Ah, yes…Spring

Yep, Spring has finally hit the South Central Pennsylvania!  YEA!  It could go to winter again next week, who knows, but for now, it’s spring!

I’m experimenting with starting a few (maybe several) seedlings inside this year.  I don’t have a greenhouse, so I set up a growing room in my spare bedroom.  This is what I have going on as of mid April!  Zinnias planted in 72 cell trays.  I started the seeds March 19th.

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I’m also experimenting with soil blocking.  This is a European method of seeding that uses very little space.  Lisa Mason Zeigler of The Gardner’s Workshop has the low down on all things soil blocking.  She literally starts thousand of plants inside a 10×10 room with shop lights every year.  Its a very different process and I’m trying to figure things out, but so far, my snaps are doing great.  We learn from our mistakes, right……

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The seeds are planted into each 3/4″ block of soil.  They should be ready to plant out much earlier than if I would have started them in the plastic seed starting trays.  Much better for the environment, too.  I started soil blocking March 30th.

This is the equipment needed for soil blocking…

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I purchased the soil blocking mix, (the mix needs to be a special blend because you want the soil to stick together more than regular seed starting soil) seeds and tray from The Garnener’s Workshop.  The soil blocker I purchased from Johnny’s Seeds.  As you can see, I can get 40 seedlings on one 5×10 tray.

Lisa Mason Zeigler has great tutorials on her website and has written some very informative books on growing flowers. They are all listed on her website.

For the regular 72 cell seed starting kit, I filled the cells with wet (not dripping) seed starting soil, then seeded the tray.  I purchased my seed starting kits at Dollar General.

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I put the seed tray on a heat mat, purchased on Amazon, put the dome on that came with the 72 cell seed starter kit,  and within two days, yes, two days, 50% of the seeds germinated.  I then took the seeds off the heat mat and put it under regular shop lights.  The shop lights should be about 3″ above the seedlings.  Not all seeds will germinate that quickly. 

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Why a heat mat?  The room temperature in the spare bedroom that I’m growing my plants in (I don’t have a greenhouse) is about 68 degrees.  The soil temp in the seed tray is about 15 degrees cooler, so the heat mat brings the soil temperature up to about 70 degrees which is perfect.  Not all seeds want heat, so you need to read the back of the seed packets and research, research, research.

Why shop lights?  The seedlings need about 16 hours of light a day that way they won’t become too leggy.

I’ll fill you later with what made it and what didn’t…..

Talk to you soon!

Karen

P.S.  If you are interested in whats happening at Family Tree Farm, please click HERE for updates, tutorials, recipes sent to your inbox at least once a month.  Just for signing up, I’ll email you my free printable PDF – 5 Easy To Grow Flowers For Your Cutting Garden!

#Tomato

Do you follow #tomato on Instagram?  There are 5.8 Million posts of this most delicious fruit.  Yes, we can buy tomatoes all year long here in South Central PA, but how many of us can’t wait for those precious few months when we can grow or buy them local!  Count me in!  It’s finally spring and time to start thinking about planting our gardens!  YEASSS!

We recently had the great opportunity to visit good friends in Florida.  Knowing how much we love farming, they took us to a Florida farm where we could buy fresh picked flowers, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn and more.  Lordy, it was pure paradise for Rick and I.  We both grew up on farms.  As children, when our families took car rides (yes, it was an experience, not an every day event typically ending with ice cream 🙂  our dads were always observing other farmer’s fields.  I still crane my neck to see how all the crops are growing and wishing the farmer who planted them all the best as I pass by LOL!  Farming is not for the faint of heart….

Anyhow, I posted a photo on Facebook of a lovely pile of Heirloom tomatoes that were for sale at the farm we visited in Florida.  I had a lot of questions about what kind of tomatoes they were, so I thought there may be more questions that I could answer.  I am by no means an expert on tomatoes or growing them, but I do know what I like and a few things about the different types of tomatoes.  I’m still learning.  There is a lot to learn…

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Here is my little unofficial tutorial.   There are three different varieties of tomatoes:

Open Pollinated (non-hybrids):  This variety will produce the same tomato plant year after year if you save the seeds.

Heirloom:  They have a history.  Either a family history or commercial history.  The variety must be at least 50 years old (or introduced before 1940) and typically have a great taste!  All heirlooms are open-pollinated but not all open pollinated are heirlooms.  Confusing, right…?  If you save the seeds of an heirloom tomato, you will grow the same plant year after year.

Hybrid:  This is the variety that we have gotten used to.  It has been cross bred to exhibit the best characteristics of varieties.  They have been bred to withstand shipping and have a longer shelf life.  They are usually a very pretty tomato too.  We all like that, right?  The hybrid seeds can be saved, but you will not get the same tomato plant.

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Tomatoes can be determinate and indeterminate……WHAT???  No quiz later, I promise!

Determinate Tomatoes are short bushy types (can still get up to 2-3′ typically) and the fruit matures within the same time frame.  There are early, mid and late season varieties.

Indeterminate Tomatoes provide fruit all season long till frost, however will grow quite large and need a lot of support (can get up to 6’ish).  I believe most heirloom varieties are indeterminate so you would need a lot of room in your garden for them.

When you are shopping for your tomato plants or seeds, all the info about whether it is a determinate, indeterminate, hybrid, heirloom, open pollinated, etc will be on the tag or on the seed packet.

Here at Family Tree Farm, we have sold heirloom varieties (which, in my opinion, are the most delicious and have that wonderful tomato taste that we long for all winter) at our roadside stand.  They are not big sellers.  It’s so hard for the heirloom to compete visually against a hybrid.  We all want those beautiful red, round, large slicer tomatoes for our BLT’s.  The heirlooms come in all different colors and sizes and can develop some really weird shapes!

Last year I snuck in a couple Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes along with the hybrids we planted.  Their taste was divine.  The plants got crazy big and I didn’t do a very good job of keeping them off the ground, but still harvested lots of them for my own delight!  I did share some with Rick.  He had to agree, they were delish!

I’m going to sneak more heirlooms in this year…..shhhh, don’t tell Rick.  I just have to do a better job of keeping them off the ground……

If you want to know more about heirloom tomatoes, I would recommend www.tomatofest.com.  They have an awesome site with lots of heirloom info and seed varieties.

Happy Spring Folks!

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Let It Bee….

Did you know honey bees are not native to North America?  I had no idea!    I first learned of this in a book by Lisa Mason Ziegler, “Vegetables Love Flowers.  Great read! I highly recommend it if you love to garden.

Lisa does a great job educating us about companion planting, what the beneficials are in the garden (even spiders and snakes….oh my), succession planting and the photography in her book is just beautiful. She even has an on line book discussion.  Loved it!

There are apparently 4000 different types of native bees to North America, and they are in danger too – it seem the honey bees get all the press.  We need bees to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  Believe it or not, native bees can be better pollinators than honey bees. I am in no way dissing honey bees – I love their local honey!!!!

Honey bees came to North American from Europe with the colonists and have been managed as an agricultural resource ever since.  When a farmer needs bees, honey bees are the easiest to bring in and go away when finished.

Honey bees cannot pollinate tomato plants – wow – who knew!!  The humble bumble bee can! Some plants have their pollen on the outside (like a lilly’s anther, you can see the pollen).  The tomato plant’s pollen is inside the flower – the bumble gets in there and shakes the pollen out!

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I’m an avid podcast listener, are you?  One of my favorite podcasts is “Living Homegrown” by Theresa Loe.  I recently listened to podcast # 141 (www.livinghomegrown.com/141 ) where Theresa interviews Lisa Mason Ziegler and podcast # 147 (www.livinghomegrown.com/147 ) where author Paige Embry is interviewed by Theresa regarding our native bees.

Both podcasts are full of educational facts about our native bee problems.  Paige Embry has written “Our Native Bees: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them”. This book looks fabulous and is on my Amazon wish list!

Please know that I, in no way, make any $ off of any of the books or podcasts I recommend.  I find the books and podcasts highly interesting, and want to pass on what I have learned to you.  If we work together, we can all make the world a better place! Yes?

If you would like to receive more info about our farm, what I’m learning (you’re never too old to learn, right???), tutorials, etc., please hit the yes, please button on our contact page.  For subscribing, you will receive my little recipe “TASTY” pdf of Family Tree Farm’s Favorite Summertime Recipes

Happy Summer!

Karen Doyle

 

 

Wabi-Sabi

Have you heard about Wabi-Sabi?  What is it you ask?  A new dance move, or is it a song?  Nope, Wabi-Sabi is an ancient Japanese practice that appreciates imperfections in life and the ability to age gracefully.  I am fully on board with this – how about you?

So, how does Wabi-Sabi relate to gardening?  As per “Garden Media Group”, Wabi-Sabi gardens imitate nature in a way that allows you to relax and appreciate their humble and imperfect forms – yes, even the weeds.  I am so into this!  I’m not sure about the weeds, but then again, I use Goldenrod and Queen Ann’s Lace in my flower bouquets.

Then there are dandelions!  I have a recipe for dandelion wine that my dear Uncle John passed on to me years ago.  I’m gonna have to dig that out!

As a flower farmer, I am always experimenting with new flowers.  I plant a lot by seed.  Check out my lovely stand of pigweed I grew last year!

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My only guess is, I thinned out the real flower and left the weeds.  They grew so nicely in a row!  The hubs kept telling me it was a weed.  I, of course, didn’t believe him – BAHHAAAA!  I’m sure it will happen again, but this time I will embrace the practice of Wabi-Sabi!  Maybe I can use the weeds in bouquets!

I love to pick flowers.   Many times, the flowers that I pick are not always perfect.  I love them anyhow.  I will pick them and use them even if they do lean a little this way or a little that way.  I love using the center disk of a flower in an arrangement after all the petals fall off.  There is something in their imperfection that I love and is unique.

 

 

I have watched others while they are cutting flowers and they do the same.  Just because the flower is a little wonky, doesn’t mean it won’t fit in.  That imperfect flower always fills a spot where something is missing.  Wabi-Sabi was meant for me, how about you??

I love this quote:

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“The garden is a natural place to embrace Wabi-Sabi – the art of imperfect beauty, and practice the delicate balance between nature and nurture.”

     Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez, PhD.

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