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They're Glad They Grow Gladiolus
If you’re looking for a specialty crop to grow on a few acres, you might want to consider raising gladiolus. Burt and Carla Scripture of Motley, Minn., have discovered a good market for the colorful blooms at $1/stem at area farmers markets.
  “The colors on glads don’t clash with anything. They blend in with any color scheme and are easy to decorate with,” says Burt Scripture. “Our glads don’t look like the ones you find in a floral shop or grocery store. They are more varied in color, bigger and a lot fresher.”
  They’re varied because the Scriptures grow more than 1,200 varieties on three acres, with about 100,000 plants.
  They’re bigger because the root stock, called “corms”, are purchased from quality suppliers in the U.S. and Europe. While $1.50 will buy a good corm, Scripture notes that they purchase many corms in the $7 to $9 range. In a couple of years each corm can multiply to 25 to 30 corms.
  The glads are fresher because the Scriptures cut them when just two of the 18 to 26 blooms on the plant have opened up. The stem will continue to bloom for a week. Carla goes to 3 or 4 farmers markets starting about the first of August to sell the glads. She also ships them overnight to customers out of the local area.
  Florists are another potential market, Scripture says. When the couple first started growing flowers in 1993, they had planned to grow flower varieties to dry and sell to florists. As they contacted potential customers, one florist said he was more interested in buying fresh glads. The couple took his advice and switched to glads and sold to a few florists initially. Carla has also sold glads to area brides for weddings.
  Planting and harvesting are the most labor intensive. Scripture uses a pre-emergent herbicide and spaces 3 to 4 corms every foot and plants them 6 in. deep with a potato planter in rows 38 in. apart. He uses a disc hiller for even more support for the stalks and cultivates until the glads get too tall.
  “Water is the biggest issue. If you’ve got water, you can grow glads in sand. They take very little fertilizer,” Scripture says. He uses drip irrigation to make sure the glads get an inch of water a week.
  The biggest corms bloom first and varieties have different maturity dates to stretch the season from early August to freeze-up in Minnesota.
  Scripture says glads are fairly hardy. Occasionally he treats for thrips (insects), but he’s never had an issue with wind because most stems are cut before they are in full bloom.
  Harvest is time consuming. Before freeze up, the plants are loosened with a fork and pulled out by hand. The corms are separated from the stem, rinsed off and spread to dry for two to three weeks before being stored in a building kept at 40 degrees through the winter.
  Selling glads sets them apart from other farmers market vendors, Scripture says. Plus they’ve noticed a couple of other benefits.
  “Hummingbirds love them,” Scripture says. “I’ve seen eight pairs at once.”
  Scripture, who also keeps bees, adds that bees gather pollen from the glads in the fall.
  He suggests that people interested in growing glads attend the Minnesota Gladiolus Society State Show at the Brown County Free Fair in New Ulm, Minn., Aug. 10-11.
  “They’ll see half a hockey arena filled with gladiolus and arrangements,” says Scripture, adding that glads also fill 2 rooms of the horticulture building at the Minnesota State Fair.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Burt and Carla Scripture, 33710 Timberlane Rd., Motley, Minn. 56466 (ph 218 352-9202; burtsbees@brainerd.net).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1