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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As The Garden Grows 10-17-2013

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

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As the Garden Grows 08/29/13

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

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As the Garden Grows 08-08-13

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

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As the Garden Grows

06/20/2013

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

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As the Garden Grows

6/5/13

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

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05-22-13 As The Garden Grows

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.

 

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