Flower Farming on 1/6 Acre

Ep 6: Small Scale Flower Farming With Erin Simmons of Handpicked Homestead

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In this episode of The Backyard Bouquet, we are joined by Erin Simmons of Handpicked Homestead from Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. Erin is a mom of four who transitioned from a career in lobbying to becoming a small-scale flower farmer. In this episode, Erin shares her journey, insights, and tips for growing beautiful cut flowers.

Erin Simmons, photo by Dani Winters Photography

Meet Erin Simmons- Small Scale Flower Farmer on Vashon Island

Erin Simmons is a mom of four who spent over a decade working in the political arena before trading in her high heels for muck boots. She took an online course called “Naptime Entrepreneur” which led her to discover her passion for flower farming. Erin started her flower farm on a small scale, growing dahlias, zinnias, basil, cosmos, marigold, and daffodils along with other cut flowers on 1/6 of an acre. She now focuses on growing varieties that are low-maintenance and have a long vase life.

Starting a Small-Scale Flower Farm

Erin started her flower farm with little prior gardening experience. She moved to a rural area in northeast Washington and decided to take an online course to learn more about entrepreneurship. Inspired by an article about flower farming, Erin chose flowers over sewing as her new venture as it allowed her more time outside with her family. She started small, digging up rows in a rented field and planting seeds directly in the ground. Despite facing challenges like ground squirrel and pests, she learned through trial and error and gradually expanded her knowledge and skills.

Growing Dahlias As A Cut Flower

Erin has been growing dahlias for about 15 years, but it was after her move to Vashon Island that she became more serious about cultivating them. She currently has about a sixth of an acre dedicated to dahlias. Erin recommends starting with dahlia tubers as they are easier to grow compared to starting from seeds. She prefers ball varieties and focuses on growing those that have a long vase life for her customers.

Erin’s Favorite Dahlias To Grow:

  • Peaches ‘N Cream
  • Salish Snow Day
  • Coseytown Early Girl
  • Coseytown Mason
  • Coseytown Babycakes
  • Bloomquist Jean

The Beauty of Daffodils As A Cut Flower

In addition to dahlias, Erin also grows lots of daffodils. She loves their fragrance and the fact that they naturalize and come back year after year. Daffodils are deer-proof and can be grown outside her fenced garden area, making them a low-maintenance flower. Erin recommends planting daffodils in the ground for about three years before dividing them to maintain their blooming potential. Erin also dry stores her harvested daffodils in a refrigerator using 1020 trays with clear dome lids.

Erin’s Favorite Daffodils To Grow:

  • Replete
  • Mammoth Mountain
  • Avalanche, Tazetta Daffodil

Zinnias: A Beginner’s Favorite

Zinnias are also one of Erin’s favorite flowers to grow. They are forgiving, easy to seed start, and do not require staking. Erin recommends varieties like Benary’s Giants, Queen series, and Oklahoma series. She prefers bold and bright colors but acknowledges that zinnias come in a wide range of colors and can be used as focal flowers, discs, or fillers in bouquets.

Selling Flowers and Balancing Life

Erin primarily sells her flowers to local florists and has also participated in a CSA program and a neighbor’s farm stand. However, she emphasizes the importance of balancing her flower farming business with her family life and personal well-being. Erin has made the decision to scale back her flower farm this year to prioritize her family and health. She plans to evaluate her sales outlets and focus on growing flowers that require less time and effort.

Advice for Aspiring Flower Farmers

Erin offers two pieces of advice for those considering starting their own cut flower garden. First, she suggests not being afraid to jump in and start, even if you don’t have a concrete plan. Learning through experience is valuable, and you can adjust and refine your approach as you go along. Second, Erin emphasizes the importance of finding mentors and connecting with other flower farmers. Mentors can provide guidance, support, and valuable insights based on their own experiences. Erin recommends compensating mentors for their time and knowledge as a gesture of goodwill.

Conclusion

Erin Simmons journey led her from a career in lobbying to becoming a small-scale flower farmer. She offers valuable insights into growing dahlias, daffodils, and zinnias, as well as tips for balancing a flower farming business with family life. Erin’s story is a testament to the joy and fulfillment that can be found in cultivating and sharing the beauty of flowers.

Grab your gardening gloves and join us for this episode as we let our backyards bloom with the beauty of flowers.

In this episode, you’ll hear about: 

  • 00:02:03 – Erin’s background and journey into flower farming
  • 00:06:06 – Involving her children in the flower farming process
  • 00:11:05 – Growing daffodils and Erin’s favorite varieties
  • 00:13:00 – Erin’s favorite dahlia varieties
  • 00:23:23 – Erin’s favorite moments and experiences in flower farming
  • 00:25:50 – Tips for buying dahlia tubers and finding new varieties
  • 00:31:04 – Advice for starting a cut flower garden
  • 00:36:37 – Selling flowers and finding sales outlets
  • 00:40:03 – Balancing flower farming with family and personal health
  • 00:44:31 – Plans and goals for the 2024 flower farming season
  • 00:48:15 – Valuable advice for aspiring flower farmers
  • 00:53:23 – The importance of mentors and community in flower farming

Learn more about Erin Simmons & Handpicked Homestead

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Discover More Episodes Of The Backyard Bouquet Podcast:

Growing Specialty Cut Flowers For Florists

In Episode 9 of The Backyard Bouquet Podcast, flower farmer Heather Cain shares her journey and insights as the owner of Petal Pink Flowers in Eugene, Oregon. With a focus on specialty and locally-grown flowers, Heather tailors her blooms for local florists and offers subscription services and workshops. Heather’s story inspires gardeners and fellow farmers alike. Tune in for a deeper dive into the flower farming experience.

Continue Reading Growing Specialty Cut Flowers For Florists

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