As the Garden Grows

     When I arrive to work earlier than anyone else the stroll to the processing center is alive with sleepy birds fluffing wings and hopping about the thick bushes. Guinea hens plummet from high in the pines amid a lot of chatter until they land and scoot around. Before the cold front the morning sky showed deep shades of pink as far as we could see through the swamp. Then the sun eased over the tree line and cast a yellow gold upon the horizon line of winter trees. The cardinals began to flit among the garden rows and the red-shouldered hawks announced their territorial borders. The absolute beauty of the marshland touched my spirit.
     Our celery plants topped out at about 2 ½ feet with long vibrant lime green stalks, it had an amazing year. Rows and rows of collards and kale survived the first couple of frosts under the sweep of overheard sprinklers which freeze the leaves at 32 degrees. The water creates a winter wonderland of shapes. I admire a leaf of dinosaur kale made of ice in my hand. We stack wood in the greenhouse to fuel the barrel stoves. The next series of frosts is expected mid week, so we hope to be able to pull all the freeze cloth before the weekend.
     On Saturdays we now offer farm made cookies or pastries in the farm store pastry bar. We also serve a simple lunch. You can see the menu on our Thursday Farm Flash if you are on our mailing list. Call 352-595-3377 to add your name.
     Stop by, have a cup of coffee, a breakfast bar or cookie and share a story with me. See you then!

                  Lee Solomon—Chief Gardener


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      The sound of two Mantis tillers working beds to be planted sounds like a huge swarm of angry bees. It reminds me that plants ready from the greenhouse will soon have new homes. The situation is a bit touchy with the actual temperatures during this heat wave in the 100’s. It is very important to thoroughly water the seedlings before transplant so root systems are hydrated. Also important is to cool the air over transplants with sprinklers to keep the foliage from burning  in the sun.  Squash rows are very affected by excessive water conditions and require well drained soil conditions. Due to previous heavy rains the squash plants in our ground rows are not producing heavily. All squash planted from now on will be in raised beds where it can take the daily saturation from the sprinklers. We attempt to grow squash through the summer but as heat conditions worsen towards August the rotations tend to succumb and last shorter and shorter periods of time. The Zephyr squash has proven to be the most resistant to heat and will see us through to fall.

     Another three rows of okra are being planted today as the previous three are beginning to give us about a pound a day.  It won’t be long before buckets of okra will be harvested followed  by jars of pickled okra in the farm store. If you have canning plans for the summer check with us about buying canning squashes at $1.00 off per pound. We can save a bunch of squash and let you know when we have 10 lbs. or more for your canning day.

      If you wish to market your canning efforts, we have a certified kitchen for rent. That way, you can avoid the hassle which comes when you do not have a Florida certified kitchen. Check with us for details.

     We have green basil plants ready in the greenhouse for your purchase as many of you have asked for plants for your herb gardens. We are very happy with the Eleanor green basil as it is very resistant to grey leaf mold.  This is important for those who farm in the swamp. I look forward to seeing you this weekend on the farm.

 Lee Solomon, Chief Gardener

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As the Garden Grows 05/06/2015

As the Garden Grows…

          What a magical weekend on the farm and each morning began with an invigorating chill in the air. The spring we never got. Saturday the lawn was covered with tents full of colorful pottery and people who enjoy the feeling of earth in their hands. There were tree people, wren houses, chopstick holders and beautiful bowls, cups and saucers among the clay.

      The Women’s First Sunday Brunch included work by two more clay artists. Stories were told about “The Wheel” warming all our hearts and once again made us take a deeper look at life.

      Lime green ”Nevada” lettuce has taken a grip on the soil and is handling the heat very well. We harvested the last of our Artisan mix on Tuesday and said our farewells to winter lettuce. Okinawa spinach has nearly filled one of the raised beds and is a delightful nutty flavored green to combine with summer salads. For everyone waiting on the first okra harvest three rows were planted last week with rows of bean varieties between what will be a green canopy of okra. Row after row of squash are now being harvested daily so stop by the farm and choose a colorful combo for your dinner plate.

See you then!



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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


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 and 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


“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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