The Month Of April At Fernwood Nursery

It doesn’t matter that after a long day of potting in the greenhouse we sat with cups of tea and looked out at this…We are confident that any emerging plants are hearty enough to weather a little snow falling on them. The ground is warming and many plants are now able to utilize the water that’s being absorbed into the ground. This snow will melt quickly and provide some extra moisture for their new and rapid growth. No worries. It is the potential frigid temperatures we worry about, especially after new growth has started.
As you can tell, our pup Lucky finds that the greenhouse (at 88 degrees) is the perfect place for an afternoon nap. I must admit, that deep warmth does feel awfully good! Some early greens are on hold for just a bit longer before being transplanted into the hoop house. Of course, my favorite early green, tatsoi, will be the first to sink its roots into the warm hoop house soil. I wrote a post about tatsoi last year and you can read about it here if you would like. I can’t wait to be harvesting our very first bunches of this nutrient-rich green. The best!

tatsoi


The onions are coming along and the peppers and tomatoes are developing their first ‘true’ leaves which will provide them with an ability to photosynthesize. As many of you know, the first little leaves to appear are cotyledons or ‘seed leaves’. These are actually part of the seed and they provide a food source for the sprouting seedling.
During this time of year, we use the greenhouse for potting some of the plants that will go into the nursery this season, for sowing seeds that have been in winter storage, and for starting vegetable seedlings. It’s filling fast! Its a precarious time of year. The snow may fall, we are still walking planks that we’ve set down along the paths to the woodshed and the studio to keep from sinking into mud, and on some days all of the windows and doors in the greenhouse must be opened to keep it from getting too hot! April really does have a flavor of at least two seasons mixed into one month! We are so looking forward to our doors opening in the first of May… yet another nursery season! So many great plant selections, old and new. Some great classes scheduled (check here) and some in the works and waiting to be posted. A really fun and skilled based class on mending clothes is scheduled for April 22nd. A fine young textile artist will be on site to teach both traditional and sashiko mending methods. I’ll post this class in the upcoming week! Until then, enjoy this lovely (and somewhat unpredictable) April!

March Storm

Despite the latest snowstorm, we are setting up for our spring seed starting. The greenhouse will see some action in the next week or so. It’s always a delight to be working in the greenhouse as the weather goes from one season to the next. That big plastic heated space of green growth and soil smells…pure delight! Inside the house, a small area is created for starting the earliest of vegetable seedlings: tomatoes, leeks, peppers, onions, and assortments of annual and perennial flowers. This little growing area inside means rearranging some furniture, moving the couch away from the big windows that face due south, and installing a temporary growing bench. Seeds will be sown, they’ll germinate, get some growth on them, and then be transferred to the big greenhouse. Starting seeds indoors keeps us from firing up the big heater in the greenhouse this early in the year. But, by the end of March, we’ll run out of space in the front room and will need the expanse of the greenhouse benches. At that point, our house will go back to a comfortable living space! We do love having that earthy soil smell wafting through the rooms though!
Outside, it is far too soon to uncover the nursery beds. The snow will have to melt and the ground will have to thaw before we are ready for the task of uncovering. We are always excited about the upcoming season and to unveil all the plants we have propagated and over-wintered. Fun, fun!
So, right now we’re a bit between seasons. A little mud season, a little more winter. A warm spring-like day, then a real chill in the air. A chance to let the fires die down, then a roaring blaze to warm cold hands and cold feet. Back and forth we go here in the northeast, yes? Where do you hail from? Has spring really arrived in your neck of the woods or are you still waiting?

Choose Safe Seed

We can not stress enough the importance and value of choosing to buy seed from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. By doing so, you are supporting a company that cares about the integrity of seed diversity. You are also supporting the health and well being of the world’s food, its people, and its communities. There is an ample amount of information regarding the pitfalls of GMO seed and food made from GMO crops. Inform yourself, take a stand, and consider supporting those noble seed companies who are making the Safe Seed Pledge. Have fun scrolling down the list of seed companies who have taken this pledge. Check out what they have to offer, you may find just the variety of heirloom tomatoes you’ve been looking for or a new dry bean that you’ve never grown. And, if you read through the list and don’t see a seed company who you know has taken the Safe Seed Pledge, let us know…we’ll add them to the list!

THE SAFE SEED PLEDGE

“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”

Adaptive Seeds
All Good Things Organic (SW)
Amishland Seeds
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
The Ark Institute
Backyard Beans and Grains Project
Baker Creek Seed Co. (MW)
Beauty Beyond Belief (BBB Seeds)
Botanical Interests
Bountiful Gardens
Crispy Farms
Diane’s Flower Seeds (she has veggies now, too)
Family Farmer’s Seed Co-op
Farm Direct Seed (Hobb’s Family Farm)
Fedco Seed Co.
Garden City Seeds
Gourmet Seed
Grow Organic
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom Solutions
High Mowing Seeds
Horizon Herbs
Hudson Valley Seed Library
Humbleseeds
Growing Crazy Acres
Ed Hume Seeds
Irish-Eyes
Johnni’s Selected Seed
J.L Hudson
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Knapp’s Fresh Vegies
Kusa Seed Society
Lake Valley Seeds
Landreth Seeds
Larner Seeds
The Living Seed Company
Livingston Seeds
Local Harvest
Moonlight Micro Farm
Mountain Rose Herbs
My Patriot Supply
Native Seeds for the Arid Southwest
Natural Gardening Company
New Hope Seed Company
Nichol’s Garden Nursery
Organica Seed
Organic Sanctuary (SE)
Peace Seeds
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Prairie Road Garden
Renee’s Garden
Restoration Seeds
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Sage Thymes
Seed for Security
Seeds Of Change
Seeds Trust
Select Seeds
Siskiyou Seeds (NW)
Southern Exposure
Sow True (SE)
Sustainable Seed Co
Territorial Seed Company
Tiny Seeds
Tomato Fest
Trees of Antiquity
Turtle Tree Seed
Underwood Garden Seeds
Uprising Seeds
Victory Seeds
Vermont Wildflower Farm
White Harvest Seed
Wild Garden Seeds
Wildseed Farms
Wood Prairie Farm (NE)

Canadian Seed Companies:
Annapolis Valley Heritage Seed Company
Brother Nature
Cubit’s Organics
Full Circle Seeds
Greta’s Organic Garden
Heritage Harvest Seeds (ships to Canada only)
Hope Seeds
Incredible Seeds
Richters Herbs
Salt Spring Seeds
Seeds of Victoria
Seeds Of Change
Solana Seeds
Stellar Seeds
Terra Edibles
The Cottage Gardener

Europe:
Garden Organic (UK)
Seed Site (Italy)
The Real Seed CatUK)

High Summer

There is a brief window during the season when we experience a slight lull…in the gardens and in the nursery. It happens just after school lets out in late June and continues until the 4th of July weekend. We appreciate the small reprieve. The garden’s beds are planted, weeded, and looking great, the flow of customers is steady but not as busy as in May and June, there’s a calm before the ‘storm’ that the now ‘high summer’ brings. From here on in however, our pace picks up again. The nursery gets re-stocked with late season offerings and with plants that simply needed replacing from earlier sales. Now is the time we do most of our propagating for the next season, this involves collecting seed, taking cuttings, and dividing plants from the stock beds. The greenhouse is cloaked in shade cloth and a misting system gets set up ( in the greenhouse)to provide a constant and controlled amount of moisture. In the vegetable gardens, the bounty to be harvested and preserved is coming fast and furious….summer squash, cucumbers, kale, chard, greens, snow peas and shell peas, beets, and loads and loads of broccoli. Every meal is the essence of freshness, plates of homegrown chicken surrounded by steamed veggies and an extra large green salad. I begin to eye the squash patch with concern, a day of not picking could lead to one of those gigantic zucchinis or an overly bulbous yellow squash. Harvesting the squash patch becomes a secret competition between me and the cucurbits. I am determined to harvest each and everyone before I need the wheel barrow to haul them away. I’m determined to pick them when they’re small and incorporate them into meals before they roll to the back of the fridge and become wobbly. Right now I’m winning, we’re roasting squash, grilling squash, steaming squash, and using them in our favorite squash fritter recipe. So far so good. If you come for dinner more than once a week and think to yourself “squash, again?”, please don’t say it out-loud. I’m on a mission and only looking to feed ‘Team Squash’ while I’m at it. Be happy that your squash fritters include smoked Gouda and that your grilled squash wedges are peppered with a nice spicy dry rub. Eat and be happy.
It’s at this time we begin glancing forward to what’s ahead. Yes, we’ll still be harvesting and preserving well into September, our work at propagating will continue, mowing and weeding and moving sheep fence a constant until the leaves begin dropping, but there will also be firewood to bring in and hay to be gathered and stored, meat birds processed and sheep brought home. It’s not about not living in the moment or in the present (we always hope to manage this as well!), it’s about the cycle of the season and how our lives here are connected to the natural rhythms of time. We’re part of it and I like that. Well, it’s 6:30 a.m. and I must leave you now, my Patty Pan squash and Costata Romanesco zucchini have had well over 12 hours to gain inches and it’s time to rein them in!
And while out in the garden stalking the vegetable bounty….we sure are stopping to smell the flowers!

A Long Deep Furrow

Just a bit of farming being done here in our neck of the woods as we await spring and the melting of snow. Yes, we have begun sowing seeds and working out in the greenhouse, but it will be a while before the first patch of earth is turned over or we see real evidence of spring ephemerals pushing up through the ground. In the meantime, I am re-reading a favorite book of mine, A Long Deep Furrow, Three Centuries Of Farming In New England by Howard S Russell. It is an extraordinary and well-documented account of New England’s farming history, best described by Mark Lapping who wrote this in the forward:
A Long Deep Furrow will be of interest to readers and students of New England history and life, agriculture, environmental studies, and rural affairs and developments. I know of few books which so successfully integrate the elements of biogeography with socioeconomic and cultural patterns within the context of agriculture as a way of life and livelihood. Most of all, the book is a testament to the Yankees who farm the sides of mountains, take gambles on weather and markets like a pack of riverboat cardsharps, and who consistently fly in the face of the “conventional wisdom” which says there is no New England agriculture”.
Aside from this book being a fascinating look into the very beginnings of agriculture and farming in New England, it is especially endearing to me because the diary of my own ancestor, Thomas Minor, was used as a reference.
If you are looking for something to sink your gardening/farming minds into while we await spring and a new season of growth, consider A Long Deep Furrow , I think you’ll like it!

There is still snow on the ground (you think?). Our nights are still rather cold. Daytime temperatures are vacillating between giving into spring and keeping a determined hold on winter. Fickle.
I feel anxious during the month of March. On one hand, we are kept at bay from the chores we know are creeping upon us, the cold and snow make many advances impossible.Yet, still, we have to stay in step with time, moving forward regardless of weather variables. Peppers, leeks, onions, herbs, and eggplant need to be sown early in order to have a long growing season out in front of them. We stoke the wood fire, then run out to make sure the greenhouse is not getting too warm. We make another pot of soup using the stored winter squash but crave fresh greens. Long johns? No long johns? Pull the taps on the maple trees or leave them for another week or so? Like I said, this all makes me anxious. One foot is still firmly planted in winter and the other is stretching out looking for the warm, squishy ground of spring. I like my months to be well defined, and yet, I should know by now, the month of March doesn’t play very fair. March is fickle. March is indecisive. March is wishy washy. I have no choice but to muddle through. Today we worked again in the greenhouse potting up some Hepaticas, Shortia uniflora, and Erythronium japonicum. They had been putting on too much growth in their winter storage and so we decided to pot them up. There are others of these same plants, tucked undercover and still dormant, showing no signs of growth.They will remain until the snow is gone and we uncover the nursery rows for the season.
In the meantime, I will work through my restlessness and be grateful for all the good and wonderful things that make up our days….a little of this and a little of that among the tug of seasons.

March On!

picture-3943Have we had a few days of really, really cold temperatures lately? Brrr and yes, but the sun is high and strong and the very near future promises much warmer weather. Yeeha! So, we’ll march on through the month readying ourselves for what’s to come…..sowing seeds, turning over soil, boiling sap into maple syrup goodness.picture-4029I’m not going to squander a minute of March. Before long we’ll be doing that “sun up til sun down” thing we do every year. I’m using these last days of winter (yes, soon to be spring) to finish all the wool spinning and dyeing, all the knitting and felting, all the rummaging through boxes of family papers, all the reading (thank you Rick H. for the package of books you sent!!) I can muster before it’s too late. picture-4008This past weekend both Liberty Tool Company and Liberty Graphics opened their doors for another season. This is great for all those who travel to Maine looking for something special to bring home…like a smoothing plane, or a mortising chisel, or a really nice locally printed tee-shirt. For us locals, we wait all winter for the village to show signs of life again. After a winter of staying close to home, gathering at Liberty Graphics for a cup of coffee and a good chat is a sure sign of revitalization.
Even our chickens seem to have a pep in their step, grooming the landscape for spring morsels. Deep snow and cold temperatures keep them close to the coop until the bare ground starts appearing. Then the door is flung open and out they come, busy the rest of the day rototilling through the gardens and the woods.
Enjoy your days, peek out into the gardens, tip your face to the sun….spring’s a comin!picture-4032picture-3948

More Gathering

picture-3596More gathering of seeds happening here. What a selection. Each plant has a unique seed design….texture, shape, color, as well as specific propagation requirements. Such incredible diversity. Here are a few we collected most recently:picture-3597picture-3600

One Of The Most Important Things I’ll Ever Ask Of You On This Blog…….

Please find a way to watch this film, SEED The Untold Story. It will be shown here in Maine at the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville. Their week-long run begins on Friday, September 16th. (Showtimes to be announced.) Check out Railroad Square Theater for more info. If you live elsewhere, please visit this site: http://www.seedthemovie.com/ to find screenings in your area. You can watch a clip of the film by going here: https://vimeo.com/97882647
As 94% of our vegetable seed varieties have been lost, as seed diversity which is essential to the health and well-being of our planet becomes increasingly threatened, as we struggle to feed the growing numbers of humans and animals that reside on this planet, it is crucial that all people understand what is happening to our traditional seed sources. Look for cinemas or venues that will be showing this film….please. We will be in Waterville, Maine on Friday night watching and supporting this production. Please take the time to watch this film…. its message is so dearly important to all of us.

Fall Whirlwind

Tarragon....another Fall chore , drying herbs from the garden

Tarragon….another Fall chore , drying herbs from the garden

Once September rolls around, I have it in my mind that the chores, tasks, and the ‘goings on’ here at the nursery will calm a bit. Not so. It never does, and you’d think by now I would remember this. Fall is busy. We remain open through September and then by appointment in October. Customers continue to roll in, making end of the season selections for next year’s garden. We are collecting seeds and propagating, as well as dividing the plants that need it.The vegetable gardens are bursting. It has been a fantastic tomato year, we pick daily crates of tomatoes which are brought in for preserving. Today, I will start another succession of greens….lettuces, spinach, and tatsoi, for the hoop house. We’ll have meat birds to process later in the season, firewood is always on the list, and the small WWOOF cabin we built needs some finishing touches. For help these days, we have Molly, a senior student from College Of The Atlantic (here in Maine) doing a 3-month internship with us. Molly grew up here in our neck of the woods and has spent most of her life lobstering with her Dad….she is not at all unfamiliar with hard work. I think, however, she’s glad to be free of filling bait bags for a while.
This past weekend I was in Eastport for the Salmon Festival as a fiber vendor. This coming weekend is Fiber College in Searsport Maine. My friend Sally will be there teaching a class in paper mache elves and I’ll be assisting her in the class. Fall is certainly busy…always a little melancholy for me as the days go by. What feelings does the Fall bring to you? Are you ready for the end of summer?