varieties, that's years of growing!
Erin: Yeah. Yes, that's a decade's worth!
Kelly: That'll keep me busy for a long, long time. Well, it's been so fantastic having you here today. I know you've been really instrumental in the flower world at large, and in my life personally as well. I remember whenever you sent me seeds last season whenever you were getting ready to launch your online store — zinnias, cosmos, love-in-a-puff, etc. I took them out and I planted them! You can see the results of my first attempt at growing here! This book is going to make that process even easier!
Erin: Right on.
Kelly: My favorite part of the book is a little line on page eleven that says...
"Once you start growing you own cutting garden and working with seasonal flowers, you'll likely notice a powerful transformation in your awareness as you tune in to the subtle, magical changes in nature."
The garden is such a wonderful way to slow us down, to really encourage us to take one day at a a time, and to enjoy what's happening in front of us in the moment.
Erin: That's beautiful. Yes. Couldn't agree more.
Kelly: Thanks again so much, and thanks on behalf of all the people who submitted questions. Again, thank you so much for what you're doing in the flower world at large. It's been great to have you.
Erin: Thanks for having me!
You can connect with Erin on her popular Instagram account @floretflower and her new book, which you don't want to go without, is available here.