Cozy Acres Greenhouses
Wholesale Annuals, Vegetables and Herbs

Saffron Production

During the fall of 2016 through the summer of 2017 a new concept in off-season greenhouse production in northern New England was gaining in popularity...Saffron Production.

Spearheaded by the University of Vermont's Cooperative Extension's Margaret Skinner, this movement steamrolled through the greenhouse community.

Because the fall is the slowest time of the year for Cozy Acres Greenhouses, we investigated and jumped into growing saffron, a fall-blooming crocus (Crocus santiva).  Once the flowers open during the month of October, three 'threads' of saffron emerge from the center of the saffron flower.  The blooms are harvested daily and the threads are removed, dried and stored.  Once done, the saffron is sold (local markets or through the internet) or stored for future sales.

Cozy Acres Bin System

As with all agricultural crops, there are
risks due to water (too much or too little), fertility, weed competition, insects (thrips) and vermin (voles eating the corms, deer eating the leaves, etc.).  One more consideration is the location of the maturing crop.  Planted in the ground, the harvesting will occur at ankle-height which is doable but not necessarily comfortable.

With all these items to consider, the University of Vermont grew their saffron in milk crates lined with landscape fabric.  Each crate covered 1 square foot and enabled the grower to move them with the seasons to use the readily available space in the fall and move elsewhere during the busy growing season.  (The saffron leaves, necessary for recharging the next generation's corms from November through April, dry up in May and the soil is allowed to fully dry over the summer months.  Watering and growth begins again in August.)

Because we ordered 3,000 corms and did not want to handle upwards of 300 milk crates, we spent months brainstorming how to grow on the scale we were beginning with.

We settled on 275 gallon caged poly tanks that were found an hour away at only $25/tank.  Each of the cages and tanks were cut in half and now given the designation of 'bins'.  Each bin measures 3.5 feet by 4 feet (14 square feet).

To prevent sunlight from breaking down the poly as well as promoting an algae bloom inside the bins, each bin was wrapped in landscape fabric and filled with 5-8 inches of a soil/compost mixture.  11 rows of 14 corms were placed on the moist soil on 8/28/17 and covered with another 4-5" of the soil/compost mix. Finally, 2" of potting soil was applied on top of the soil to prevent the ever-present weed seeds from germinating.

We will be applying a predator mite (Amblyseius cucumeris), a beneficial predator (Orius insidiosus) as well as a nematode (Steinernema feltiae) to the crop several times a year to counteract thrip populations.

The 20 bins were numbered and the recording of data began (soil below and above the corms, soil/compost ratios, water applications and saffron production).  This was done to verify which set-up was most productive.

17 days after the corms were planted, the issue of watering arose after a few corms were dug up and a wide range of rooting was observed.  With years of growing anticipated, we decided to experiment with applying water at differing volumes to track which technique was optimal.  1/4 of the bins were watered heavily (puddled twice); 1/4 were watered moderately (puddled once); and the other 1/2 of the bins were not watered at all, relying on the initial moisture in the soil/compost mix.

Again, data will be recorded on which of the bins produce the largest volume of saffron so as to set the stage for next year's crop.

We feel the bin system addresses the issues we identified as potential risks as well as providing a much more comfortable crop height for harvest.  (Should we want the bins to be at a higher position for the daily harvests in October, we may purchase a stationary lift that can bring the bins one at a time to waist height.)  

Please check back to our website to track our results of the bin growing system.




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