Cool Bot- An Affordable Cooler for Flower Growers

When planning for the flower farm, three large costs come to mind: 1) a greenhouse; 2) a tractor; and, 3) a cooler.

Having a cooler is an important part of business planning because it allows flower growers to harvest their flowers at the peak time, and store them until market days.  For example, if your sunflowers are fully open on a Tuesday, and you won’t need them until Friday’s market, a cooler allows you to hold the sunflowers until you can sell them rather than having them start to wither outside.

I recently saw a classified ad for a used cooler for sale.  The listing was for a 12′ by 16′ cooler with two compressors.  The price….$4,500.

A peak in a flower cooler

A peak in a flower cooler

The good news is the folks at Cool Bot have figured out a system for small scale flower growers to build their own flower cooler using a standard window air conditioning unit.

CoolBot uses new (2006 patent pending) technology to replace the brute force approach of fans and surface area with a micro-controller “brain” that intelligently interfaces with your air conditioner – controlling and co-ordinating its output so that you can access nearly all your cooling power, even as you keep temperatures in your walk-in cooler (or any highly insulated room) in the 30’s without re-wiring and without any freeze-ups.

The Cool Bot control unit sells for about $300, pair that up with a 18,000 BTU air conditioner from your favorite big box store for another $400.  With purchased materials and added insulation, you can turn an 8′ by 12′ space into a more economical flower cooler.

Need more reasons to see why the Cool Bot is a great deal?

-New Energy Star A/C units will have significantly lower operating costs than an industrial cooler

-Energy Star A/C units do not use the same industrial coolant chemicals as industrial compressors


Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers

On July 28, I attended the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting.

The ASCFG was formed twenty years ago to “unite and inform growers in the production and marketing of field and specialty floral crops.”

I met a terrific group of friendly and helpful flower growers who have been at this business for anywhere from 1-20 years.

Bob Wollam, from Wollam Gardens, spoke about his past 15 years of experience in the cut flower business. Bob’s talk was inspirational because the message I took away was, “do this only if you love it.”

Dave Dowling, President of the ASCFG and owner of Farmhouse Flowers, also gave a practical talk about building a cooler for your farm using an LG window air conditioning unit. (I plan to put an entry up about it this week).

But hands down, the best part of the tour was visiting Mel Heath’s Bridge Farm Nursery. Mel’s picture perfect farm consisted of 28 acres with about 6 acres in production.

Renewing My Blogging Vows

It turns out, I have a trouble sticking to the daily routine of blogging.  I’m not sure why this is, because I am so good at other routines (completely kidding).

My weekly plans of what needs to happen before an Organic Flower Farm can happen says that I need to be blogging on

And so, here I go again.

New Neighborhood Farmers Market

Here’s a clip from the Washingtonian about the area’s newest farmers market on 14th and U, Washington, DC.

Now every Saturday, U Street residents can find grass-fed goat, Breadline baguettes, and local veggies galore.

The U Street corridor is known for it’s pulsing bar scene, cute indie boutiques, and oft-packed restaurants. Food-shopping? Not so much. But that’s about to change tomorrow, when the 14th & U farmers market makes its debut.

According to a message from Markets & More’s Robin Shuster, who also heads up the Mount Pleasant farmers market, the 14th & U setup will bring together Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania farmers who only sell the dairy, meat, fruits, and veggies that they produce.

Tomorrow, Shuster promises sugar snap peas, two kinds of baby beets, three kinds of radishes, French carrots, asparagus, rhubarb, plenty of strawberries, salad mixes studded with edible flours, and more.  On the protein front, you’ll find grass-fed beef, lamb, goat, and pork. Quaker Valley will sell apple and cherry pies, and Breadline will be there with pastries and breads.

The sidewalk market, located at 14th and U sts., NW (in front of the Reeves Center), runs every Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM tomorrow through November 17.

Friday Flowers!

Well, maybe this week it’s more like Saturday flowers.  Peonies are worth the wait!

Last weekend a friend asked me, “Which is your favorite flower?”  This is a difficult question, in April I would surely have said daffodils, but here we are coming into June and the peony is my obvious favorite.

Here’s a description of peonies from

The Peony flower is among the longest-used flowers in ornamental culture. It is a traditional floral symbol of China, where it is called (mu-dan). In 1903, the Qing Dynasty declared the peony as the national flower.

Peonies have been cultivated in Asia for more than a thousand years. Requiring such careful cultivation, they were flowers that only the rich could afford to grow in Japan. Therefore the peony symbolizes prosperity for the Japanese.

With their beautiful fragrance and symbolism of prosperity, it is no surprise that peonies are popular for bridal bouquets.  For me, part of the appeal of a June wedding was the availability of white peonies for my bouquet!

Peonies are available in light pink, dark pink and white.  There are also many variations within these color families.  Peonies are among the more expensive flowers you will find at the farmers market.  Be prepared to pay anywhere from $3-$4 per stem.  It is ideal to buy peonies when they are in the “marshmallow” stage.  Full buds with closed petals that feel slight spongy to the touch are ideal!


This week’s Friday Flowers are one of the first flowers that were ready to pick out in the field at the farm.

Sweet William, (Latin name dianthus), is a member of the carnation family and shares the same fragrance. They are meant to symbolize finesse and perfection.

Dianthus grow on stems that range anywhere from 6″-14″ tall. They come in a full range of red and pink tones and also in white. I think Sweet Williams look their prettiest when they are in a full round bouquet of mixed colors. But, here’s a bouquet of neon purple dianthus from California Organics.

Don’t skimp on quantity here. My guess is that your local farmer would sell you a bunch this size for about half the price listed online.

A big bunch of Sweet Williams would make a great casual bouquet for a bedside table and even in the kitchen. If you change the water and give your stems a trim every couple of days, you will easily get a long week in the vase.

More on Fertilizers for Organic Flowers

I got a question on the blog yesterday…Can Miracle Gro be used for Organic Gardening?

After some research, I found this article, Miracle Gro’s Pissy Little Secret. And here is an excerpt from Planet Natural on the difference between synthetic (Miracle Gro) and organic fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers, unlike many chemical fertilizers, continually build the soil and promote better structure as well as nourish soil life.

The growth or yield attained by using either chemical or organic fertilizers is about the same. However, in the long run, many organic fertilizers are much more productive than chemical ones because they improve soil structure and increase the soil’s ability to hold moisture and nutrients. The chemical fertilizers do not build soil and can build up to toxic proportions after continued use. Organic fertilizers on the other hand, continually build the soil, promote better structure, and foster soil organism growth. The addition of organic fertilizers over a long period enhances the soil life, another plus for the great majority of garden plants.

So what’s the lesson here? If you don’t want to scare the bajesus out of your friends and with your freak sized garden, Just use organic fertilizers for happy flowers. Here are some suggested by Planet Natural.

Disclaimer: No, baby with giant cuke is not the famous nephew Gavin. And, no the guy with giant elephant ear is not one of my uncles. These two beauties were found on Flickr’s Creative Commons search.