Kelly Perry - 00:00 - You are listening to the Team Flower podcast. In this episode we're talking with Erin from Floret flowers and the next 15 minutes 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 number one tip for growing a flower related business. It's all right here on the Team Flower podcast. This podcast is brought to you by Team Flower. Team Flower is an online learning community focused on educating, connecting, and empowering flower lovers worldwide. Whether you're professional, farmer or florist getting started or just love flowers. Welcome to the podcast. If you'd like to know when new podcast episodes are released and receive fun video tutorials and articles, sign up for our pen pal club.
Kelly Perry - 00:54 - It's free. Visit teamflower.org and click on free resources. Erin is a professional grower, educator and advocate for local flowers and farmers. She has recently published her first book cut flower garden and Erin describes it as the book she wished she would have had when she started. She is a recipient of a Martha Stewart's American made award and the better home and gardens blogger award for fantastic farm and flowers and grace, the pages of Martha Stewart Living Sunset Victoria country living and organic life magazines. You can connect with Erin through her popular instagram account @Floretflower, and if you're looking for a copy of her new book cut flower garden, you can visit floretflowers.com/book.
Kelly Perry - 00:54 - Ok I have Erin with us us here. Erin, how are you today?
Erin Benzakein - 01:45 - I'm doing good. Thanks for having me.
Kelly Perry - 01:47 - Yeah, absolutely. Well, we have a great list of questions that we would love to ask about growing flowers in. The first one comes from Mary. She asks, um, what steps you take in amending your soil? Do you test the soil before and after? By sending samples, you add nutrients each planting season or just blanket the farm annually. What products are you using and what are the key ingredients and ratios? If I need to source a product that's a little bit different than maybe what you use.
Erin Benzakein - 02:20 - So great question. We test the soil every fall, so at the end of the growing season when we clean up the garden and we go around and take our soil samples and we do it from the main field and then we also test our greenhouses individually and send that off. And really what the soil test is telling us is what our soil is lacking or what we have too much of, kind of like, you know, your body and so how you can adjust that to get better results. So we have a local soil lab that we use here, but you can also send yours off if you need to. And then we tell them that we're certified organic so we don't want any chemical recommendations. And within a few weeks they send us back the sample and tell us what we need to be adding to our soil. So we do that in the fall, um, and then plant a cover crop. And then in the spring when we till the cover crop in, we add compost, different fertilizers, a little bit of lime, just the basics. And if you want to go to my blog you can actually search, we give a whole how to on how we prep our beds on the farm. So there's even more detailed information there.
Kelly Perry - 03:27 - Oh, that's awesome. Does it talk on the blog about the cover crops, like what some options for those would be.
Erin Benzakein - 03:34 - I haven't written a cover crop post yet. We usually use a mix of rye field peas and vetch, so just a basic easy to get stuff at your local feed store and just to keep the soil covered so that it doesn't leach away all the nutrients in the winter.
Kelly Perry - 03:50 - Okay. Fantastic. And then you just run the tiller right over that cover crop and that all goes into the soil as well?
Erin Benzakein - 03:50 - Yeah.
Kelly Perry - 03:59 - Okay. Fantastic. Okay, great. Well the next question comes from Victoria. She would like to know how to start a small space for gardening at home. Um, and I think that this is something that your new book actually discusses. So, um, since the book's not out yet, um, what are a few things that she should consider while she waits for that book to arrive?
Erin Benzakein - 04:20 - So, a couple of tricks. Um, my mom has a city garden and I've always, she usually just has a deck now. She has a patio but so I have a lot of experience helping her have a really abundant garden in a tiny little space. So we built some raised planter beds and then she has some large pots placed around and we just fill them with really good potting soil and you can grow a crazy amount of stuff in a really small space. So I would suggest using containers if you have them. I'm going vertical, so if you can use any kind of, um, trellising system or anything that you could get vines growing up. So you've got stuff going up and then also spilling out of your pots. So you kind of get double use. And then spacing. Your plan's pretty tight together.
Erin Benzakein - 05:07 - Like I cram a lot of flowers in small spaces, so just really packing those planters and containers small. That's if you have containers or if you have a little tiny backyard again, just like really a squeezing stuff in their plants can be spaced a lot closer than you think. So the book goes into all of that and it's going to be out in two short weeks.
Kelly Perry - 05:29 - Oh, fantastic. Well you are definitely a prelate utilizing space and maximizing resources. So I think those are some great tips for Victoria and I'd love to try that on my back deck too. Um, okay. The next question that we had from Josephine and Genevieve was, do you feel like you ever undersold your flowers whenever you were starting off? So this is geared more towards the people who are growing commercially. Um, but was there a turning point when you really felt like you hit a sweet spot with pricing or perhaps even premium pricing? Uh, what were some of the circumstances surrounding this?
Erin Benzakein - 06:04 - So when I was first starting, I generally was pricing myself because I was insecure and I didn't realize how amazing our flowers were. Um, I was probably pricing about 20, 25 percent lower than what flowers were normally be installed for. And so when I signed up for an account in my local wholesaler and I got the price sheet, I was blown away because I was totally not getting enough money for my flowers and then seeing what they had for sale there at the wholesaler and what our flowers were like. There was such a huge difference. So I quickly raised my prices to at least to meet what the wholesaler we're selling them for and then we usually run, I'd say 10 to 15 percent over what you would average, like the average price or wholesaler sells for.
Kelly Perry - 06:51 - Okay. And do you think that for somebody starting out like that, that quality, whenever they're getting to a place when they're noticing, you know, this is consistent with what's happening wholesale or this is better than what's happening wholesale? Is that a marker for them to know, okay, now it's time for me to adjust my pricing a little bit here?
Erin Benzakein - 07:08 - Definitely, and I think that's a great way if you want to just get a rough sense of what flowers are selling for in your area is to go to your local wholesaler and just sign up for an account. You can buy flower, food and wire and uh, you know, the basic supplies. So you're gonna want to have an account there anyway, right. So I think that's a really great place to at least get some rough pricing just to get your feet wet and get an understanding. That really helped me in the beginning.
Kelly Perry - 07:33 - Yeah, because it is so different like you know, region to region and what people are used to in different areas. So it is hard to give someone, you know, you should always charge $10 for poppies are $15 for poppies and you know, it's so hard and the products are so different. One puppy is not necessarily the same as another. So.
Erin Benzakein - 07:51 - Well, and if you go to California and you, you're at the California, like the flower markets there, you can pay $6 for a bunch of the most beautiful fat ranunculus. Same here in Washington. Dahlias, you can buy a five stem bunch wholesale for a dollar 80, like wow. It's because they grow so abundantly here. That's not what our prices are, but it gave me a good idea of like what they were going for in my region so then I could price accordingly.
Kelly Perry - 08:17 - Sure. Great. Well thanks so much. That's a great help. The next question that we have is from June and she has inquired about you shipping floors, so June is a shipping flowers. I'm sorry. June is a florist and 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 Benzakein - 08:42 - Okay, so there's a couple of places to try to track down local growers in your area. 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 slow flowers.com. Debra Prinzing has done a wonderful job listing floral designers who use local products, local flowers and then farmers that are selling to florists or to the consumer.
Erin Benzakein - 09:13 - You can find them there and then we also have the farmer florists collective on our website, which has a whole listing of anyone. I'm really all over the world whose, who are growing local flowers, selling local flowers, like there's just this great directory. So those are three really good sources to hopefully help you find somebody in your area.
Kelly Perry - 09:31 - Yeah, and I agree. I think all of those are really great places to look for local growers and places that I go as well. So that's great. The next question comes from Agnes and she wonders what next step you would recommend to somebody who's seeking to grow their business. And I know this is a really loaded question, um, but there is, is there maybe a book or a resource that you use when you were starting that you would recommend to give her a little bit of a jumpstart and some next steps?
Erin Benzakein - 10:02 - There's a really wonderful book called start with why and it really gets to the heart. I read that a few years ago and really got 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 and helping us as business owners lead with that lead with our story and our passion. Yeah, so that, that is a turning point in book start there. That that'll give you the great start with that. Start with why.
Kelly Perry - 10:34 - Yes, absolutely. Well, that was the last question I had for you. I'm Jennifer chimed in whenever I had reached out to everybody with some questions and she's really excited about the book and she preordered her copy and I thought maybe if you don't mind just to share a little bit about, you know, 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. I have my copy and have gone through and I can't wait to dig into it even deeper. 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 chockful of fantastic information.
Erin Benzakein - 11:14 - Well thank you. Because the book was a true Labor of love from start to finish. It's been about three years from when I really, um, solidified the idea to actually I'm holding books and signing them in my garage and getting ready to ship them out. So it was a real. It was a long haul, but it's the book that I wish had existed when I was first starting out. I wanted a place where I could just gives you all the foundational stuff like how to plan your garden, how to amend your soil, how to set things up.
Erin Benzakein - 11:46 - And then it goes season by season giving you all the key things that you need to be thinking about and doing in that. And then, um, as the season progresses, we go through so many different flower varieties. There's a hundred and 75 or a few more than that covered in total in the books, so you should be able to just flip to summer, go to, um, garden roses and look up why they're great, how to grow them and how to get the most face life out of them. So hopefully you can just crack this puppy open out in the garden and it should be really, really helpful. That was my goal is to have it both be beautiful, like an inspiring, but also really practical and really helpful.
Kelly Perry - 12:26 - Yeah. Well it's absolutely that. And with, what did you say? One hundred and 75 different varieties. You know, that's years, whatever. That's a decade of growing, you know, that'll keep me busy for a long, long time. Well, it's been so fantastic having you here today and 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 a couple of seeds last season, whenever you were getting ready to launch your online store, um, all kinds of good things, loving a puff and Zinnias and different things and I took them out and I did it. Erin. I played, I planted those seeds.
Kelly Perry - 13:11 - So anyway, thanks so much for everything. It's great to have, um, great to have this resource. And as I think about all of the different pieces, whenever I was reading it, what really stood out to me, there's a little line that you have in there that says something like, um, how wonderful it is to be outside in nature where we can really tune in, like that level of awareness that we get because we're working in the garden and we're noticing things that are happening in nature around us that otherwise we may have just kind of glossed over because we were busy. And so the garden is such a wonderful way to slow us down, to really encourage us to take one day at a time and to enjoy what's happening in front of us in the moment. So.
Erin Benzakein - 13:56 - Oh, that's beautiful. Yes. Couldn't agree more.
Kelly Perry - 13:59 - Yeah. Well thanks again so much and thanks on behalf of all of the people who submitted questions. Um, and again, thank you so much for what you're doing in the flower world at large. It's been great to have you.
Erin Benzakein - 14:11 - Thanks for having me.
Kelly Perry - 14:13 - This podcast is brought to you by Team Flower. The flower is an online learning community focused on educating and empowering our livers worldwide. Whether you're a professional farmer, florist getting started or just love flowers, welcome to the party. If you'd like to know when you find past episodes here, have at least immersive video tutorials and articles. Sign up for our pen pal club. It's great. Visit team, flower.org, and Click on free resources.