Dahlia Tuber Shipping Wrap Up

We're done shipping. Hurray!

Now on to the more exciting business of planting and growing dahlias.

But here is my debrief on our shipping process for this year.

Our tuber shipping goals:

  • Get tubers from our climate controlled storage to the customer's doorstep in 3 days or less. Don't pick the order unless you are ready to pack it. Take the boxes to the post office the same day they are packed.
  • Protect tubers super well in the shipping box. Assume somebody is going to drop-kick every package.
  • Ensure viability by circling every eye on every tuber we mail. Document every order with a photo so we have proof each individual order is in the condition we expect.

Tuber packaging experimentation...

I tried experimenting with tuber packaging early in the shipping process. I didn't like anything new I tried. I tested putting full orders in one bag together. I tested packaging tubers individually in plastic bags. I came back around eventually to individual packaging in glassine bakery bags. I like the way they stack inside a box. Also, the semi-rigidness of the glassine bags feels like it gives some edge protection to the tubers, they hold their shape more than a plastic baggie. I switched from padding with pine shavings to padding with medium vermiculite and I will keep that change as long as I can source enough of it.

This year we labeled the tuber itself with a sharpie and also the bag it went into. Next year we will only label the bag the tuber goes into.

We pack in USPS Priority boxes which can be acquired for free. We use the Priority small flat rate box for 1-3 tubers, the Priority cube shaped box for 4-12 tubers and the Priority medium flat rate box for over 12 tubers.

Inside the larger boxes we used a layer of bubble wrap and then filled any extra head space with crumpled packing paper. Each box got the "shake test" to make sure nothing moved inside once it was packed.

On the outside of the box we put three stickers: "Do Not Freeze", "Perishable Open Immediately" and our WSDA inspected nursery stock sticker.

Two layer quality control...

My daughter hand pulled every order the day it was shipped. She picked the tubers from storage, circled the eyes and labeled the tubers. Then I individually packaged the tubers, checking them again for quality. I'm certain between the two of us, that every tuber that left our farm was in the exact condition I would be want to be in. This is definitely more work. Last year we prepackaged the tubers and they sat for 1-4 weeks without being reevaluated before being shipping out. Some of them did not arrive in the quality we would want because of that.

Too many freebies...

I don't know what I was thinking... free seeds, free tubers, a free course on taking cuttings, free propagation cups. It felt like it was too much. A lot to juggle and source. Expensive. Next year I will probably eliminate the freebies. It just slows the whole process down and I'm not sure they are actually well received anyways. Customers just want healthy tubers that are well packaged and arrive sooner rather than later.

I should have used the apps...

I decided not to pay for Mergify to combine orders in Shopify. I should have. It made the process more laborious to hand combine all the orders. I also didn't have an accurate count on how many orders in terms of shipped boxes were left to fulfill. I will also pay for a picklist app next year. We will pull 50 orders worth of tubers at a time from storage and then sort into boxes for shipping.

Next year, ship less tubers...

The problem with shipping tubers is that it has to happen at the same time I should be prepping my fields and planting. Because of the weather, I can't ship the tubers at a more convenient time and not risk of them freezing in transit. So my goal next year will be to hold an early March in-person tuber sale and sell at least 75% of my inventory then. This will allow me to ship hopefully less than 200 boxes in April.

My shipping supplies...

Glassine bags: https://amzn.to/3UBLhxV
I love these glassine bags because they aren't waxy. Stickers stick to them and you can even stamp them. They fit most sizes of tubers but not the super long ones.

Long Glassine bags: https://amzn.to/4djCaZR
Fits the long, skinny tubers a little better.

Tuber bag labels: https://amzn.to/4aXOmOr
I printed these with the DYMO and they worked great.

Water activated tape: https://amzn.to/3JIFakR
Supposedly this is stronger than plastic packing tape. It's messy to work with though.

Water activated tape dispenser: https://amzn.to/3WpmsGu

Seed envelopes: https://amzn.to/49UXhyM
I used these for freebies. They are a good size.

Freebie stickers: https://amzn.to/3Ujxtql

Perishable stickers: https://amzn.to/4bdq2Yz

Do not freeze stickers: https://amzn.to/3UCEOmq

Propagation cups: https://amzn.to/3UCDvDG

Cube shaped Priority boxes: https://store.usps.com/store/product/priority-mail-medium-cube-shaped-box-P_O_BOX4

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