AmericanFarm.com

Part-time works for Del. cut flower grower

By MICHEL ELBEN
AFP Staff Reporter

During the day, Mike Stypinski works to make businesses greener by selling technology that will help them become more efficient and paperless. On the weekends, Stypinski operates Green Spring Farms in Clayton, Del., with his sons. They grow cut flowers and vegetables to sell to local florists and at the farmers’ markets in Smyrna and at Delaware State University in Dover.
“The trick of it is to do it all,” Stypinski said. “We try to be a one-stop-shop.”
Stypinski started his operation in 1988 with just a few vegetables. He has an acre and a half now.
“In the ‘90s it was harder to market your product,” he said. “Nobody knew what you were talking about when you said, ‘buy local.’”
With the help of his sons, Jason, 14, and Ryan 16, Stypinski started to become more competitive. A family friend, Lucas Zolock, also helps with the growing farm.
“I started going to florists and bringing in samples,” Stypinski said, of trying to break into the market.
Stypinski grows binary zinnias that “will last until Veteran’s Day,” he said. He also grows Sunrich sunflowers in a variety of colors and staggers their planting to accommodate local florists.
The flowers are pollinated by Paul Dill’s bees, which can travel up to three miles in the morning, Stypinski said. He supplies the bees with a pond for water and they receive plenty of nourishment from the flowers, eggplants, cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and pumpkins that he grows in the field behind the flower garden.
Stypinski’s wife Denise helps with the 1,300 pumpkins, that he started growing in 2006, for the town of Clayton’s autumn decorations.
Denise helps coordinate visits from local Brownies and Cub Scout groups. The couple also takes the pumpkins to farmers’ markets, Byler’s store in Dover, Copeland’s in Wilmington, All Season’s Daycare and several other garden centers.
The pumpkins range from five to 25 pounds, with the Gladiators’ variety only producing one large pumpkin per plant.
The pumpkins are planted 2 to 3 feet apart and run eight to 10 feet per row.
“A lot of it depends on weather,” he said. “It’s important to have a full canopy over the pumpkins to protect them.”
Stypinski regularly tests his soil and rotates his plots every three years. He gets seeds that are powdery mildew resistant and uses fungicide in mid-July.
“Here the pumpkins are a lot cleaner because they’re grown on a straw barrier,” Stypinski said.
Stypinski seeds the ground surrounding the pumpkins with rye and crimson clover.
While he uses Roundup occasionally, the cover crop mixture prevents weed growth, he said. In a 1991 Maryland no-till study, rye reduced total weed density an average of 78 percent.
After the no-till pumpkins are picked in the fall, the rye mixture is plowed into the ground and rolled with a packer.
“It creates a biomass,” he said. “And the crimson clover adds nitrogen.”