Supporting Your Local Nursery (a field trip to Holly Acres)

zebra

In winter,  you might find a child riding a zebra or a toddler on a horse.  Perhaps you’d like to sit with Santa or drink hot chocolate.  We choose our perfect Christmas tree and haul it home happily in the season.

In spring this same place is a gardener’s best friend.  Heirloom seeds abound, many plant starts, and a greenhouse of intoxicating brilliant blooms to take home.  I get my seed potatoes, garlic, onion sets, seeds, and most of my plants from my local nursery, Holly Acres.

holly acres

It is so important to shop local.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  Our communities rely on the mom and pop shops thriving.  Holly Acres is owned by a family in our community, whose children grew up with ours, who shop local themselves, and who have an amazing oasis of nature and beauty just down the road.

bird bath

Last year when we needed a bird bath for our instant rose garden, I got it there.  Same with the roses.  And when I taught you how to plant trees, I got the trees there.  They have the best fruit trees as well as many, many other varieties of trees.  They have everything one could want at a really great price.  They are very competitive with big box faceless stores.

trees

If you need seeds, garden décor, compost, or healthy affordable trees, head to our local nursery, Holly Acres and say Farmgirl sent you!  (And if you don’t live here, seek out a local nursery by you!)

5403 Highway 86, Elizabeth, CO, 80107.  303-646-8868.  http://Hollyacresnursery.com

 

Farmgirl Gardening Series (Planning and Prepping-Week 1)

The very first step is to sit with the land for a moment.  See which animals share that space.  See what weeds (or rather, medicinal herbs) are there.  What are the challenges?  What are the benefits?  Then measure the space.  Draw out (doesn’t have to be architecturally perfect) a grid so that you have a solid design for your garden.  You’ll know exactly what will fit and will be able to arrange the plot so that you can grow absolutely everything you want and still fit in a reading chair.

Jpeg

I have 1 garden plot that is 20×20.  I have one that is 10×20.  I decided to make the smaller one the spring and fall garden.  It will also hold medicinal plants.  Each of my gardens will have the traditional Cherokee rule; the north and east side will be the three sisters, corn, squash, and beans.  Sunflowers will line that.  The Cherokee didn’t need books to figure these things out, they were passed down and I will keep that going.  The corn provided a stalk for the beans to grow on, the squash leaves keep the weeds down and helps divert marauding characters of the night who love corn.  The sunflowers provide food for beneficial insects and birds that will help pollinate the plants.  The tall plants also provide a little respite from wind and sun to help the plants below them.

Jpeg

I opted not to rototill.  The beneficial organisms and earth worms are screaming their little heads off as the ground is tilled, plus you expose all those lovely invasive weed seeds to sunlight.  I will simply comb the areas with a rake, dig holes for each seed, and cover each seed/plant in its hole with organic garden soil.  This provides enough nutrition for now for the young seeds without creating too much havoc.  The ground will be covered with straw to keep in moisture and protect the plain soil.  Paths will be created with straw as well.  A thick pad of moist straw and cardboard makes any weed or grass that makes it through very easy to yank out.

Once you have your list of what you want to plant, and where you will plant them, go seed shopping at a local nursery (more on that Monday).

In the 10×20 I will plant 3 different kind of potatoes, garlic, onions, kale, chard, spinach, 4 different lettuces, arugula, English peas, snap peas, snow peas, wild flowers, California poppy, dill, lobelia, Bidens ticks, calendula, cucumbers, radishes, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beets, corn, melon, sunflowers, and beans.

In the 20×20 I will plant beans, sunflowers, okra, Asian greens, bok choi, soybeans, butternut squash, roses, lemon balm, mint, thyme, valerian, chamomile, motherwort, borage, comfrey, broccoli, 12 pepper plants, 4 eggplants, 20 tomato plants, basil, oregano, chives, green beans, collard greens, zucchini, corn, and 3 different kinds of pumpkins (I am still Pumpkin Hollow Farm, after all) plus include a reading chair for me and Maryjane, a trellis to grow the Morning Glory seeds I saved, and have a bird bath.

How on earth will all this fit in 600 square feet?  By interplanting and sticking to a map.  Root vegetables need to have something growing above them.  Potatoes and spinach, carrots, beets, and lettuces, et cetera.  No monocropping!  Tomatoes need space between them, so collard greens and herbs will fill the spaces.

I went to the gardens to see if I could plant the potatoes yet but a sheet of snow still hid the plots beneath.  But, one thing I have found is whether I plant spring crops in the beginning of April or at the end, they still grow at the same rate.  It doesn’t matter whether you get a head start and plant potatoes and greens the first week of April or if you don’t get to it until the end of April.  The germination rate seems to slow the earlier you plant in this climate, thanks in part to 80 degrees, snow, freeze, flood, hail, heat, wind, cold… the soil can’t keep up with Mother Nature’s moodiness this time of year!  Plant when you can.  Next week, we will plant potatoes, onions, garlic, and a whole slew of spring seeds! See you in the garden!

The Romance and History of Seed Saving (now how the heck do I do it?)

SAM_0851

I have been listening to lectures and reading about seed saving.  It is something I have wanted to do, but then at the end of the season I either get lazy, run out of time, or run out of plants to save!  This idea appeals to me though and makes so much sense.

There are the practical reasons, of course.  When you patent something, you own it.  When you patent a seed, you own life.  Dow, Dupont, and Monsanto would very much like to own life.  These are mega corporations that seem to have no soul.  They are made up of people with well lined green pockets and their friends in politics benefit too.  Dow and Dupont create the most powerful pesticides and herbicides on the market made from leftovers of chemical warfare, slowly killing populations of species including people.  These require plants that can stand up to them.  Monsanto, with their genetically engineered seeds, are patenting all types of seeds.  They are open pollinated so if it drifts into your garden, they own your seeds too.  If one was to stop and think about it, it is all very terrifying that a large entity could own our life force, our food, and not just any food, poisonous food.  They are already poisoning millions of Americans every day with their GMO’s that are in practically every processed food and in more and more produce.

IMG_0838

I am blessed to live in an area that is not known for farming (lucky me, there is a reason for that!) but the benefit of that is that I have no drift from GMO crops.  I should be saving my seeds!  I would also save $600 a year on seeds that I starry eyed buy in January.

I am also struck by the romance and the history of saving seeds.  Our grandparents that came over from other countries with seeds in the lining of their jackets.  Our Native American ancestors saved seed to take from place to place.  There were no glossy seed catalogues for them to order from each year.  Seeds were a source of trade.  Seeds were gold.  Over 94% of all seeds are gone.  Forever.  We will never know many of the delicious foods that our ancestors ate.  Even from the 1940’s.

Maryjane's first radish.

We have selected hybrid seeds to choose from.  This is a great reason to choose a seed company like Seed Savers.  They have successfully saved hundreds of seeds from extinction.  To plant a seed that was brought over by covered wagon or a seed from corn that was used as cornmeal are all gifts from a past time.  Then save the seed.

A beautiful story I read in a magazine years ago has followed me in memory.  After the Vietnam war there were several refugees.  I believe this happened in Louisiana.  The Catholic ministries bought two apartment buildings to house these refugees.  These folks were missing their homeland and their families.  With them when they fled their war torn country were seeds.  The people started a garden at their new place and planted the seeds from their homes.  They created an oasis of foods of comfort that are not grown here.  Vegetables their mothers grew, recognizable and tactile pieces of home.

pumpkin

I know how to save seeds from squashes and tomatoes, that type of plant.  I just need to do it.  I do not have a clue how to save things like collard greens or lettuce or radishes.  I left  some of them up and their flowers are beautiful waving daintily over the other plants.  Now what?  Will the seeds come after the flower?  Do I need to chop their heads off now?  Oh bother, I need a book and a teacher!

This year I will at least save seeds from pumpkins, from squash, from potatoes.  Start slow and work my way up to a collection.  Create my own chest of gold.

 

Pumpkin Hollow Farm

gardening

Autumn may be my favorite time of year but this month sure is close.  To spend all day with my hands covered in dirt planting seeds that will become food is my favorite pastime.  Not until my tired post-Winter body finally yelled, “Enough!” did I grab a beer and head to the porch to see all we had accomplished.  Emily and I spent the whole weekend digging up the front yard.  While others tend meticulously to the non-native grass borders, applying weed and feed and watering, Emily and I had different plans.  A full working farm on our minds.

SAM_0574

SAM_0573

Steve brought over their rototiller for us to borrow and we put Doug to work plowing eleven long rows.  We went back through digging and releasing weeds and crabgrass creating a divot in the dirt that we then filled with organic garden soil and blended it all together.

Colonies of ants came forth, small black, monster black, and stingy red, eager to eat seeds that we would offer them.  I gave them cornmeal instead.  This works in the house as well.  They take the cornmeal back to their colony and I am afraid they do not return.  Now I am a peaceful girl.  I do not want to kill.  I have been vegetarian for twenty plus years.  In high school I cut my own hair and botched a section, shaving a small piece off by accident.  I had my sister shave a peace sign out of it.  She mistakenly only did two lines making it a Mercedes sign.  I had to use a marker to fill in the third.  (My father was incredibly mad!)  Anyways, I promote peace.  But ants can be really destructive in a garden and a nuisance in the house.  Rather than bringing out toxic chemicals, Raid or who knows what else, simply sprinkle cornmeal about.  Works like a charm.

SAM_0569

Then in went the seeds.  Black Aztec corn and multi-colored Smoke Signals corn seeds went in for festive Autumn décor and cornmeal.  Bantam corn went in for sweet eating.  All heirlooms.  Next to them went Bird’s Egg speckled beans that were brought over by covered wagon, large brown Dutch beans for winter simmering in a Dutch oven, and small, white cannellini beans for sage and white bean soup.  Six different tomatoes.  I do hope the “Mortgage Lifter” tomato does its job!  Six different peppers.  Orange watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini.  All organic.

pumpkin

Since the farm is called Pumpkin Hollow, the rows in front of the house will be overflowing with tangles of delightful color.  The Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch in the world, were you to ask Linus from Charlie Brown’s Halloween special.  Strawberry colored princess pumpkins, Jack Be Littles, Heirloom pumpkins, organic sugar pumpkins, and today I seek out one more varietal.  Perhaps the awesome white Luminaria pumpkin.

SAM_0571

The front row nearest the sidewalk will have herbs scattered and clustered about for medicinal and culinary use.  A fence is planned around the perimeter of white picket with a welcoming arbor.  My dear friend, Rod, is creating wood burned signs for the farm.

We have been offered free alpacas and plan on getting their “barn” (the garage) ready.  I was showing Steve the tour of what our farm will look like (use your imagination)….here are the large garden beds, more in front, alpaca and goats, new fruit trees….He asked what I was doing with our oversized dirt driveway.  “Festival Parking!” I exclaimed.  Can you see it?  A roadside stand.  A pumpkin festival.  Field trips for children at the nearby school where they can go back in time and see how to hand wash clothes, make butter, spin wool.  The piano and fiddle playing folk songs.  Period pioneer dress.  Vegetables growing everywhere and fuzzy farm animals.  Education, inspiration, teach kids that food comes from the earth, not the grocery store.

SAM_0575

We have never missed our annual pumpkin festival that we attend with the children every year.  This year Maryjane will go with us.  Us big kids and Maryjane making a scarecrow and touring the old structures at Four Mile Historic Park.  I would love to create a place like that for young families to make memories.

In the meantime, I have pumpkins to plant.

Not Killing Cold Crops

SAM_0288

I was going to plant all the cold crops around St. Patrick’s day.  I heard you could.  But then I thought maybe we were moving so I didn’t.  Turns out I would have killed off everything if I had!  I think my friend/teacher/Master Gardener is determined to make a proper farmgirl out of me and help me actually grow stuff.  (As a proper farmgirl should be able to provide food for her family and not just adorable stunted plants that could feed gnomes.) Our lesson last week started with me telling her about my cold crop planting plans and she asked, “Did you take the soil temperature?”  …what?…no.

I have a candy thermometer, a baby thermometer, a root cellar thermometer, no thermometers for the dirt lying around.  That is going to change.

Cold crops can be planted when the soil is 45 degrees.  My cold crops consist of yummy peas, Swiss chard, kale, collards, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, and broccoli.

Use milk cartons with their bottoms chopped off for cloches.  Put the screw top lid on at night and off during the day.  If I start my barrel of potatoes, use the trash can lid to cover at night.  Keep all the kids warm and tucked in while the night sky is still chilly.  During the day let them play and take in the sunshine.  In a few weeks I ought to be eating good, fresh spring fare.

She recommended that instead of continuing the soil pattern in the potato barrel (adding 6 inches of dirt every time the leaves stick up) add 6 inches of straw.  We are just trying to keep them in the dark.  Straw is lighter, easier to dig through.

She uses a drip line for 20 minutes daily.  I told her about my absolute loss of any common sense when it comes to watering.  So I am picking up a water level checker thing too.  Just so I know when to water or not.  I have not had any problems overwatering if she is watering 20 minutes a day, more in the summer.  More than 30 seconds of watering would do my garden wonders.

I also learned that you can drill tiny holes in a five gallon bucket and place it at the base of new trees (or old) and fill with water every time you pass with the hose.  It provides a steady drip of water to the thirsty roots.  Don’t my new orchard trees wish I had learned that last year?!

So, here’s the scoop.  We are looking at one last place that we really want after we get back from Santa Fe next week.  If we don’t get it, I will stop looking until fall.  Tis gardening season after all!  I will have Doug install the drip lines here in the crumbling raised beds and grow ridiculous amounts of food from heirloom seeds in riotous colors and hone my farmgirl skills thanks to Debbie.  I have another lesson in the morning!  And I’ll be off to get a dirt thermometer as well.

Will the Real Farmgirl Please Stand Up?

debs pic

When I told the owner of Miller Farms, Joe, at his birthday party a few months ago that I wanted to be a farmer, he looked at me with a mix of pity and humor.  Apparently grown women don’t run around dreaming of being a farmer when they grow up.  The rest of the farm hands laughed too.  The grumpy farmer at the farmer’s market asked why I would want to do such a thing?  It’s hard work.  I have never been afraid of hard work.  In fact, I dislike days that there is no work.  I have to keep busy.  I am not afraid of sunrise, dirt, or feeding people.  Only two percent of the population grows all the food for our country.  Scary.  Not crazy about relying on someone else to grow food for me.  Makes me feel kind of helpless.  That is why I garden.  Be it not very well for the past twenty years but I had a slower learning curve then everyone else and no family to teach me.  Just books.  And now Debbie.

Debbie started out as one of my students learning herbalism a few years back.  She received a grant for a greenhouse and grows a myriad of wonderful herbs as well as vast amounts of food.  So, the teacher becomes the student today as I go for my internship and learn which side is up.  Everything in her hoop house survived the below zero temperatures.  I am intrigued.  Her land is a picturesque bounty set against hills and filled with roaming cows and a beautiful old restored house.  Her general demeanor is always kind and upbeat.  A renaissance woman, a Master Gardener, and a friend.  I will learn well in this atmosphere!  http://lookingoutfrommybackyard.wordpress.com is her blog.  I shamelessly stole these pictures off of her blog!

debs pic2

I think I will plant a few rows of wine grapes.  I have two Cabernet Sauvignon vines here I can bring with me to start.  An Apothecary garden that will consist of beautiful medicinal and culinary herbs.  Long rows of three sisters, corn, beans, and squash will grow together and remind us of history.  All of the glorious, unique, colorful heirlooms seeds I ordered back in January in my garden dreaming will sprout and take hold, reaching their heads up to the endless sky, looking out to the mountain range, and will provide sustenance for our family and beyond.

I never want to sell wholesale.  Just as I run my Apothecary.  No wholesale.  No faceless item on the shelf.  No wondering who made it.  I want to hand it to you.  Tell you a funny story about it.  Throw in a free round of cheese to eat with the fresh tomatoes and kale.

Now I am really getting ahead of myself.  I don’t have a goat!