As The Garden Grows 7/9/2014

Over twenty years ago it would rain every afternoon in the summer about 2:00PM and cool the day, allowing for late afternoon outdoor activities. Then the sand bottom lakes were full to the brim and rivers flowed swiftly while swamps were amazing eco-systems. With all the climate changes we seem to be returning to a very similar pattern.

On the farm the swamp has returned to just behind the greenhouse and our grounds are saturated, creating puddles here and there.  Although we are grateful for all the storms which have cleared the air temporarily and cooled the days, our tomato crops have not fared well with so much moisture.  We have harvested our “Celebrity” tomatoes because the rain makes them split. This was a new test variety for our farm in an effort to find a medium sized tomato with better storage capacity than the “Big Beef”. The “Big Beef” is the most disease resistant of all varieties we have tried but experienced heavy damage due to a bacterial wilt which took the plants down within a two week period.  In an effort to save the crop we relentlessly trimmed all the affected leaves and let the fruit ripen as much as possible. Growing tomatoes in the swamp is challenging.

Our new garden section is nearly completed with a tall fence to prevent the deer from eating the crops.  Last year this area was protected against hogs, and we thought deer as we had an electric fence around it. Planted in cabbages, the deer even ate huge holes out of the middle of 4 lb. cabbages. Argh! (They prefer the red cabbages.) We have already seeded varieties of pumpkins to fill the area. IF we can avoid molds and disease we are dreaming about a fall pumpkin patch complete with live scare crone.

We hope you visit the farm soon for lots of wonderful beans, eggplant and peppers.  Bring boots and stroll through our gardens to see how well the crops fare.  We even have some lettuce in July so you can create a lettuce tomato sandwich. See you soon!

 

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As the Garden Grows

6/26/2014

We picked, washed, and sorted the green – green peppers that is. Bins of “Great Stuff” peppers. These huge peppers, when stuffed and baked, are large enough to be a meal for two. They are four lobed and thick walled, making wonderful one half inch tall rings layered with cream cheese, olive and pimento dip, then topped with a fresh basil leaf.  The small Shishito pepper can be eaten whole including the seeds and is a welcome addition to summer salads.

As these yields are harvested, it marks the beginning, from now until first frost, when many varieties of peppers ripen for you to enjoy.

In a blink of an eye it will be July and the greenhouse staff will begin seeding for all the fall plantings and the Fall Garden Kickoff on September 6th. We will have some pepper plants available throughout the summer as well as a great selection of herbs.

On Farmstead Saturday I enjoyed conversations with gardeners about their soil and mulch. A note of caution to share with you: in the summer mulch with a light colored straw or hay. Dark colored mulches will cook/steam your vegetable roots.  Even hay can pull the moisture right out of the leaves of your transplant. Water the plant in as you plant it and soak the hay after mulching. This is best done in about five foot sections, especially with the intensity of the sun.

In winter you can mulch with decomposed leaves. Because they are brown, they will absorb and add heat to your plants. Turning freshly fallen leaves into your soil can actually remove nitrogen from your soil in the decaying process.

We invite you to come to the farm and enjoy the gardens. I look forward to seeing you then!

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As the Garden Grows 06/12/2014

The intense heat and humidity which makes you feel like your skin is leaking has reached its peak about two in the afternoon. We are in a pattern where the east and west coast winds collide to create sometimes intense thunderstorms which then cool the plants. It is revitalizing to weed and harvest in a soft rain. Better than in the heat that precedes it. Afternoon tasks on the farm include helping chop vegetables to be canned, sorting and chopping onions for Bread and Butter pickles and anything cooler than our fields. How amazing that the Summer Solstice is a week and a half away and already our gardeners wilt!

If you love stuffing or grilling peppers now is the time. We have the long, slender, sweet Marconi, wonderful for the grill. The extra large Great Stuff is a meal for two when stuffed and baked. Our Flavorburst lime green sweet pepper is refreshing in summer salads. Tomatoes are ready for fried green tomatoes. There are plenty with a rose blush to ripen on your windowsill.

We invite you to enjoy mornings on the farm before the afternoon rains set in. I look forward to seeing you.

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As The Garden Grows

We have planted well over 300 Cassava/Yucca plants and still have a number of them to offer to friends of the farm. They are in gallon pots about three feet tall and three dollars each. Our herb selection from the greenhouse is wonderful with Trinidad thyme and the Cuban oregano available. These herbs do very well in patio pots and can be moved to a semi-shady location in August and September when it is so hot.

Our first tomatoes are turning pink and we have lots of them available for fried green tomatoes. Much to our amazement the Nevada lettuce has beautiful green leafy heads, so a lettuce tomato sandwich may be in your future. This lettuce is the most heat tolerant of all the varieties we have tested on the farm and we hope next year to grow it consistently through mid June. The Flavorburst peppers are ripening and are a delightful sweet pepper for salads. Our Vates kale is still producing tender small leaves for those who juice for green drinks.

We invite you to come and visit the vegetables, stroll through the gardens and absorb the peacefulness of the grounds. We encourage you to run away from home, pack a lunch and create a personal picnic.

See you soon.

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As the Garden Grows for 05/08/14

ONIONS-Onions and more onions. We have so many onions we have just about exhausted the storage space. So to celebrate they are on sale at $1.50 a pound. Our gardeners have worked hard to get the soil just right in Goldilock’s fashion and voila it worked. The Sweet Georgia onion, as it is called when not grown in the county of “Vidalia”, Georgia, range from ¾ to 1 ½ pounds each. It’s blooming onion time for your next picnic with organically grown onions. Outback Steakhouse publishes their beer batter recipe on their website so make it an extra special onion time. Just to top it all off we have some lovely red onions too for those great summer salads. For those of you who enjoy a great broccoli salad with red onion stop by soon. Our last bed of broccoli has been harvested as we say goodbye to many of our winter crops.

Our herb selection in the greenhouse is top notch right now with a wide selection of culinary and medicinal plants. Because we have so many cat lovers who visit the farm we have your cat’s favorite… catnip in small to gallon pots. Just a note that catnip survives the best in a hanging pot on a patio where it can be shared in small quantities. Also, there is still plenty of time to plant tomatoes. We have White Cherry, Sungold, Black Plum (heirloom) and Big Beef available for you. Don’t have a garden plot? Plant a tomato in a patio pot and enjoy hands full of cherry tomatoes.

It should be a wonderful weekend. I look forward to seeing you on the farm Saturday. Mother’s Day is Sunday so be creative and give her a gift basket from a local farm, the gift of continued health. Sunday is a wonderful day to visit as it is so peaceful and sometimes the giant gator is basking across the pond. Sorry to miss your visit on Sunday.

I am going fishing for Cobia.

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As the Garden Grows 04/30/2014

When tomato plants start to put on lots of new growth, summer weeding conversations usually wind around to the fruit or vegetable question. The April/May Organic Gardening magazine sheds some light on the tomato.  Botanists declare it is a fruit due to the seed-bearing structure which develops from the flower. Chefs include the tomato in their selection of vegetables. It should be noted that squash, eggplant, peppers and cucumbers are also fruits botanically. So as you enjoy summer meals of ice cold cucumbers and tomato slices atop a salad with lots of peppers of all colors mixed among the lettuce, remember you are getting your daily ration of fruits.

The recent days have been so hot many winter crops are sending up beautiful stalks of white or yellow flowers.  This week we still have kale available so be sure to enjoy a chilled kale salad before the summer heat catches up with it.

The summer squash are just now setting their first fruits so it won’t be long before you will find them on our Farmstead Saturday table. Sweet Georgia onions are being brought from the field by truckload, cleaned and stored while waiting for you to scan Recipes.com and Cooks.com for magnificent onion filled recipes.

We look forward to seeing you on the farm. I will be available this Saturday to talk gardening. See you soon!

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As The Garden Grows

03/20/2014

“When the world is mud-luscious… and… puddle-wonderful.”(E.E.Cummings) Spring rains have come again and again and again creating joy for gardeners when the sun peeks through the clouds and the winds blow not so gently to dry the puddles. As rains fell on Monday I was carrying a huge tote of our Artisan Mix lettuce to the processing area when something skittled under my feet. While yelling to others to come and witness this phenomenal crawdad, I tried to keep it midstream in the River Green Box.  The backyard garden pond now has a very large enough to eat crawdad in the mud below lots of mosquito fish.

We have started seeding all the squashes, cucumbers and 400 okra plants in the greenhouse in preparation for planting.  We will be testing two new varieties of okra grown in our area by a friend of the farm and local farmer. Baker Creek heirloom seeds has a Burgundy and Stelley okra which grows long and slender and remains tender even at 12” long.  We will grow the classic Clemson Spineless which works best for making pickled okra.

Visitors to the farm have asked how long the vibrantly colored Artisan Mix lettuce will be available.  If our current weather pattern holds and we do not get temperature 85 degrees or above for extended periods we should be able to offer lettuce until about the second week of May.

Come and visit us soon and enjoy organically grown lettuce mixes through the spring. See you soon!

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As the Garden Grows 2/4/14

Here comes the sun…da da da! The day heated to 87 degrees and rubber boots got pretty hot as we worked to dry, unclamp and roll freeze cloth for storage until the next cold front. The spaces between the raised beds can dry and picking vegetables just got a lot easier. We are looking forward to planting many rows this week to take advantage of this heat wave and encouraging the plants to grow fast.  All the rain and then the back to back cold fronts sent the plant growth into an all stop.  The greenhouse is packed with trays of transplants waiting for the sun.

Seed companies understand how important early childhood gardening can be to a life of sustainability. Ed Hume Seeds produces a “Children’s Garden” seed packet with assorted easy to grow and fast blooming flower seeds. These packets combined with a small trowel, weeding prong and gloves would make a wonderful gift basket especially when presented in a flower pot. When exuberant children race through our gardens from row to row there is joy among the plants. Please support your local community gardens. Take children to visit farms. Expand their understanding of local foods.

This Saturday should be great weather to play on the playground, tour the gardens and drive the pink tractor.

See you then!

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As The Garden Grows

1/23/14

Late afternoon when a stillness came over the farm I went to the green house to pack the barrel woodstoves to the max for the dipping temperatures tonight.  It is my night to fire the stoves which means I come in about 11:30 PM to repack the stoves, after the stoves were fired at about 5:30 PM. We heat with wood because with 756 acres of conservation land trees are always falling especially with the powerful winds tonight.

As I sat watching the sunset as I often do to close my day, a large furry black cat covered my lap making the sharp biting wind almost tolerable as it chiseled at my face…it is winter!  The clouds moved by the winds flew though the sky as colors of pink and bright orange edged them. Life moves fast like the evening clouds, cherish the moments. Even as the vegetables hover under freeze cloth with our protection they choose not to grow but to hold fast their roots and wait for warmer weather.  They will remain covered another week as the coldest January is already upon us.

We have been so pleased with the numbers of visitors to the farm this week.  When we see you stare out across the gardens with joy we experience your comfort zone too.  We are excited to share the vegetables with you as you absorb all we have available to you on a daily basis. As a small local farm your time and interest is valuable and inspiring as we toil in the soil to grow our very best for you.

See you soon.

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As The Garden Grows, 1/10/14

Quite a pall settles over the vast rows of white freeze cloth as the gardeners move out the gates toward small kerosene heaters to warm their hands. The next day we had to wait for the temperatures to rise above 32 degrees before we could harvest for restaurant orders.  Any harvest before a rising temperature results in vegetables which freeze in the processing area. Bone chilling winds whipped about the fields as we uncovered rows to harvest. Today we rejoice in the absence of winds and the possibility of the sun warming the grounds. We also rejoice that we can pack away the freeze cloth until the next polar vortex.

Romanesco cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, mixed color carrots and wonderful lettuce mixes are available from our gardens.  We grew our first fennel and it loves the cooler weather and produced consistently sized heads. Celery has been harvested and added to our “Farm to Fare” baskets the last few weeks. Today begins our 4th – 13 week season of our community supported agriculture basket program. We invite you to join this wonderful program which allows you to receive a fresh, tasty selection of available vegetables each week for your table. Every day from 9 AM – 3 PM you can purchase organically grown vegetables from the farm store.

We hope to see you soon.

Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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