THE LETTUCE IS READY! Wonderfully vibrant heads of organic lettuce are now available at the farm. Green Grand Rapids is an intense lime green, Red Grand Rapids has a deep burgundy hue in its fluffy leaves. Our most popular Cherokee lettuce has a burgundy outer leaf and a lime green heart. We invite you to the farm to enjoy freshly picked lettuce and the garden beds planted with so many new winter crops.
Yesterday our big tractor mower hacked through dense grass and dead stalks of wildflowers to reduce the natural cover crop to a hay mulch which can be tilled into the dense peat and manure soil. With the dry season before us it is so critical to add loft to the hard packed soil before planting. Our new garden section was actually the original garden plot for our farm in the first years of cultivation. We are preparing this section for cabbage plants which have sprouted their second set of leaves in the greenhouse. Some 2,000 cabbages, both Vantage Point green and Ruby Perfection purple, await the cart ride to the patch reserved for them. So crank up those sauerkraut crocks, wash them out and buy new cheesecloth. We will send a post when they are ready giving you plenty of notice to visit the farm and choose your cabbage.
Sweet potatoes are growing, growing and growing. They will be available this Farmstead Saturday. We have grown so many we are harvesting before the first frost by rooting around under the vines and searching for the large tubers. We anticipate an abundant harvest, so early harvest and sales are important so we do not exceed our storage capacity. This weather inspires me to turn that oven knob and enjoy baked sweet potatoes topped with my coveted stash of Vermont maple syrup. With all the fall apples in the store you can choose your favorite one to combine with roasted sweet potatoes. Yum!
This time of year is such an energy boost for me as the temperatures dip into the 80’s. The possibility of great salads await me as I harvest heads of lettuce for our restaurant orders. The drier, cooler air allows for weeding lots of beds without energy draining away as in upper 90 degree days. It is a great time to stroll the gardens. I will be available this Saturday to answer garden questions and walk the gardens with you. Stop by…breathe in the fall! See you then.
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener
January to July has been the wettest ever recorded and that is a long time folks! We are thankful for the replenished lakes and aquifer; however, our Slosh Team is working on a serious mud pit situation in our gardens. We lost four rows of succession squash plantings to rain and way too many aphids. Even the morning sparrows were not enough to put a dent in the multitudes of pesty aphids under the leaves. The mid week drying has given us time to plow with the tractor in areas which were under water last week and the week before. I’m thinking rice. Yes, that may be a very good idea.
From the greenhouse to the fields we are excited about the winter crops with plans to seed last years popular root crop the Gilfeather turnip. We sold out the whole bed with farm visitors asking for more. Parsnips were also a favorite and spawned many a memory of them stored in the cellar of the Vermont dairy farm on which I was raised. Row upon row of colored carrots will grace the Farmstead Saturday tables when they are harvested this winter. At dawn the temperature was 62 degrees and I began to believe in a fall season. The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting one of the worst cold winters in awhile. Somehow …in this moment it is pleasant and somewhat comforting to think about all that freeze cloth that will be layered over the garden.
We hope you will visit us and share in the hint of fall with all the newly planted winter crops.
See you soon!
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener
Every change of season we plant a couple of new varieties to see if they will perform well in our gardens and improve the diversity of vegetables available to our customers. Bingo! Our results with the Flavorburst lime green pepper have been outstanding. The plants were transplanted from the greenhouse the last week in April and are still vibrant dark green and loaded with peppers. The plants are very disease resistant, including to bacterial leaf spot. Buckets of Chartreuse peppers are carried to the processing center and a few have ripened to a red/orange with almost no damage from stink bugs. Many of our other peppers become so riddled with stink bug damage in this summer heat that they rot before they fully ripen. Flavorburst is a thin walled variety similar to a banana pepper in thickness and flavor. Cubanelle peppers have historically maintained high production levels throughout our summers and our newest adventure is the Biscayne. The plants are still covered with huge, over 8” in length, yellow/lime peppers with some maturing to a deep red with little bug damage. Both peppers are available from Johnny’s Seeds and have exceeded our field trial expectations for hefty, healthy production in the hot steamy south.
Equally exciting is watching as an improved electrical system is installed in the greenhouse. The new system provides more control options for our fans and air flow, so critical for the health of our seedlings. With more air flow and the ability to adjust small box fans we can grow a higher percentage of tomatoes and add a red marconi pepper in trials for greenhouse production.
There will be a great selection of herbs for the Fall Garden Kickoff. Consider creating a kitchen herb garden to complement your vegetable selections.
Come visit soon. We look forward to seeing you at the Fall Garden Kickoff on August 24th.
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardner
As you travel about this summer we hope you will prioritize eating out at non-chain community restaurants which support local small farms. Often restaurants will include a line or two on the menu featuring a farm or farms they support. If not, ask if there are any entrees featuring local foods. Restaurant menus are available on line for different cities and Edible Communities.com, an on line magazine for major cities is a great source to pre plan your palate experiences. These choices are paramount to the small farms which rely on area sales to support their growing efforts. Other options for marketing products include farmer’s markets and individual sales. As you leave the eatery with your to go container take a moment to notice if they are using “Greenwise” or recycled containers. If so, thank them for caring about the Earth. Never doubt that your choices make a difference when you become proactive about your dining experiences.
Our farm appreciates your visits and offers a “customer appreciation card” when you purchase items from the farm store or vegetables. If you visit often your filled card represents a $10 savings which can be redeemed at any time for farm products.
Many rows of summer crops including Super Heavyweight peppers (these are HUGE), okra, Juliet tomatoes and wonderful deep magenta to a dark purple eggplant are now available.
Stop by soon to tour our gardens.
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener
Here comes the rain! Our hurricane year is predicted to be above average and only a week into June the tropics are astir. Gardeners in the swamp have to pay particular attention to watershed flood warnings and secure tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from strong gusty winds. We have been working all week to attach sections of re-bar to field fence wire cages and hammer them deep into the soil. Long rows of cherry tomatoes now have bamboo stakes from our bamboo forest with crisscrossed bailing twine steadying them and securing branches. Our farm’s high soil saturation creates a deep concern. The plants which experience heavy winds can loosen and expose roots. Staff is working to consolidate freezers to accommodate generators, secure electricity for the greenhouse fans and our refrigerated vegetable box. After the heat of last week, pulling weeds in a sub-tropical misty rain was refreshing. Anticipating major flooding, our team is prepared to put on waders and pick squash, cucumbers and, very soon, peppers in the down pour.
The heart of canning season is upon us. We anticipate bread and butter pickles, Zucchini relish and jams and jellies from the spring Blueberries. Visit our farm store for Blueberry Jam made with wild orange juice from our old growth sour orange trees. We have abundant quantities of kale, squash, cucumbers and carrots organically grown at nice prices to process and store – like a good squirrel for the winter.
Hope to see you soon on the farm!
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener
The past couple of weeks we have experienced the great joy of welcoming even more volunteers to assist at the farm. Our volunteers are “cutting edge” and they cut the edge for us. On days when we feel the task list runs ahead of our feet they magically appear and lend their knowledge and hard working hands. The farm volunteer program provides opportunities to participate in every aspect of vegetable and fruit production. Working in the greenhouse, picking beans and Sungold tomatoes, planting in the fields, weeding, scrubbing and sorting vegetables all the way to canning in our certified kitchen are just a few ideas. Our program, “The Gifted Gardener,” works to honor the gifts the volunteers bring. We share extra seedlings and vegetables when available. If you would enjoy being among fellow gardeners, understanding our growing practices or assisting in the kitchen please don’t hesitate to call and come visit soon.
Our farm received 4.2 inches of rain on Monday, which, with the exception of a few puddles, was rapidly absorbed by the swamp to feed the aquifer. The Marketmore cucumbers will be larger by tomorrow and we will enjoy filling a five gallon bucket. Rows of carrots and two rows of beets need to be harvested and stored so they do not split with all the rain. Gardeners worked to upright the corn and press the soil firmly around the loosened stalks. A small twister must have traveled through the front of the farm with trees twisted off at about three feet high. Grateful for no deeper damage, tomatoes were staked and gently tied to support them through this afternoon’s storms.
May showers are definitely appreciated as soils sponge the moisture and save hours of overhead and hand watering of the gardens just to prevent day wilt from extreme sun.
Join us on the farm for a wonderful selection of squash, Rattlesnake beans, carrots, leeks, beets, kale and other organically grown vegetables to grace your table.
See you soon.
On my way to feed my animals before leaving for work, I briskly opened the door and then slammed it. I peeked out the window to focus on the thermometer. It registered an almost unbelievable 41 degrees for the middle of May. I put on three more layers of clothing. We really did not believe our lettuce rows would hang on much past this week. We gambled of course and planted new ones just to tempt the fates. This would have been a great day to pick lettuce as it is always sweeter when picked before the day warms. Crunchy from the coolness of the night it holds much better in the refrigerator.
Rows of Snow Crown cauliflower and the last row of broccoli were harvested yesterday as newly planted peppers adjust to their home outside of greenhouse. Our ½ acre of assorted squash are rising above the always prevalent nut grass and soon there will be a massive effort to weed three foot circles around the squash. The Red Meat radish rows produced the most beautiful radishes with deep red centers and a sweet flavor. Our first parsnips are being harvested and I can hardly wait to enjoy them the way my grandma used to cook them…simmered in butter.
Come visit us on Farmstead Saturday and receive free recipes with your vegetables. It should be a lovely day to stroll through the gardens, create a picnic and our new playhouse is completed and ready for rambunctious little people.
An armadillo was on the run, across the lawn and right through the electric fence and into our new raised beds. She tunneled through the garlic and rearranged the Hakeuri turnips in a search for the most delightful bugs. Two feet of chicken wire was wrapped on top of the electric fence in the hopes a wet nose would have trouble getting through the fence. The eight new rows in that section are doing well and have added new growing space including another row of garlic, turnips, carrots, beets and deep burgundy Blade lettuce plus Green Grand Rapids lettuce.
During the last freeze I began loading freeze cloth on the ole’ farm truck. Driving to the edge of the garden, I began throwing the cloth over the electric fence for each of the rows. One bundle was so much heavier with a big lump on the side. I stretched and squeezed the roll to get as far as the fence and tried to unfurl what appeared to be a large brick or block from the cloth. Then, a grey furry foot extended from the folds. I threw the bundle into the air with a load squeal and ran for the catch net. Yelling for assistance as I rounded the truck, flailing the net, after one huge opossum…it escaped under the Farm Store. I shall be much more careful loading the cloth for the freeze the next two nights. We are ready to begin planting squash, peppers and tomatoes as soon as the last frost has passed. I am counting on the natural flow of the pecan tree which always leafs out after the TRUE last frost. If I only knew what the pecan tree knows, I would not be so restless in the Spring. I am waiting for pecan leaves!
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener
The red-shouldered hawk squawked a warning as an immature eagle circled over the gardens. Lipstick, our farm pig grumped about. Then, about midday, we heard loud screeching from way behind the gardens. The wild hogs rooted for ground delights and squabbled among themselves in determined territorial sounds. The noise was a bit unnerving and reminded us of the work ahead before a hard freeze on Sunday. The hogs fed heavily, then hunker in the deep palmetto and cabbage palm forest for the cold snap. Animals always know way before we do when inclement weather is moving in and shift their daily routine. We have a lot to learn from all those creatures who frequent the gardens in the night, fly in for bugs all day, and Lipstick, out tame wild pig, who sneaks into the garden to nip the end row of Artisan Mix or jump into the strawberry bed to munch.
Huge wonderful heads of Green Grand Rapids lettuce, our first attempt at Iceberg and Artisan Mix are all available for your salad palate. The mid-winter crops are the favorite salad combo vegetables of the gardeners. (But, we still LOVE our tomatoes.) Gardeners can be seen munching on carrots while moving manure on the tractor or sozzling lettuce for restaurant orders between bites of Artisan mix.
Our first attempt at Gilfeather turnip production failed in the vision we held for it, but provided lots of wonderful sweet greens. The turnips held onto the dirt with many tough finger roots and when pulled left a basketball sized hole. They developed cylindrical pointed turnips rather than the huge round ones I remember from my youth. Brussels sprouts belong in “Brussels.” We reserved two rows in the main garden and three ground rows in the new garden for test runs. We mulched, pulled bottom leaves as sprouts swelled and finally broke off the tops to see if it would force the remaining sprouts to mature all at once. Nope!
I am always searching for crops which will produce in our soils. We will soon switch to crops of Sugar Pod peas, Rattlesnake beans and Zephyr squash, leaving our Gilfeather turnip and Brussels sprouts dreams to rest.
Come visit the farm store and stroll the gardens. Monday we will pull all the freeze cloth from our rows so visit us during the week to enjoy the newly planted rows.
See you then!
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener
The first two weeks of this new year filled with defined goals has been wonderful in many ways. What has NOT been wonderful is the weather for our garden. The false spring we are in has caused our plants and trees to struggle to absorb temperatures to 85 degrees within the daylight available. The shorter winter days still sends a winter message. Lettuce, Brussels sprouts and gardeners are bolting. Carrots and Beets are in a resting state in the beds, alive and green, just not moving towards the sky. The promise of a frost next week gives us hope temperatures will return to a more seasonable path. Rows of purple and green cabbage have been harvested to keep them from splitting. Romanesco cauliflower (the one which looks like an alien form of fractals), is stored in our cool box before the spirals become flowers.
This time of year is usually spent huddled around a fireplace with hot coffee and a stack of seed catalogs. Each year it seems as if they grow faster than the plants themselves. Irish Eyes Garden Seeds is a magical catalog with listings for over 40 organic potatoes including a whole page of fingerling varieties which perform well in the south. If you have been tempted to try these in your garden, find an Irish Eyes catalogue as they will ship potato starts in an insulated box November through February when OUR season provides a window of production. Most catalogs will not even ship until March which eliminates the possibility of spring plantings in our zone. This year we held potatoes over the summer and through fall to begin new varieties this month.
Wishing you purple potatoes, Easter egg radishes, Cosmic purple carrots and a rainbow of fun for your garden.
Visit us soon for a stroll through the gardens.
Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener