Saturday, August 31, 2013

Marketing Update

Bulbs at market

An array of houseplants
The outdoor season is making its last final push for the next eight weeks. Fall is a great time to plant as the soil is warm but the days are cooler and that promotes quick establishment of the plants. The nursery will have mums, asters and a full complement of perennial and biennial plants for fall planting. Hope to go out and get some bulbs for sale at these later markets but I am trying to get the price down to a dull roar.

The houseplant stock is doing well and I have been starting to bring a few to market. Hope to also be forcing some bulbs for holiday sales - plants like paperwhites and amaryllis. I currently have spider plant, miniature cyclamen and foliage houseplants like pothos and philodendron.
Paperwhites in jars

Have switched up going to market. I'll be at the Fenton Farmers Market for the next two Thursday evenings in September. Have been going to the Romeo Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9-2 right in downtown at the Village Park and I will still be going to the Armada Flea Market on Sunday mornings from now through the end of October, weather permitting. After that I'll probably try and catch up on a couple Saturdays at the Oakland County Farmers Market in November, if they have any space and may be bringing some greens and wreaths along with the holiday plants. Whew - can't believe we are reaching the final quarter of 2013, it seems like it has gone by in a flash!

The open house last Saturday was attended by few, but we had some great food and a good time. Winners of the prize drawing are: 3rd prize and a jar of preserves - Jim Fenner, 2nd prize and a set of two solar lights - Jackie Midtgard, and our grand prize winner of the $50.00 shopping spree - Sue Santel-Fenner. Congratulations to all the winners - glad you came.

I hope to have one more open house - a nursery clearance and fall plant sale, probably in mid-October. Right now I am taking a chance to catch my breath and gear up for clearing and cleaning out the nursery and switching to greenhouse season.

Still hope to get a bed at the community gardens greenhouses, trying to scare up the money for it. May not be able to start one until October.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Putting Up the Harvest - Peaches

Got a half-bushel of peaches last Sunday and have been processing them all week. The photo to the left shows the last of the strawberries as I made strawberry leather - you know those fruit roll-ups that you get at the store... Cooked the strawberries down for about ten minutes to soften them, added a bit of sugar and blended them with the immersion blender. I set the oven to its lowest setting and poured the strawberry goo on a couple of half sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Let them dry for a few hours and checked the results. For my first time, I was half successful, getting about half of the sheets to work. The other half was too crispy and tasted burnt. I think the next batch will go into the dehydrator.

Meanwhile with the peaches, I got busy with canning slices, making and canning ginger peach jam, dehydrating a  bunch and made a giant peach crisp for the open house. I think for canning I used every bowl in the pantry - One for the peaches, another for the cold water bath, another for the lids, one for the anti-browning solution - whew it takes a bit of organization to do canning but it is getting easier for me as I do more batches. The ginger-peach jam has been a hit at the market and I'll have to do more , this time with fresh ginger for a spicy kick. I think I'll get another half bushel as I go through canned peaches like crazy in the winter...

This week I think I'll try to find a flat of blueberries for some more blueberry jam as I have had requests for it. Raspberries seem to be precious this year and people have been asking for it, but I think I may have to wait until the raspberries start bearing locally and in quantity.
The only drawback about canning is that it heats up and steams the house so much that the goo on the walls drips down and makes a mess of the house. I don't mind it but people who visit have commented...

For info on canning check out a blog called Food in Jars - I love her unique recipes and have gotten a lot of great tips from the site. Of course the USDA site - (just google canning and USDA) gives you all the lowdown on both water bath and pressure canning. Just got a copy of the Ball Blue Book which is the 'bible' on canning for recipes and tips and splurged on a lovely book called "Saving the Season" - well written with lots of tips on techniques.

If you have never tried canning before, I encourage you to give it a try - there's nothing like eating your own homegrown or fresh, farmers market produce during the cold months of winter. Tomato season will be coming soon in September and I need to put up twice as many jars as last year as I ran out too soon. However, I am proud that I didn't buy any canned tomatoes all winter! Homemade canned goods make great hostess and Christmas gifts and I'm in the process of putting up jams for sale at the markets.

Joining Tootsie Time for her Fertilizer Friday party where you can view other gardeners blogs from all around the world. Enjoy the garden - the summer season is fleeting.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Highlights of the August Garden

The picture in the planter bed keeps changing. The second bloom on the Delphinium is taking its sweet time to color up. Echinacea 'Hot Papaya' is on its second bloom too. 

Flowering tobacco or Nicotiana 'Fragrant Delight', has large white blooms with a powerful evening fragrance. Grew it from its teeny, tiny seed this spring and have it dotted here and there in the gardens.

The container herb plants are doing well. To the left is the Citronella plant - really a powerfully fragrant scented geranium. Will be making cuttings of this.

The buds of Hibiscus 'Jazzberry Jam' are promising. The one I planted into the gardens is just showing its first color.

Even the weeds are looking good. This is a phlox which just seeded itself into this large container. Have no idea where it came from...the container was home to a tomato last year.

Cat Jo-Jo and pup Griffin enjoy spending the evenings with me on the patio. The cat, normally a house-dweller, begs to go outside starting around 3 in the afternoon.

My latest creation, a solar night light made from a mason jar. The bright green stones glow in the dark. Have been offering them at market but no takers yet.

Close-up of coneflower 'Hot Papaya' - she sure has a brilliant color.

First time growing Phlox 'David' - really nice, large flower heads and has been mildew resistant for me.

A visitor to a pot of basil.

The tomatoes are abundant but most are still green. The peaches have come to market and I plan on getting a bunch to put up and make into jam. The jams at market have been fairly successful but blueberry has been the big hit. Got to get another flat and put up a batch. Canning is getting easier for me and it doesn't seem like such a big chore if I do it in relatively small batches. Been drying fruits and some herbs in the dehydrator. The more food I put up fresh now, the better I'll eat in the winter!

Will be joining Tootsie Time for her Fertilizer Friday party of gardens and gardeners around the world. Check out her link.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fertilizer Friday - "Paul's Produce"

Went to look at a couple of greenhouses with  my friend and business partner Paul. Paul is growing produce and cut flowers for me that I can take to market. He also wants to build the business so he can supply a few restaurants in and around Fenton. We got a line on these greenhouses from a nice couple I met out at Armada. They only want what they would get in basically scrap for the structure. They are a couple of hoop frames with fans and a couple of furnaces available. Paul is currently debating the investment and trying to get some interest in the project from a few other people.

To the left is a picture of Paul walking the very late planted veg garden. The tomatoes have put on some nice growth and I confess I gave him some pretty poor starts. The garden is about 20 or 30 foot across and 75 feet long with  radishes, greens, tomatoes and a number of varieties of annuals and cut flowers. This is our first year trying this and Paul is hoping to make a go of it.

Everything will be grown organically, but this year we are both relying on a bit of 'Miracle-Gro' to prop up the nutrient needs of the crops. The soil is really nice up there and he's worked it so well that you can just plant by digging a bare hand into the soil. Deer and other varmints have been a problem. The deer come in in the early morning and evening and don't even thank us for providing them with the salad bar. Paul has installed a fence of cedar posts and fishing line to deter the deer, but someone like a rabbit or woodchuck has gotten in and nipped off the leaves of radishes and pumpkins.

Here's a pic of Paul holding a baby French Breakfast radish planted only a couple of weeks ago. The soil is so nice, well drained and fertile that the root crops are sizing up nicely.

Have planted some of the extra perennials from the nursery. Here are two varieties of yarrow that can be cut for fresh or dried flowers. I can also use these beds to propagate more nursery stock.

A long view of the garden. As you can see, lots of the crops are just babies, but I just invested in a book by Eliot Coleman on winter to overwinter crops and how to harvest thoughout the winter with minimal heat input. The months of late July and August are good for planting short-maturing crops for a fall, early winter garden that you can size up before the really cold weather hits.

The pumpkins are knee high and are starting to vine. They look beautiful until the critters nip at them.

One of the annual dried flower varieties I am trying, celosia Pampas Plume. Supposed to get quite big, we put it in so stressed out and late, but the plants have come on nicely.

Another variety of plant for dried flowers - Amaranth 'Hopi red dye' traditionally used for its red pigmentation. It looks great in the field and is really loving the conditions. These were tiny, about an inch tall when they went in a month or so ago.

Finally the statice is starting to come into flowering and show color. The blue and purple variety is showing more vigor but I like the tones of Pacific Sunset mix. I had to keep deadheading these as they went to flower in their cell trays.

So that's the update on Paul's veg gardens. I am really impressed by what the soil will support. I think we'll have a kick-butt garden next year. And, if he gets the greenhouses, we'll really be able to get the business going.

Meanwhile, Vicki's veg gardens are growing quite nicely too. The tomatoes are over four feet tall and have topped their stakes and a few of the plants have just decided to get too big and flop over. The herb garden is getting some use from Erin and Vicki as they cook their gourmet meals and we are just starting to get a few cherry tomatoes. I hope to get a few heirlooms off these plots to be able to take up to market to sell.

Did pretty well in Fenton Thursday evening. Paul brought fresh-picked blackberries and greens and I picked catnip and a few fresh black-eyed susans. I also brought some jams and dried herbs. Put up more jam this morning and I have dried a bunch of mango and strawberries. Trying to diversify the product mix...

Meanwhile work goes on in the nursery. Seeding right now and have some young kale, basil and cat grass just about ready to sell. The catnip and cilantro are coming on nicely as is the parsley and cumin. Seeded some more varieties of biennials on Wednesday and well keep on seeding throughout August and into September.

Am trying a new market today - going to the Romeo Farmer's Market in downtown Romeo, Michigan at the corner of 32 mile rd and Van Dyke. It starts at 9am and goes until 3. The market master is offering a fee-free August so I am hoping I can find another market on Saturdays. Have decided to stop going to the Oakland County Market as the booth fee is so high and I can't justify working the whole day for just a few bucks after expenses. So if anyone in Oakland County wants to get a hold of me and stop by the nursery don't hesitate to call me at 248-622-6527.

That's the scoop for this week. Hoping August is starting to bring you fresh produce and beautiful flowers from your gardens.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Confessions of a Lunatic

Yes, I am a lunatic. I admit it. I have gardened with the moon for years. I don't have any pictures of blooms for this post as the plants are in their resting period coming on new moon. New moon is tomorrow.

Yes, plants definitely have cycles that tend to match the phases of the moon. Right now as we experience the darkness of the new moon, plants tend to slow down and meditate on their next move. Many buds have formed at this time but they are waiting until the next phase or the lightening of the moon to start to bloom. New moon is a good time to weed, clean up the garden and one can prune to encourage new growth.

The next phase are the first two quarters then the moon turns full. First quarter is a good time to plant longer-germinating seeds. As the moon gains in brightness, plants tend to increase their top growth - time to harvest flowers and herbs.

As the moon comes on full, I like to plant shorter germinating seeds. Around full moon they fairly jump out of the ground. Top and root growth tend to become balanced. It is also a great time to transplant as the next two phases emphasize root growth.

And the cycle renews itself with the plant concentrating on building its root system during the darkening phases of the moon. I haven't included all the subtleties of this method of gardening and apparently within each day their is a prime time to do certain things. The Old Farmer's Almanac is great for which day you should do what. But, quite honestly, I find that sometimes following these natural rhythms can be a bit daunting.

Finally, the best time to work in the garden - Is when you are ready to do it! But taking into account the natural cycles of nature can help enhance your plants growth. The bottom line is that you should enjoy your time in the garden.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fertilizer Friday: Update on the Vegetable Gardens

Joining Tootsie Time for another round of fertilizer Friday - a blog where readers from around the world post pictures of their flowers and gardens. This week takes us to Vicki's plots in the vegetable beds and the greenhouse. Will show you the goods and the bads, since I think gardening is all about successes and learning from one's failures. After all how can one improve results if one doesn't look back upon how better to do something.

This is what we call bed one, filled with pretty healthy tomatoes, mostly heirlooms. The stakes are four feet tall to give you an idea of their height.

Bed Two and the "for free" bench. More tomatoes with some recently planted radishes.

This is bed three - was all greens, but most of that had bolted and was just taken out. Has been resown for a second lettuce harvest. The green in the lower right is some kale that has been nipped by Mr. Bunny.

Probably the fullest bed, bed four - the herb bed. Mixed varieties of herbs and some shallots.

More greens and the eaten-off beans that need to be pulled. The bottom two plants are wild Arugula and Shallots. Going to replant peas but I'm going to douse the sprouts with cayenne pepper to deter the rabbit.

The last bed and probably the shadiest - also eaten by Bugs Bunny. Cukes, melon and zucchini and interplanted with some greens.

Nigella or Love-in-a-Mist, haven't gotten it out of the flat tray and is showing it's neat seed pods. First year growing this, I think I'll get this up to Paul next year for dried and cut flower sales.

Has anyone out there had experience growing the huckleberry or Wonderberry? This is our first year and we should start harvesting for sauces and jam.

White Gerbera on the 'for'free' bench.

Our mascot, Mr. Sage... Going to harvest some of the tops for dried sage leaves.

A view of the greenhouse. Need to fix up the benches on the right, so we can add some potted tomatoes and curcurbits for fall.

A view of the totem garden, have to dig the black raspberry canes, we have them all over!

Close-up of the Brunnera 'Jack Frost' leaves, pretty and as bright as any garden flower in the shade, I think.

Finally a view of Mr. Sunshine's garden. The creeping veronica is filling in nicely.

Pam is back and healthy again. We spent the day yesterday, my day off, laughing and having a great time. Pam even went out and rode Skipper and trotted on her own. She did a great job! Had dinner at a new restaurant - Arts Family Dining, which has original art on the walls in a kind of gallery show. Great food, good fun and enjoying the summer.

Thanks for stopping by for the tour today!