Stay tuned for adventure updates and photos and Happy Fall to all of you!
Stay tuned for adventure updates and photos and Happy Fall to all of you!
In the spring we enjoy the wonderful blooms of the woodland peonies. In the fall, we are amazed by the brilliance of their seeds and seed pods. As we collect seed from the many woodland plants we grow here at Fernwood, we find the diversity of color and texture of the seeds to be quite remarkable, each plant having its own design. Nature……truly amazing and always full of wonder.
Throughout the summer we are asked about the soil here at the nursery. People look into the display beds or the vegetable gardens and will often have many questions about what we do to improve or condition the soil. First, we don’t really consider what we add to the soil as improving it ( yes, it actually is), but instead we like to think of it as ‘feeding the soil’. It’s a living thing……it needs feeding. We grow soil like we grow plants. We nurture it. We study it. We think about what it needs, and then we give it what it wants……poop, compost, rotted leaves, grass clippings, some seaweed, and any other helpful organic matter we can get our hands on. Because we have sheep, chickens, pigs, and once a diary cow, we have access to a lot of manure. This is helpful but not completely neccessary for soil enrichment. Since we raise the critters that we do, we are happy to have the benefit of animal manure. In addition, we also generate and use other forms of soil amendments, such as kitchen compost, grass, and leaves. We never really test the soil, and when people ask about this, we tell them about our approach to the soils needs and fertility. We pay attention to the weeds that are popping up. This can often be an indicator of the soil chemistry. For example, sorrel can often mean that your soil may be somewhat waterlogged or poorly drained, and acidic or low in lime. We do a bit of leaf analysis. Leaf color and overall vitality of the plant helps us to consider the soils fertility and what it may need to support the green growth above it. We smell the soil, we feel the soil…….and after years of being rather intimate with these things, you begin to understand and interpret the soil and its needs quite successfully, without ever having to do a soil test. Our very best advice is, if you want to grow good plants, start by growing good soil. Here at the nursery, we have stock piles of soil ‘food’ ( I consider these piles gold mines). We make great effort to utilize all the animal manures and vegetative material that is generated here at the farm. This has made a terrific difference in the health and fertility of our soil. I must admit, that I can get just as excited about sifting my fingers through the soil of a freshly turned bed in the spring, as I do picking that first sun ripened, fat and juicy tomato later in the season. We welcome the questions people have about soil and soil conditions. We do not claim to be experts in the field of soil, but we do feel that our gardens are an example of some things we may be doing right. Rick loves to talk about the native plants we grow and sell, and he has a firm handle on the soil conditions each plant prefers. I just love talking about soil, and I am glutton for any organic material that we can accumulate to feed the soil with. A pile of rotted leaves or a truck load of seaweed can be a very nice birthday gift. So, get to know your soil. Pay attention to the weeds and existing vegetation. Check out the soil color and its texture. Consider the soil fauna…..how many different bugs and worms do you find? Dig up a plant and examine its roots health and structure. Become your gardens own soil steward.
And feed your soil the things it needs to support the plants you grow. It will make all the difference!
We love what we do here at Fernwood Nursery, truly. And now it seems that some others do as well! We are delighted to have been included in Down East Magazine’s Best of Maine 2019 listing as the Best Specialty Nursery. The results are published in the July magazine, available on newsstands near you.
Many thanks to those who voted to include us in the listing. We are also deeply grateful to our customers, those who visit for the first time and those who return, year after year. It’s so gratifying to build relationships over the years with fellow garden and nature lovers. When you return to the nursery each year it’s like having old friends visit.
So from our “pretty little nursery in the woods” to you, happy summer!
It feels like this blog continues to be put on the back burner. Not finding the time to sit and craft a post and catch up with readers gnaws at me while I scurry around outside potting plants, weeding the display beds, and planting the vegetable gardens. The rain, which is always welcome in our world, has put some time constraints on our activity. We are hearing from customers that their own gardens are late in emerging, some beds too soggy to plant or work in, the cold temps and rain slowing the process. Regardless of the coolness or damp conditions, the nursery is full, customers are rolling in to purchase plants, and we are busy, busy. In the early evening when we finally roll indoors, I am very ready for a quick meal (and a glass of wine, yes, perhaps this too!) and then off to bed we go without ever even considering that I could muster the energy to write something worth reading. So, please forgive me while I step aside to toil in the gardens, I’ll be here and post when I can actually sit and share more than a quick ‘hello’. I’m not disappearing, just preoccupied with the ‘doing’ of other activities at the moment. I hope you are doing well and that your gardens are flourishing. Whew! Time…that elusive reality!
I recently read and liked this poem from Mary Oliver’s collection. Worrying is a skill I’ve seemed to have mastered rather well. So, I’ll share it with you, here it goes, enjoy!
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Consider visiting Fernwood Nursery this season for our first ‘Brunch and Blooms’ series. When? Sunday, June 23rd from noon to 2:30. Join us for mid-day occasion featuring a farm to table brunch menu using ingredients grown, harvested, and thoughtfully prepared here at Fernwood. Stroll with us through the nursery and gardens as we share with you our own experience as growers, farmers, and stewards. Come see what’s in bloom! The day promises to be a feast for the eyes and the belly. You’ll also leave with a little seasonally crafted gift, an essence of Fernwood for you to take home and enjoy in your own kitchen.
For more info please visit our classes and more page!
I’ll post some photos and move along to the outdoor activities that are calling, it’s 5:30 a.m and there’s a full day ahead, best get started! We are still potting up plants for the sales area, continuing to label any new varieties of plants (some real beauties!), sowing seeds in the garden and tending the seedlings in the greenhouse.
What’s happening in your garden at the moment? Do you feel stalled by the weather? Is it squishy underfoot? What’s blooming?
In a strange way, I actually appreciate that the weather and conditions are present to ‘rein’ me in. I am reminded to work along and beside the natural world I am so privileged to bear witness to. I can engage with it but on her terms and at her pace. When I am impatient, the earth gently waggles her finger at me and says ” I’ll get there when I get there, stop hurrying me”. Thank you dear buds and blooms and shoots and seeds, thank you for reminding me to be still, to wait, to work with and not against. A good blessing for the day!
The nursery is stocked and the display beds are peppered with spring ephemerals. We are busy, busy and looking forward to the new season! Looking for some Maine natives or an unusual rarity? Come visit, the shingle is out welcoming you this Wednesday!
Our hours for the season are Wednesday through Sunday, 9 to 5. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Due to feeling a little like Piglet in the episode of Winnie The Pooh where his house floats away because of the continuous rain, we will be opening for the season on Wednesday, May 8th. Our hours will still be Wednesday through Sunday, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We are seeing lots of green shoots and swelling buds and even blooms from the ephemerals, but the ground is so squishy, saturated from the rain! I dare not complain, however, who knows what the upcoming season may bring in the way of drought. Here in the northeast, as many of you know, July and August have been terribly dry over the last three years. I am thankful that the groundwater is being amply replenished at the moment!
So, outdoors I go to fill the sales area with horticultural goodies and to continue potting up plants from the stock area. Even though our wardrobe staple consists of rain pants and rubber boots, we are so excited for the new growing season! Spring! We’ll welcome her every way we can!
Here are a few plants waiting for their spot in the nursery and a few that are already blooming in the gardens…
The greenhouse is full of seedlings and pots of plants from our propagation efforts. Rows of sprouted green growth filling the benches and all inching their way upward. Trays of just sown seeds laying slightly beneath the surface of our homemade potting soil. Heat mats and watering systems and seed packets litter the back bench along with a lifetime collection of terra cotta pots and vessels. All of this growth and promise and good intention we’ve sown is accompanied by a little plant that’s trailing along the ground, all by itself, making its way and quenching its thirst from the drippings above. It’s Stellaria media (chickweed)…the wonder plant! I always have to be on the lookout for this little lovely plant. It self sows all along the floor of the greenhouse and if I am not watchful, often Rick will pile pots or row covering on top of it and will hinder it’s delightful and intentional march forward. He is not quite as attentive to the more ‘seedy weedy’ friends that pop up and that I find useful. I’m still training this master horticulturist on the benefits of my weed collection and its encouragement.
I have just harvested a bit of Stellaria and made an infusion to sip throughout the day. Stellaria is an amazing little plant chock full of nutrition. It’s high in chlorophyll and omega 6, as well as calcium, manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, and magnesium. It’s also very high in vitamin C, A (from carotene) and B. It is well known for its ability to cool, draw, and dissolve. It contains a soapy substance called saponins. Saponins are emulsifiers and help to increase the permeability of cellular membranes. Saponins also work at dissolving and breaking down unwanted matter. Because of this, Stellaria has been known to have an ability to combat bacteria, dissolve cysts and benign tumors, and to break down thickened mucus in the respiratory and digestive system. An infusion or tea of chickweed when you have a respiratory infection with a lot of congestion can be just the thing.
Chickweed has often been used to treat eye infections due to its antibacterial constituents and is also soothing because of its cooling properties. I have used a poultice on skin irritations like bug bites or itchy rashes (poison ivy) with great results. Remember, Stellaria cools, draws, and dissolves. All properties that can coax out a stinger or draw out an infection while soothing the spot of irritation.
I’ll keep harvesting this little plant, leaving small clumps to flower and reseed. As the greenhouse temperature increases, chickweed will start to wither away. It prefers the coolness of spring. No worries, I’ll find little patches in the gardens as the ground continues to thaw and warm and my second round of harvesting will happen outdoors. I always feed handfuls of chickweed to the laying hens (what a treat!!) and to the Angora rabbit. Everyone deserves the super powerful spring tonic of Stellaria media! Look for it in your own gardens, make a tea or add it to a salve, eat the little petals in your next salad and know that this little plant is full of good and nutritious energy!