Posts Tagged ‘flower farm’

Summer and Worms

It’s summer and the kids get to visit the flower farm a lot again.

Ainara and Domeka

They got to say hello to their three rabbits, Cottontail, Quincy and Sarah. Ainara wanted to make sure I knew that the Brown one was Sarah and that she was female.  We said hello to the cows too. We call them our Mulchers. Our farm manager calls them Piolo and Rustom. How that got by me without me making a big fuss, I still don’t know.  But Piolo, Rustom and a couple other actor-bulls have an essential role to play in our farm. They do our composting and mulching just by being there, eating and sleeping in their grass beds. Talk about luck.

Piolo the Mulcher

Cottontail

I got to see the farm bloom before my eyes again.There’s a lot of life going on in the farm.  I kept seeing those little white wisps from puff balls I used to call fairy dust.  Ainara again kept saying, with great conviction, and as it it were the most ordinary thing in the world, that the fairies were always sprinkling their happy dust in the farm.

Fairy Dust

My girls are quite lucky to have an entire flower farm to run around in. I had a small yard with daisies and gumamela. They have thousands of every color!  So there I was and while trudging along my girls, I discovered our earthworms. We have tons of them.  And they had a lot to do too, more than the cows and the rabbits (along with the birds that take care of our pests.) So I asked my husband and Toto, our native farm manager about the creepy crawlies.

Our flowers they said derives more than 90% of its nutrition from our compost and from the vermicast produced by earthworms.  And would you believe, our earthworms are quite special. They are BLUE! In 1991, an American scientist Lawrence Heaney discovered 18 new species of earthworms in the Kitanglad ranges including the “blue earthworm ” that can only be found in the Philippines. They have played an essential role in maintaining the ecosystem of the Kitanglad ranges for ages. Among their many benefits, these earthworms help cultivate the soil and also serve as food for local mammals living around Mt. Kitanglad. 

Earthworms on their Bed

Our earthworms are carefully bred and multiplied on flower beds. The bed is made of flower waste, shredded leaves, aged manure, chopped up stems and dead seaweed, plants, compost and sawdust. These materials found as waste around the farm provides nutrients and nourishment needed by worms. We always use organic or biodegradable materials, as all things in the system must naturally and easily decompose. This in turn, encourages and promotes the growth and multiplication of earthworms. Do note that earthworms are very sensitive and any harmful chemical can easily harm and kill them. The earthworm’s body is covered with Chemoreceptors (Chemoreceptors are tiny sense organs which detect chemicals in the soil.  These organs are responsible for how the earthworms taste their surroundings.) Because of this symbiotic relationship, the farm ensures that the soil is substantially chemical free, which in turn, ensures that we have beneficial earthworms that provide nutrients. Eventually, what we have is rich compost, a very healthy soil and happy creepy crawlies that can’t help but multiply.

If you want to do your own outdoor vermicomposting, here are some tips:

1.  Prepare the bedding appropriately. Just put shredded fallen leaves, aged manure, chopped up straw and dead seaweed, plants, compost and sawdust.
2.  Add the earthworms.  If you already have some earthworms, just put them in the bed.  If not, just have the compost piles and the earthworms will come once the piles are composted.
3.  Keep the compost bed moist all the time. You can do so by watering the area at least twice a day, one in the morning and another before night falls. To retain moisture, you can put shredded cardboard or newspaper on top of the area or heaps of dried leaves.

4.  You compost would be ready after a few weeks. How do you use it? It would appear like normal soil when it is ready to be used. Just put it around your plants, the way you apply fertilizers. The compost produce should serve as a significant and wise replacement or substitution for chemicals and commercially available fertilizers. In no time, plants will be more productive and healthier than ever.

Organic Flowers: Why Should you Care

Conventional agriculture uses chemical inputs and machinery.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are energy-intensive.

That is the rough equivalent of the emissions of 88 million passenger cars each year.

That is more than the total number of cars in India, China, Australia, Canada and Mexico.

=If everyone converted 10% of their diet to organic, we could capture an additional 6.5 billion pounds of carbon in soil.

=That is equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road each year.

In a Nutshell

DO THE MATH.

Something Fishy Lurking in our Soil

Our farm uses a lot of fish emulsion as natural fertilizer. Fish emulsion has high organic nitrogen. It’s a great soil conditioner and provides bacterial food to feed the soil’s microherd. You read it right, the soil eats. We always see the soil as living. (Sometimes I feel sad thinking about how advanced we are in science, knowing a lot about outer space, worlds outside our own, but we know very little about our own soil. There are so many microorganisms in the soil, thousands of them, still unnamed by science.) Fish oils also give a substantial supply of beneficial soil fungi. The fish bones also supply extra calcium.

How do we make the Fish Emulsion?We use fresh fish scraps from the nearby market, using the juices, sauces or oils that come with these. The liquid is used to breed beneficial microbes and supply extra proteins to the emulsion. We also use fresh seaweed, which has a lot of nitrogen. These parts are composted in a bucket with other brown matter such as sawdust and leaves. We also add molasses to the mixture build up microbes, and speed up decomposition. The brown matter molasses controls the odor and absorbs organic nitrogen from the fish. The bucket is stirred daily to get air into the mixture. Remember air allows for better decomposition and better aerobic microbial growth. The bucket of fish is then made to rot for at least one week.

When all this is over, we dilute our fish emulsion at a 1:1 to 1:5 ratio. The fish emulsion is then used to spray on leaves and drench the soil. Whenever we spray the leaves, we let in small portions of nutrients into the plant through its leaves. Whenever we drench the soil with fish, we build up the soil’s microbial activities, supplying lots of nitrogen to the roots and topsoil. What more, using fish emulsion as our foliar spray helps us get rid of pests too. They hate the fishy smell, no matter how miniscule. We poke holes in the soil to get more oxygen in the soil too, and further increase organic matter decomposition, while increasing the activities of microbes in the soil. Our soils love their daily dose of fish meal. The earthworms too!

Don’t forget that you can actually make your own homemade version of our fish emulsion for your house plants or garden. The resulting mix is as unique as every flower farm or every garden.

Truly GREENhouses!

We have taken a step farther and have consciously built our greenhouses to be as green as they could be. All our greenhouses are constructed in bamboo. Yes, bamboo! Not those tall, rigid, imposing steel structures, not even concrete, not even hard wood. We do not cut trees!

Bamboo Greenhouses with a View

WHY BAMBOO?

Prevents global warming: Our greenhouses made entirely out of bamboo captures carbon dioxide and stores it. This is because planted bamboo gets CO2 from the atmosphere. When a plant breathes in CO2 and exhales O2, the plant takes the C-carbon atom and converts it into plant matter through photosynthesis, storing the carbon in the plant. When the plant dies and decays, the carbon is eaten by bacteria or insects. The greenhouses could then be seen as a carbon sink, storing the carbon in the bamboo poles.

Grows 3-7 times faster than trees: Bamboo is not a tree. It is a grass. The fastest growing bamboo can grow up to 4 feet a day!

Extremely strong: Bamboo has twice the compression strength of concrete and roughly the same strength-to-weight ratio of steel. Imagine that! Our bamboo poles are able to withstand strong winds and earthquakes.

Weather, termite and mold resistant: Our bamboo greenhouses are naturally designed and treated with natural elements to be weather, termite and mold resistant. Our bamboo poles are treated with non-toxic borates to prevent termite and powder post beetle infestations as well as decaying fungi. Borates have been used internationally for the past 60 years as a safe and effective treatment to stop insects and decay.

One of our Greenhouses

Our walkpaths: Stones, sand and bamboo!

Our walkpaths: Stones, sand and bamboo!

No nails!  Just bamboo pegs!

No nails! Just bamboo pegs!

HOW DO WE DO IT? Our bamboo greenhouses are made entirely of bamboo. The variety we use is the local thorny bambusa variety.   We cut from the bottom of the trunk since this is the hardest part and very good for posts. We cut at the right age , this is when the bamboo will start to have like a white powdery substance around the lower portion of the trunk.  These poles are usually at least 2 years old. To secure the bamboo poles, we scorch it and then bore it into the soil.  We bury it to a height of 1-1.5 meters.  To finally secure it, we put a minimal amount of concrete into the hole.  To put the poles together, we do not even use nails or screws. The bamboo poles are held together by bamboo pegs. Aside from sustainability, the pegs allow the bamboos to sway with the wind.  The greenhouses are then roofed with greenhouse UV plastic film. To attach the plastic to the poles, we need to use nuts and bolts. An important component is that the bamboo poles must be treated.  We use borax and/or boric acid to treat our bamboo poles.  This is quite labor intensive but you can do it with patience.  (There are a number of Youtube videos you can check to guide you.)

We have designed and positioned our greenhouses to ensure that we use the least amount of energy for our crops. Our bamboo buildings use natural ventilation, and rely on the direction, strength or gentleness of winds.  The greenhouses are 8 to 10 feet tall, have open sides and vents in the center, and face the wind. With this, we eliminated the need for energy-powered fans. Not only these, the bamboo poles are designed in a way that we can harvest our rainwater, which we in turn, use to irrigate our plants.  The rainwater we get from the greenhouses are channeled to a water impounding pond or to plant beds that are covered with thick mulch.

We are the proud pioneers of these creative innovation in the Philippines. We only have to thank nature and the creativity of our farmers for our brilliant yet delightful bamboo houses.

Holding on to your Rose Romance

Our farm prides itself with perfect blossoms, roses with strong stems, buds that open slowly, as if in a slow dance, elegant petals like velvet, and sweet smells that waft, giving you the scent of all things beautiful!  We harvest an average of 6000 stems of flowers a day, including elegant roses.  We have colors for your every whim and fancy, deep reds and burgundy, peaches and sweet pinks, two-tones with colors that swirl, angelic whites and misty greens, sunny yellows and tangy oranges. You can see a sampling of these at http://www.myflowerdepot.com

Whatever your rose preference, enjoy your blooms even longer with these tips for cutting roses.

10 Tips for Cutting and Displaying Roses

Flower Depot Roses

  1. Cut roses in after 3 in the afternoon, when they are highest in food reserves.
  2. Chooses rose buds that have already begun to open, but that are no more than 1/3 to ½ fully open.
  3. Always use clean, sharp pruners to prevent damaging the rose canes and spreading disease.
  4. Leave at least 3 leaves on the stem, to feed the plant.
  5. Remove all leaves that would be below the water line.
  6. Get your roses into water as soon as possible. Bring a bucket of water with you when you cut. If you cut the roses outside without water, re-cut the stems indoors either underwater or immediately plunge them into water
  7. Use either a floral preservative or add a splash of a lemon soda or even a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon of sugar to the water in the vase.
  8. Change the water whenever it starts to get dirty.
  9. Let your cut roses have a few hours in a cool spot out of direct sunshine before you display them. This conditioning extends their vase life.
  10. If your roses seem to be wilting, water is not able to flow through the stem. Re-cut the stem bottoms and submerge them in very warm, (not so hot you can’t touch it) water and let them sit for about an hour before replacing them in the vase.

Sustainable Agriculture

We care. You care- enough that you wish your flowers do little or nothing to harm the environment or your health, enough that the workers who plant, grow and harvest your flowers are happy. That is why you purchase eco-friendly bouquets that are sustainably grown. We celebrate nature, everything that is beautiful, vibrant and healthy.

Flower Depot Flower Farm

What is Sustainable Agriculture?

Our goal is to tread lightly on the planet. We are mindful of the acts we do in our Philippine Flower Farm, knowing that each act of tilling, growing, harvesting and packaging, can do damage or save the planet. One of the most concrete steps we do this is through implementing sustainable agriculture. When we grow or harvest our Philippine flowers, we remove some nutrients from the soil. If we do not replenish these, the land suffers and we can no longer use the soil for farming. Sustainable agriculture means replenishing the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas or mineral ores. We engage in concrete steps to ensure that our Philippine Flower Farm produces flowers indefinitely, without causing irreversible damage to the health of an ecosystem. This would entail redefining our practices and processes on the soil, to produce Philippines flowers and foliage that are not only profitable but also healthy. The second is socio-economic, where we enhance the quality of life of our farm workers. Sustainably grown goes beyond organic, as organic refers only to specific chemical and pesticide free practices. Sustainability embraces a much broader perspective and deals not only with production but also in environmental and eco-system issues, and social matters such as the farm’s workforce and community.

Sustainable Crop Production Utilizing Native Methods

We have been fortunate to work with and among Philippine indigenous tribes or natives. They have worked with us imparting the wisdom and heritage of their ancestors on Philippine flower farming. These include sustainable farming techniques that rely on natural methods handed down from generation to generation by the Talaandigs; the Higaonon; and Bukidnon farmers. Alongside their wealth of knowledge on natural methods, we have merged technology and science, to implement agricultural techniques that build our Philippine flower farm soil fertility, while protecting our air, water and wildlife. We have merged and developed a deeply rooted natural system of production, pest management, and weed and fungal control. Among these:

  • We practice natural methods on cover cropping, composting, and crop rotation;
  • Our main source of soil fertility is legume cover crops, which provide nitrogen, micro nutrients and organic matter. We use nitrogen-fixing and leguminous plants that are native to our farm, that form symbioses with nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia. These are plants that modern farming would have otherwise deemed as weeds. The natives have taught us to use these plants as a viable source of fertilizer. Also, the cover crops provide habitat for beneficial insects, keeping pests very low. Our farm prides itself with beneficials such as lady bugs;

  • Our farm has learned to rely on natural controls for soil-borne diseases and to ward off pests. Among these, we use natural insect traps, neem tree extract and beneficial bacteria and fungi to treat our soil;

  • We hope to eliminate the use of toxic and persistent chemicals found in industrial pesticides and herbicides. That way, we control pests and diseases with the least environmental impact, phasing in organic products over time; and

  • We have learned to follow the cycles and phases of the moon in scheduling our pest management and control, taking into account that the life cycles of these creatures that coincide with the moon’s phases.

We embrace these practices in our Philippine Flower Farm and adopt them in our daily tilling, growing or harvesting. By relying on the knowledge handed by those whom we believe are most in tune with nature and the earth, we build healthy and rich soils to produce Philippines flowers and plants that are healthy and thriving.

Resource Conservation and Energy Efficiency

Our Philippine Flower Farm encourages careful water use, energy saving initiatives, greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts and product packaging minimization.

  • Our Philippine Flower Farm infrastructure has been planned and built bearing in mind our carbon footprint. Our greenhouses are built using renewable resources or recycled material. Among these are bamboo, wooden pegs, stones, old tires, and similar materials;

  • We have designed and positioned our greenhouses to ensure that we use the least amount of energy for our crops. Our buildings use natural ventilation, and rely on the strength or gentleness of winds for its natural ventilation. Thus, we eliminate the need for energy-powered fans;

  • We rely on the forces of gravity for our irrigation, taking advantage of the gift of natural spring water, and use trickle- irrigation to conserve water and prevent erosion;

  • Our irrigation systems do not use more water from the natural spring than is naturally replenished; and

  • Our greenhouses are designed so we can harvest and utilize rainwater to irrigate our plants and treat our Philippine flowers.

Waste Management

  • We wish to have minimal or zero waste on our Flower Farm and encourage composting and recycling of our agricultural and non-agricultural wastes;

  • We recycle crop waste, weeds, twigs (almost everything!) and livestock manure for composting; and

  • Packaging materials to send flowers to the Philippines nationwide are recycled and reused over time.

Protecting Ecosystems In and Around the Farm

Because of our efforts to use natural methods and products, and our minimal use of heavy equipment or machinery, we protect the ecosystems around the Philippine Flower Farm such as rivers and streams.

Taking Care of our People

Your flowers are the result of the dedication and diligence of a handful of farmers in Bukidnon, a number of them natives. They are led by Toto, a native from Bukidnon, whose passion for growing flowers is quite infectious. Our women team are led by Dadang, whose green thumb magically turns every plant green. Our farmers harvest the flowers at their peak freshness early in the morning. We try to get all the flowers in for processing before lunch. Early afternoon, our farmers are able to go home to tend their own farms or gardens, or play with their children. Our Flower Farm prides itself in ensuring a safe, equitable and healthy work environment. We provide our farmers with access to the principal needs. We also support our farmers and their local community through preferential hiring, purchasing, infrastructure improvements and community problem solving. We believe in balancing work and play, having passion for what we do, and celebrating the fruits of our harvest.

Each Flower Depot bouquet is hand selected, carefully arranged, and shipped fresh from our Philippine Flower Farm, with the dedication and commitment to wholly move our farm from traditional and commercial practices to sustainable farming. We hope to transition to a sustainable, organic or biodynamic agriculture in the future. Our ultimate goal is to protect our environment and also enhance the lives of our workers, as they are free from unhealthy and toxic pesticides. By practicing sustainable farming, we hope to build a better and more sustainable future, and lighten our footsteps on the planet.

Our farm is a happy and vibrant ecosystem. In fact, our farm is home to birds, toads, earthworms, snakes, bees and and many many more. What does this mean for your flowers? Since our flowers are grown from vibrant plants, our flowers are also healthy with rich green foliage and bright brilliant blooms.