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Extending the Sales Season of Cut Flowers Using Refrigerated Storage-2004 Report

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This is a 2004 report from a NC Specialty Crops Program Project. It is posted for historical reference purposes.

PROJECT LEADER(S): Jean Harrison, Yancey County CES

LOCATION: The refrigerated room and cut flower production is at the Miller farm (Black Horse Farm) in Yancey County.

The impact of this study will not be realized until after the 2005 season.


Funding was sought for construction of a refrigerated storage space within the Miller’s tobacco barn. We proposed to use the refrigerated room on the Miller farm to remove the field heat from peonies, enabling them to be stored for up to 3 months so that they could be sold to local florists and at the farmer’s market throughout the summer.


The room was constructed with dimensional lumber inside a tobacco barn. The walls, floor and ceiling were framed using 2 x 6″ lumber allowing for additional insulation (R34). The room is sheathed on the outside with glue chip board and the interior floor is tongue and groove plywood, which will eventually be covered with vinyl floor covering. The interior walls are 6 mil plastic at present, and will be covered with sheet metal when the budget allows. The door is a standard metal clad exterior door with 1′ blueboard attached to increase the insulation value. The air conditioners will be modified to accept an industrial thermostat allowing the temperature to go much colder than a standard window unit allows. The thermostat will be attached to a remote bulb sensor which will cycle the a/c units off and on as needed. We will attach heat strips to the “fins” on the a/c units which will cycle on and off preventing them from freezing up.

In November, 2003, 300 peonies had been planted in soil amended with peat moss and bone meal on river bottom land formerly used for tobacco production.


The refrigerated room was constructed in the barn as proposed. Unfortunately, the Millers were unable to harvest any of their peonies this year due to disease. Infections by Botrytis, Cladosporium, and Verticillium fungi were diagnosed in the shoots of the peonies growing in the former tobacco field. Peony shoots and buds that had been growing successfully in the spring suddenly developed wilt and dieback symptoms with the onset of heavy rains, and once infected, they failed to produce any flowers for harvest. These fungi are thought to have spread via wind and rain to the peonies, infecting shoots only. The peony bulbs did not appear to be infected.


With the wet spring weather of 2004, and the tropical storms in fall, the cut flowers on the Miller farm were extremely susceptible to disease. This project will need another year before we can collect the information that we were seeking. We are taking a few steps backwards to try to improve the growing conditions for the peonies. The peony bulbs have been extracted this month (February) while they are still dormant. Soil samples have been sent to the soil analysis lab and the soil will be amended with the appropriate amendments to optimize its nutritional value for peony production. The next step is to turn the existing mulch/organic matter into the soil, raise the beds with a bedder/shaper, replant the peonies, and mulch the beds with a composted material. The Millers want to produce the peonies organically—however, they do not want to lose out on another year’s harvest. Thus, we will be better prepared in the 2005 season and will use chemical fungicides to help control foliar disease infections if wet weather conditions persist. We intend to collect information on effects of cold storage on vase life and effects on marketable yield of peonies this summer in order to complete this study.

Posted and reviewed by Jeanine Davis, NC Alternative Crops & Organics Program, Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University. Reviewed 7/17/2022.