It’s like Christmas at Ruby Branch Farms! The mum plug catalog is here! I get so excited marking the mums that I want that sometimes I get little carried away. If we grew all the mum varieties that I HAVE TO HAVE we would raise about 20 million mums. Ha! But I somehow have to rein myself into around 1,000 for this year, which is 20 varieties. Wish me luck!
When we first started our little mum ranch I thought that we would just order some red, yellow, and orange mum plugs and that would be that. Boy, did I have a lot to learn. I had NO IDEA just how many mum varieties are out there and all the factors you have to consider.We have had some really good mentors and a whole lot of luck thus far and we have learned a ton as we go.
We have to buy our plant plugs from a broker who then takes care of ordering from the company that raises the plugs. We actually changed broker and companies from year one to year two and we really liked our second choice, so we will be using Raker again for our plugs. They ship varieties in trays of 51 instead of 70 and that works out better for our farm setup. They are a little bit more expensive of a plug but we found that the quality was higher than the other company that we tried. Plus, they have really nice catalogs and easily accessible horticulture specialists that we can ask questions.
In our 2017 Raker Catalog there are well over 200 fall mum varieties that we have to narrow down to our 20. That’s difficult because they are all beautiful, but there are a few things we have to keep in mind before choosing a mum variety that helps to narrow the search down.
- What do our customers like? The past 2 years have given us some good insight, but we have also found that quizzing our Facebook followers is both fun and informative! What the customer wants, the customer gets!
- How many trays of each color we want. It wouldn’t make sense to have, say, half of our mums to be purple. Sure, a lot of people like purple, but with the space we have available we want to make sure we have a good mix of colors to choose from.
- Flower date. All of the varieties will have a projected flower date on them. The flower date is an estimation of when the mum will be about 75% bloomed out and the desirable to the customer. Since southern Kentucky is really close to the southern-most region that mums are generally grown, we have to keep in mind the probability of a heat delay. Mums require cooler temperatures to bloom, so the hot, humid fall temperatures we tend to have early in the season can delay the blooming. For that reason we usually try to find mums we want with a bloom date that is a week or two before we actually want them to be blooming. If you recall in 2016, we had very few mums blooming through September and early October. Everyone across the nation did! There was actually a “mum shortage” early in the fall season because of the hot temperatures across the US, even in the northern states. So when I called the horticulture specialist in melt down mode because our mums weren’t blooming, she re-assured me by saying, “Don’t freak out, there aren’t any mums blooming anywhere.” Ha!
- We look at the response number. We need the response to be between a 6.0 – 7.0, with above 6.5 to be preferred.There are some cool varieties that have a low response number, but we really try to stay away from them because they will not be uniform with our other plants.
- Have we had issues with that family before? Some of the mums have a “family” where they are the same mum but different colors. If we have any issues with a particular family in the past we stay away from them. We have had mums that are prone to breaking and seem to have more issues with pests, so we don’t go back to those again.
Whether you are farming mums, soybeans, wheat, chickens, or cows there is an intense amount of planning, knowledge, and effort that goes into making the year happen. If you jump into anything willy-nilly you are going to end up with a lot of headaches and not much profit… if any.
I hope this gives you a little look into how we decide what mums we raise! As always, if you have any questions please shoot them at me!