Monday, April 29, 2013

The Wet Open House and a Late Spring

Forsythia - clad in yellow
If the forsythia is blooming, I know it is officially spring. It was definitely a spring day yesterday for the open house - 55F and a steady cold drizzle - not terribly conducive to having a party outside with the grill fired up. But a few brave friends showed up and stopped by to visit, some from far-flung places like Ann Arbor and Port Huron. Was so nice to see everyone and I managed to move most of the turkey burgers so I won't be eating them all week. Fruit salad, veggies, cheesecake bars and brownies rounded out the menu so we had lots of food to share. Did a design for a friend who wants to stop by to pick up the plants this week. So in all, we got rained out but not washed out...

Took a tour of the gardens this morning to see a few spring bloomers starting to do their thing and took a few photos. We have lots of potting to do this week and we'll be going to a few more markets this week. Oakland County Farmers Market starts up Thursday at 7am to 1pm and I'll be back at Royal Oak Farmers Market on Fridays from 9-1. Armada Flea Market has started too so I'll be going up there from about 7am to 1pm on Sundays. And, of course, the nursery is always open by appointment so give me a call at 248-622-6527 if you'd like to visit.
Hyacinth planted long ago

Daffodils and scilla
Here's a tour of the few flowers that have been poking up in the garden. Welcome Spring!
Pulmonaria or Lungwort

Seedling Hellebore from my late father

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The first spring open house

Getting the garden and house ready for a spring open house this Sunday. From 12-4 we'll throw the doors open and invite everyone in to see the nursery in all it's spring "glory"... Not much is blooming now, with the exception of the minor bulbs but the nursery stock is overflowing on the benches and maybe a bit of it will find some good homes this weekend.

Looking forward to some nice weather on Friday and Saturday. Saturday is our last day at the Old Winery Market which has been a nice experience for us.Hopefully the nice weather will continue into Sunday for the open house. We'll fire up the grill for the first time this spring and cook some dogs and turkey burgers. Got to get busy making some potato and fruit salad. Will be shopping for ingredients in the next day or so.

Finally the soil for the raised beds has dried out at the supplier so we're getting a delivery today. Will be shoveling with Erin this afternoon and hopefully we'll fill them up as I really don't want to tarp the soil and carry it on the driveway for any length of time. We'll be planting early next week. The lettuces are more than ready to go and we can seed a bunch of stuff. I hope to get Paul back to do some digging at Vicki's to make some garden beds along the fence, so we can grow some flowers and strawberries.

Such a fun and busy time of year... Don't really have much down time and haven't yet watched a Tigers baseball game all the way through!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Raised Bed Project

4x8 cedar for raised beds
So the raised bed project got off to a flying start on Wednesday. We had a nice sunny day to build in and Paul got here at a reasonable hour. I bought 1x8 x 8s at Home Depot in cedar for the boxes and 2x2s for the corner posts. The cedar should be a bit rot-resistant and last longer than fir or pine. I still didn't want to use wolmanized wood as I was concerned about anything leaching into the soil. Layed out the wood on the front yard to get an idea of where the boxes should go and Paul set out to build six boxes.

View of Boxes

The new front yard garden

The new beds got built rather easily once we got power to Paul and he built them on the flat surface of the driveway. Erin and I laid out the boxes and on the yard. As we had cut the posts at 12" from plain balusters (only .97 each) There was 4" sticking out that we pressed down into the soft soil. We'll now cover the bottom of the beds with cardboard and soil is expected to come in today to be shoveled on top of the cardboard. The cardboard will break down over time but will smother the grass at the bottom of the bed.

Paul building the beds on the driveway

Bleeding heart in the greenhouse

I could take some shots of the minor bulbs blooming in the garden but haven't yet this week. They are forming drifts of baby blue and pink under the amelanchier. The only plants in the greenhouse that are just popping into bloom are the Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts in two-gallon pots. They are a month ahead of schedule as I had hoped to offer these for Mother's Day - Oh well, I think they'll go to market with me this week and I'll just have to tell people they are tender and could get frosted. Either that or I'll have to cut them back and regrow them which I don't think they would do by Mother's day and I don't think they would have any blooms. Oh, it's all a learning curve about this scheduling.

Prayers for Tootsie this week as we join Fertilizer Friday. Her Dad is ill and needs some prayers to recover. Check out the blog posts at the end and you'll get a view of all kinds of flowers blooming across the globe!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The community garden has ended for the season

Sunday was a bittersweet day. Pam and I cleared the last remnants of the garden beds and we took all the seedling and transplant trays from the  Oakland County Greenhouse as it was closing today for the season. We had a good run there, growing lots of greens and vegetables for winter eating and Vicki and I learned a lot about growing our own food through the winter. We probably won't get another bed there next year as we'll have our own greenhouses to grow in.

We probably won't grow as many seedlings over the winter either. We are now inundated in the nursery with the small 72-cell trays on the benches in the backyard. I really didn't want to put these outside as they might be tender, but we were forced to as we are just plain out of space anywhere else. I'll have to keep an eagle eye out for dryness and water them well.

The nursery benches, filling up!
The transplants that came out of the greenhouse look great. They are deep green and compact, perfect for going into the garden. The germination on the seedling trays was spotty, I think we lost a fair bit of seed when the trays were on the bed by the window. The seed sat cold and wet and rotted.

Pink Chionodoxa buds
Hellebore buds

Puschkinia or striped squill
This last weekend was an exciting one for the nursery. I went to the two markets and had to sit in the cold and wet but had two decent days. And Vicki made her debut at the Oakland County Market by herself! I was so proud of her, she and I loaded the car and got into it almost as many trays as I can fit into the van. She went and set up, posting a picture on Facebook that looked great. I helped her with signs and we both sold the heck out of the produce we had cleared from the Oakland County greenhouse.

The garden develops slowly. The first minor bulbs, out in March last year, are just now showing color. Scilla, Chionodoxa or Glory-of-the-snow and puschkinia or striped squill are all starting to make their appearances. These bulbs are great for underplanting shrubs or even for growing in the lawn. They come up and do their thing so early that by the time you are mowing the lawn the foliage has almost ripened and disappeared - so they are not bothered by mowing. The colors are soft and deep. The buds on the hellebore are a rich purple-plum and I think they'll open to a soft greeny-white.

The nursery benches are almost filled. I think I'll have to set up benches at Vicki's to handle the next big shipment this next week, as I just don't know where we are going to put all the plants. Happily I think this is the light at the end of our endless potting, this next shipment is the last of the big orders coming in. We only have a few trays coming through May and into June. Until we get the Mums by the end of May we're looking good.

Oh, did I say I ordered Mums? I went to Minnesota mums in Faribault, Minnesota. They are known for their winter-hardiness. The mums are also not the gumdrop -shaped mounds that you normally see but have a taller and airier structure fitting better, I think, into the perennial garden. I can't wait to see these in May. They were really reasonably priced, I got 12 varieties and we've got 300 plants total. We'll be growing them in 4 1/2" pots and trying to get them to market by early August, before the heat of mum season. I think the earlier you plant a chrysanthemum, the better it is for their survival in the garden.

A busy season, right now. And Pam, Vicki, Erin and I are loving it. Next post will be all about the raised bed vegetable garden beds that we'll be building at Vicki's this week. Wish us luck!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Meet Erin- our newest Sage Advice Member

Erin - our newest member
Today was a landmark day - we added employee number 3.5 - Erin Kinney. We worked for about 4 hours. Erin has just become Vicki's housemate and is right there at the greenhouse - so it was only natural to get her involved! She has never potted or planted before, but loves nature and green growing things.

Erin has just moved back to the area from Battle Creek. She grew up in Milford and knows the area quite well. She dotes on her cat, Tillie and loves to be out in nature. We are hoping that it will go smoothly introducing Tillie to Vicki's sleek black kitty, Romeo. I think a few swats and things should go fine.

It is time for more seeds so Erin got to learn seeding by planting big seeds like melon, cukes and squash. She is very good at learning and really wants to learn how to do a good job. She is meticulous and was really babying the catnip plugs she also planted, when I just grabbed them and pushed them into the soil. After work, we then got a reward of a Mexican lunch and called it a day - I immediately went home and took a nap.

Tuesday, I made a trip to a new supplier, BFG Supply, in Belleville. Not a bad ride, really quick on all highways. Got a carload of pots and bags of soil. Am so blessed to have established an account with them as all I had to do was put the purchase on account and off I sped back to the nursery. Tuesday seemed like a day of non-stop loading and unloading with trips to BFG, Vicki's, the Oakland County greenhouse and my place.

It has come to the end of the season at the Oakland County greenhouse and last night Vicki and I spent harvesting the beds. Chard, kale, scallions, carrots, beet greens, arugula, spinach and mache were part of the bounty. We have to clear out of the greenhouse by Sunday so Pam and I will work to get the rest of the flats transported to Vicki's and my house.

The herbs came in from Raker's and, as expected, look beautiful. They are good, beefy plugs with ample root systems and should root in and size up in a hurry. Good thing as we are starting to get a nice demand for the herbs at the markets.

Going back to Royal Oak and Old Winery Markets this week and hoping for a better day at Royal Oak. This week I'll have the produce as well as plants, so the product mix might help. We have had five days of rainy, gloomy and chilly days and seven more days of rain are expected. Whew! We need the moisture, but does it have to come all at once? Feast or famine, I suppose.

Stacks of pots at BFG Supply
Linking this week with the party over at Tootsie Time Fertilizer Friday. I don't have flowers to show off yet but there is always something interesting to show. Check out the other blogs that post there. It is interesting to read about gardens all over the world!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Two New Markets

Went to two new markets this week. Royal Oak Farmers Market was Friday from 10-4. Was very slow with few vendors, but one of the vendors - the bread lady - told me that when the farmers come back it picks up a bit. Was the only one outside with plants and had a lovely spot in the warm sunshine. Wasn't bad sitting for a while but finally at 1:30 I decided to pack it up. Since it was my first time there I wasn't charged any rent for the space, so I did come home with gas money. I'll go back as the people I did meet there seemed interested and hooked up with a landscaper who wants a quantity of wildflowers for a special client. So a relatively promising market.

Saturday was the Old Winery Farmers Market in Farmington. Again, was the only person outside so I had my choice of space. I chose a spot by the front door which proved to be a wind tunnel facing into the east wind. Was terribly cold. I had neglected to bring my knitted blanket and just had the small down comforter wrapped around my legs. Despite wearing five layers and long underwear, I went home freezing. Was a good market, however. Foot traffic was light but the people who did stop by were eager to see the plants. I had brought a selection of herbs, trilliums and cyclamen plus a couple of flats of beat-up vinca and a roasted flat of pansies. Since I had put the pansies outside without any protection they have gotten a bit frost-nipped. Sold trilliums and herbs plus the occasional cyclamen. The real bonus at this market is that the vendors were so nice and welcoming. Made a trade with the wood guy and got a rosewood spindle for winding yarn in a special way. Bought lots of tea from the tea guy and saw jewelry I'd like and got some handcrafted pesto goat cheese. I think the herbs do well at this market as it is sort of a "foodies" market with organic produce and meat plus interesting breads, dips and other good things to eat. Nice cafe there too with very good food. Looking forward to the next three Saturdays for return visits.

Talked to Vicki about going to the Saturday Oakland County Market. She has a car with fold-down seats and could fit a few flats in there. Since we are harvesting so much produce this week we'll definitely have enough to supply two markets. I said I'd pay her for her time or a commission, whichever she wants.

Cleared out some seedling trays and a few herb flats out of the Oakland County greenhouse today and brought them to my greenhouse. My greenhouse is now filled to the top with trays of herbs and seedlings. Am not sure if I can pot up the seedlings and put them directly outside under some frost blanket, but think I may have to due to the constraints of space.

Gearing up for the OPEN HOUSE on Sunday April 28th from noon to 4pm. Hoping we get some nice weather to get out the fire on the grill and invite some people for good food, good conversation and a good time. Got to clean up all the debris in the yard before then and start bringing plants from Vicki's over here so we'll have something to show off. The plants in her greenhouse all look good - particularly the Raker's plugs - so green and healthy and just about filling the pots. The flats at the Oakland County greenhouse from seed also look very nice and beefy.

Ordered more herbs as I am out of cilantro (yuck!- I hate the taste!), catnip and I know we'll probably run short on basil. The plugs are a good size and are coming from Raker's - they said they had a big sale going on, I never know what price I pay when I ordered from them because they have a complicated code system and volume discount plan and the price is never apparent, but I know they have great quality at a reasonable price. Also ordered more stock from Bluffview Nursery and got a larger quantity of wildflowers. More Trilliums, goldenseal and a few other natives. There seems to be quite a market for native plants and people have been asking for them. The plants should be coming soon this next week so I have Vicki, Pam and maybe a new employee to us an old friend to me - Erin. All the ladies are broke - including me - but I'd like to get them all some money this week.
Puschkinia and Glory-of-the-Snow - Easter 2010

I'll finish with a picture of a spring past. The first bulbs in my yard are the pale blue-striped Puschkinia and the pink and blue Glory-of-the-snow or Chionodoxa. They form a naturalized drift under some Amelanchier and reseed freely. Potted up some Scilla and Grape Hyacinths but I don't know if I lost the bulbs as they are not showing yet. So we'll see. These pale spring beauties are just now starting to make an appearance in my yard and I think we have finally turned the corner and are welcoming spring.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fertilizer Friday: Out of Room!

Think I can cram 15 more flats into Vicki's greenhouse but that's about it...We are out of room. Have about 30-40 flats at the Oakland Co. Greenhouse that need to find a home somewhere. I think it is time I bite the bullet and put stock outside. We have a big shipment coming in from Walters Gardens the week of the fifteenth and I hope most of it can be hardened off under frost cloth. Told Pam we'll probably be potting outside that week at my house.

We also plan on building the raised garden beds that week. Have saved a bunch of cardboard to go under the beds to smother the grass. Was going to rent a tiller and tear up the grass, but this seems like an easier -  and cheaper idea. The cardboard will rot down and eliminate the grass and weeds but in a season the soil below will be available for the plants. Hope to get cedar 1x6s for the raised beds. Will be stacking them 2 high for a total of 12" off the ground. I'll also need to call around and get some soil trucked in for the beds.

We have greens ready to go. Was informed this week that according to Mich. Dept. of Ag policy I cannot sell cut and bagged greens. The rule is you have to cut them just at the base of the plant. Not good if you are growing a cut and come again style of greens. I suppose I could offer a big bag of lettuces and mesclun and have people help themselves by the bag, but it all seems like too much trouble. We'll just save the harvest for ourselves.

Paul is getting set to grow some stock and produce for me. He is currently working for an organic farmer, but he has an old truck he is trying to get back on the road so he can do side jobs like tree work and hauling mulch. I really want him to do well this summer, he hasn't had a truck in years and I know he is so ready to get his fixed. Have some statice and other flowers for drying that I think I'll give him to grow and some of the flats with the floppy greens in them that wouldn't be up to snuff for the market. Home Depot has a great deal on seeds this week, buy one get one free - so he is getting set to get some veg seed for his garden.

Starting two new markets this week. I'll be at the Royal Oak Farmers Market on Friday from 10am to 4pm and then at the Old Winery Farmers Market on Saturday 9am - 2pm. Both of them are known for their fairly good foot traffic and I'll probably be one of the only vendors with plants. More cyclamen haven't popped yet for the market - was hoping to get a couple more. Gave a couple to Pam and one to Vicki in hopes they'll trial them and see how they grow as a houseplant. How long they'll last and if they'll bloom in inside light. Got to start the cyclamen much earlier next year - maybe late November or early December for early spring and late winter bloom.
Water droplet on Kale

Pam and one of the greenhouse nasturtiums.
The nasturtiums in the Oakland Co. Greenhouse are immense. I hate to think we'll just have to yank them out in 10 days. They have been really great at providing color, leaves and a structural interest along the edges of the beds. I can see these plants hanging over a wall, in a basket or rolling down a hill. Would be beautiful.

The greens there are beautiful and have kept us with a bounty of salads and rich, nutritious green stuff throughout the winter. What a great experiment for us. I don't know if I'll be renting another bed next year - think I'll be growing most of the stock in our own greenhouses.
Mummified greens under Reemay

This is a shot of the protected baby lettuces, arugula and mesclun mixes under a blanket of Reemay cloth. For those of you who might sew - it is the same stuff as "Pellon" - a spun-bonded fiber cloth. It is supposed to give a few degrees of frost protection to the plants and so far it has worked. The low temperatures look like they're moderating quite a bit, so I think we can put out some more tender stuff with the frost cloth over it.

Well that's the news for today. Am joining the party over at Tootsie Time for fertilizer Friday again so check out her blog and the others that join in. Thanks for dropping by!