Is it Too Late to Plant?

From Rick…..

We are asked this question frequently this time of year. It usually starts after the 4th of July and increases as the season goes on. Our answer is always “No it is not!”. In fact, now through September and into October it is not only a good time to plant perennials, trees, and shrubs but an ideal time for both the plants and you. By late summer and fall, you will have had the time to see what changes and additions are needed in your garden. You can do it now while it is fresh in your mind, most of the plants are still up rather than having to guess where they are in the spring. Also, the soil is more workable than it might be in a soggy or wet spring. Rains are more numerous and the temperatures are cooler. This is the only time of year when the soil is warm and the air is cool. Perfect for plants to go about the business of producing a good root system without the stress of heat and low moisture. They also are not producing a lot of new top growth and flowers as they do in the spring. In the spring they are asked to do it all. This time of year the energy goes into rooting, roots for the winter, and more roots to survive dry periods next year. Plantings now will be much more vigorous next year than those planted next spring. For me, I much prefer working outside in the late summer and fall without the blackflies, mosquitoes, and heat of summer. The most important part of planting now and into the fall is keeping the plants watered. Usually, in our area, we have more than enough rain. We understand that this year has been a challenge for some gardeners with the lack of moisture during our summer months. If the rains return as they do in a normal year, it will be an opportunity to plant what you may have been reluctant to during the heat and drought. Remember that water needs for the plant diminish as fall approaches. With the spring as busy as it is for us with the nursery and vegetable gardens, late summer and fall are when we have the time to divide our plants and create new gardens. Now is a great time to plant.

Watering Cans

Providing a drink to a recently planted Azalea

Providing a drink to a recently planted Azalea

In this very dry period, we have tried to reduce the use of water from our well on the display beds and some newly transplanted shrubs. If we notice signs of wilting, we try to give each plant just enough water to get through until the next rain, (not that we’ve had one or truly expect one in the near future, ugh!). What has worked well is to take a large can (a quart at least, or small bucket) and poke a very small hole in the bottom of it near the edge. We then place the can next to the plant with the hole as close to the stem or crown as possible and fill it with water. The water will then slowly drip down to the roots and not run off as it would if just poured on the ground around the plant. All of the water goes to the plant. In our display beds, some plants do not handle the prolonged drought as well as others. This way we can selectively deliver water to them and not have to water the whole bed. It has been very easy to do and has kept many plants from shriveling up without using a large volume of water.

We have not had a good rain in weeks. Here in the northeast, drought is not something we consider common. We are lucky to have a fair range of weather….the right amount of sun, the right amount of overcast, the right amount of rain. Lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers spread across this state of Maine, we are water rich. This year, however, those precious water holes are a bit stressed, water tables are low, the lakes and ponds are well below normal levels. Our well here at the farm is a good one. We are very fortunate to be located above a healthy aquifer, but still, we conserve. Let’s consider water as it should be…. a precious, life-giving, absolutely necessary resource, that everyone needs. Let’s consider water as nine-year-old Gabriel does….

Gabriel and the Water Shortage

When the water shortage comes along
he’s been waiting all his life for it,
all nine years for something to need him as
the water needs him now. He becomes
its protector–he stops washing, till dirt
shines on the bones behind his ears
over his brain, and his hands blaze like
dark blades of love. He will not
flush the toilet, putting the life of the
water first, until the bowl
crusts with gold like the heart’s riches and his
room stinks, and when I sneak in and
flush he almost weeps, holds his
hands a foot apart in the air and
says do I know there is only about
this much water left! He befriends it, he
sits by its bedside as if it is a dying
friend, a small figure of water
gleaming on the sheets. He keeps a tiny
jar to brush his teeth in, till green
bugs bathe in its scum, but talk about
germs and he is willing to sacrifice his health
to put the life of the water first, its
helplessness breaks his heart, the way it
waits at all the faucets in the city for the
cocks to be turned, and then it cannot
help itself, it has to spill

to the last drop. Weeks go by and
Gabriel’s glazed with grime, and every
cell of dirt upon his body is a
molecule of water saved and he
loves those tiny molecules
translucent as his own flesh in the spring, this
thin vivid liquid boy who has
given his heart to water element
so much like a nine-year-old–you can
cut it, channel it, see through it and
watch it, then, a fifty-foot
tidal wave, approaching your house and
picking up speed as it comes.

Sharon Olds

If You’d Like To Join Us…..

Picture 3504If you’d like to join us for an afternoon of building fairy houses on August 11th and August 25th, we still have a few spots open. Hannah has been busy buying clay, sorting through her pottery tools, and mixing glazes. If interested, check out our ‘classes and more’ page and call or email to hold your spot! We’re looking forward to seeing how creative we can make our tiny homes!Picture 3499

Work And Being Tired

Picture 3488We have two WWOOF volunteers here at the moment. Our lovely returning WOOFer Hannah, who is a UNH student and ceramics teacher, and Zack, who may very well be the kindest and most polite 20 year old we’ve ever met. Both of these visitors are a great help to the farm and nursery. They are hard workers and upbeat, easy going and curious. We like them a whole lot. After a long day of farm work, moving sheep fence, and learning to shingle an out-building, they are tired. Farm tired. Work tired. Tired to the bone tired, but proud of their accomplishment tired. They sit in the evening after a good hearty meal, legs slung over the arm chair or stretched out across the ottoman, and knit. Both of them. Zack leading the way with his craft experience dating back to the age of 10 ( his mum taught him to knit, good mum!!), helping Hannah to cast on with round needles and to keep her stitches from twisting. I join them, advancing on my current knitting project until my own sleepiness gets the best of me ( is it 8:30 yet?). Last night we talked about being tired. Hannah pointed out how good it feels to climb into bed, rest your head on a pillow, and know that you’ve really earned a good night’s sleep. We talked a bit about the different kinds of tired….emotional and physical, and how being emotionally tired may keep you up at night ( thoughts still racing), but being physically tired is conducive to collapsing into a decadent slumber. In your early twenties, I think sleep is still something coveted. I was amazed at how many times they both hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks before reaching their actual wake up time.I don’t use an alarm clock and waking to a buzzing noise every 5 minutes seemed pretty disruptive to me, but they assured me that this was all part of their morning ‘time to get up and pull yourself out of dreamland’ ritual. I told them I just wake up, eyes wide open, and bolt into the day. My approach seemed to scare the hell out of them.” Why would you do that?” they asked. After several rows and a few more inches on my own knitting, I trail off to bed. They’ll stay up a bit longer, I know. Tired they are,….bone tired…but can’t quite give up on their night life here at Fernwood. Knitting and drinking tea beyond a proper bedtime….. real party animals these two.

And now a poem to sign off with….

“I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathed in cream. Now I know how people can live without books, without college. When one is so tired at the end of a day one must sleep, and at the next dawn there are more strawberry runners to set, and so one goes on living, near the earth. At times like this I’d call myself a fool to ask for more.”
—Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals

Come Build A Fairy House!

Fairy House Building – a two session pottery class
Thursday, August 11th and Thursday, August 25th, from 1:00 to 3: 00
Check out our classes and more page for details

Picture 3482Join ceramicist and WWOOFer Hannah Medovnikov and Denise Sawyer in a two-part pottery class building miniature homes for your resident garden gnomes or fairies. During the first session, participants will design and construct their fairy homes using clay and considering features to be embellished after firing. After the houses are dry, we will fire them and bring them back to be glazed during the second session. We’ll discuss ways to add ‘features’ to your fairy house….doors, shutters, and even a ‘living’ roof ! After the glaze firing your pieces will be ready for installation! We will be using slab building and pinching techniques to make miniature shelters, perfect for any ‘little folks’ who may be wandering your woodland or gardens. Along with guidance from Hannah on how to build and design out of clay, Denise will discuss how to best design around your new piece of mini real estate. Materials and supplies are included…, as with most all classes here at Fernwood, tea and scones will be served!

If you’d like to join us, email at or call (207) 589-4726
You can check out our ‘classes and more’ page for details

Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scone…

If I were to have something ‘catchy’ printed on my aprons it would be just this….” Hell knows no fury like a woman’s scone”. Ha! Actually, Rick said this to me one day while munching on one of those yummy ginger scones I make. He’s so clever! It is a little play on words from the famous playwright, William Congreve and his 1697 play, The Mourning Bride. “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” spoken by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII.[3] (This is usually paraphrased as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”).
Speaking of scones…. our class, “Garden talk, tea , and scones” offered here last Thursday was well attended. A few of the participants asked me to kindly print my ‘most often used’ scone recipe, so here you go:

3 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbls. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks of very cold unsalted butter
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup buttermilk
Mix all dry ingredients and whisk to distribute the baking soda and baking powder. Add the butter and cut it in as you would for making pie dough, I always do this by hand. The butter should remain as ‘pea size’ bits in your flour mixture. Add the grated lemon rind. Mix in 1- 1 1/2 cup of blueberries or ginger or cranberries ( depending on the type you are making) Next, make a well in the center and add the cream and buttermilk. Mix briefly to incorporate ( don’t over-mix). Put dough onto a lightly floured surface , fold onto itself and then use your hands to pat the dough into a 1 1/2″ thick round about 8 inches in diameter. Cut wedge-shaped scones out of this. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Enjoy!

To The Watering Hole

Picture 3470There’s a heap of green beans ready to blanch and freeze. Also, a forest of broccoli and waves of swiss chard to harvest and preserve.The tomatoes are threatening to ripen in great numbers and all at once…slicers, cherries, and pastes. The kitchen is about to see a lot of action. Heat or no heat, it’s time to can! But by late afternoon today, it was unanimous. It was time to put away the weeding buckets, hang up the harvesting knives, and head for the watering hole. Hip Hip Hooray!!
These next words from the book Clabbered Dirt,Sweet Grass by Gary Paulsen. A farming story….and delightful read.

High summer brings thick heat and there comes a day when dust itches the skin, when the flies and the gnats and the no-see-ums and the thick, humid air and the heat that presses down all build together so that the sweat doesn’t help, shade doesn’t help, and somebody says something about going swimming, just a word, and it becomes the only thing in the world. By the middle of the day work is impossible, everything is impossible but going down to the creek. There is a place, always a place, a special place where the current rounds a bend and goes through a double culvert under the road, and right there, right in that special place the water has dug out a great hollowed pool. Green, green deep to soft brown cool with speckled minnows fleeing from the great splashing monsters who tumble, fall, dive, cannonball from the heavens into the cool clean clear water.
Clothes hanging on the willows, dust hanging on the willows, dirt and grime and work hanging on the willows while the water takes them, takes them all.
The swimming hole.
Picture 3471

A Mid Summer Break

Picture 3026Picture 3036Picture 3063Picture 3032Picture 3060Picture 3045Just about mid-summer I get a call from my friend Sally. She has a little house that overlooks the pier in Stonington and asked me to take a ride up to check on things. “No, too busy”, I said, “Too much weeding, mowing, and transplanting to get away”. Thankfully, she is gloriously persistent about taking time away from all the work we do here and having a little adventure. Decision made…I’ll head to Stonington for an overnight. Rick will go north for a bit of brook fishing. Off we go, a much-needed break to explore and enjoy the beautiful woods and coastline of our great state.

how we roll.....packed up and ready to go in sally's old Morris

how we roll…..packed up and ready to go in sally’s old Morris

You won’t get any photos of Rick catching any monster brook trout. After all, when was the last time there were pictures do go along with the epic fish stories we always listen to…. you know, ‘the one that got away’.The camera went with me up the coastline. No fish or blackfly or campfire photos, but there was lobster and a beautiful view towards Isle Au Haut to capture. A day away, just what we needed.That Sally…she’s so smart! Picture 3077Picture 3089Picture 3095Picture 3111Picture 3130
....time to head back home.

….time to head back home.

Tea and Scones And Talk

Picture 3457On Thursday, July 28th, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Fernwood Nursery will be serving tea and scones and offering a free talk on late season planting. Rick will be discussing some tips on plant selection, care, and what to consider when adding new additions to your late summer garden. Come along, enjoy a cup of tea in the garden, and share in an afternoon of ‘plant talk’.

When should I divide my hosta?

hosta talk pictures 2012 012A seasonal post from Rick….
While hostas don’t require dividing like some perennials, quite regularly we are asked: “when is the best time to divide hostas”? The answer will depend on who you ask, what they have been told, or what is easiest for them and their gardening schedule. Some say early spring when the new growth points emerge and you can easily see where to cut between each to make another division. Others say in the fall. While hostas are extremely tough and will survive just about any kind of harsh treatment, I would disagree with these time frames. With over 35 years of experience in propagating hostas, my answer is July and August, and here is my reasoning and observations. Hostas do not put on much in the way of root growth until sometime in June. So a plant division made in early spring is expected to support all of its new growth with last year’s roots and only those that are still attached after it was removed from the main clump. A hosta divided in the late fall may not have enough time to establish enough new roots and store the amount of energy needed to get it through the winter and then support new growth in the spring. While both will probably survive, they won’t be as robust as those divided in July and August. During these months the plant will have time to put on new roots, add new leaves to store more energy, and set new eyes on the crown for a larger plant in the spring. Some people are afraid to cut a clump apart and break off some of the existing leaves. When we divide them, we purposely remove leaves from the divisions, especially those that may not have that many roots. We also remove all flowers. Some we replant with only one leaf. It is important that leaves and roots be balanced. Best to have fewer leaves so that the roots can support the divided crown. If done this way, and kept watered for the rest of the season, a much stronger plant will emerge in the spring. So if you have the time, and have hostas that you would like to divide, now through August is the time to do it.