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!


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!

The Great Harvest

Picture 3528Now is when the vegetable harvest floods the kitchen. Buckets, baskets, and wooden crates filled to the brim with tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and more. Let’s not even mention the cucumbers. Or the squash…. you know how that goes. We’ve been trying to harvest all the squash before it grows to its potential baseball bat length. This can happen overnight, as you know. ‘Sunburst’ patty pan squash grow like berries on a bush, you pick them one day and the next there are just as many. Our favorite way to prepare these cute little Cucurbita are to first throw them into a pot of boiling water, cook until just tender, then take them out to drain and dry off a bit. Then scoop out a small hole on the top side of the squash, discard seeds if you want to, and fill the hole with something yummy….like a bit of the roasted tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, and eggplant that’s been in the oven all morning. Top this with a little goat cheese ( we like Appleton Creamery’s ‘Chipotle lime’) and put under the broiler for a minute. A great little presentation, I must say.
Hope everyone’s gardens are doing well despite the lack of water ( here in the North East). Happy harvest to all!Picture 3533

Because we are hauling in baskets of these……Picture 1648
And cooking up gallons of this…….Picture 1647
We thought it may be helpful to go back and repost an old entry on how we do it……. ( click the highlighted ‘old entry’ to go back to that very post. Hope your tomatoes are ripening!

Summer Colors

Picture 1551Picture 1570Picture 1557The gardens that are in full sun are a riot of color at this time of year. They are planted with a mix of well established perennials and some yearly annuals. In their robust nature, they all seem to be competing for center stage.Picture 1556Picture 1564Picture 1540 Such a contrast to the more elegant and graceful nature of the shade beds. The plants in the shade often being much more subdued than the sun area, but no less striking or appreciated. Truth be told, we appreciate the shade gardens more than ever during these hot sultry days. They seem to invoke a feeling of calmness and serenity, where as the sun gardens can bring forth a feeling of…..well, chaos. Nice chaos, that is. We do work in the shadier display beds more often during these hot spells, certain that the temperature is a few degrees cooler under the canopy of trees. It is much more pleasant in the shade and we will get more done in the long run. That heat can zap our energy long before a day is over, and we can’t have that now, can we? Many of the sun loving plants, along with the overflowing vegetable gardens, are loudly expressing themselves. They are closer to the house and are what we look out at from the big front windows. They are big and bold, and of course we appreciate them as well. Everyday a bouquet comes in….sweet peas, cosmos, phlox, echinacea, poppies, monarda, to name a few. I am grateful for these lovely arrangements gathered from just outside our doorstep. How lucky to be surrounded by flowers, poetry expressed in the language of flowers.Picture 1613Picture 1568Picture 1538Picture 1578
Back in the house, before the temperatures soar, I scramble around preserving the vegetables brought in the night before. Today;
more pesto
blanch and freeze more broccoli
blanch and freeze more beans
roast tomatoes, eggplant, and garlic( all together), then can
feed the sourdough
make pizza crust, having vegetable toppings ready for tonight’s dinner ( we’ll cook this on the grill)
do something with a bucket of potatoes
make some coleslaw
make a broccoli quiche ( to use up some of that broccoli and the non stop flow of eggs coming into the house
pick squash…again, and again, and again.Picture 1605

That should keep me busy until the kitchen is too hot to work in. Oh, and I think we just may be in the hay field this afternoon. The 2nd cut hay is mowed and ready. I love being in the hay field, even when the heat bears down on you and the chafe from the hay sticks to your sweaty arms and neck. A jump in the lake is never any better than after a day of throwing bales. Divine! The satisfaction of having the animals fodder secured for the winter always feels good. People often ask us what we do during the long cold winters here in Maine…… we rest, with a sigh of relief!


A few days ago I was working in the kitchen, blanching heads and heads of broccoli. Rick came through the door and asked me to come outside. A dear customer ( that would be you, Alice!) had something for me, something she made. Alice reads the blog and loved the story of our raven friends that visit the sheep in late February or March. You can visit this post to read about the ravens and the sheep. Alice is a very accomplished and creative rug hooker. This is the delightful gift she brought to me…..oh my! A hand hooked rug depicting the story between sheep and ravens. I was stunned! Well, this rug sampler has become a prized piece of work in our home. It will sit on the table so that we can enjoy it over and over again. It will remind us of Alice’s generosity and talent, and her thoughts to capture our raven /sheep story in wool. How appropriate. Thank you, Alice….the little rug is precious and a delight, truly!Picture 1373
It is a bit true that a part of my everyday is spent indoors processing the vegetables that come in. Tomatoes are beginning to pour in along with the broccoli, green beans, and peas. Oh yes, no shortage of squash either. Zucchini, anyone? The show stopping meal this week was this tomato pie. It’s a favorite here in the house, one that Noah would order on a weekly basis. If your tomatoes are ripe and you want to make something really special, try this tomato cheddar pie. Ooh la la! Picture 1371

Seeds For The Season

IMG_0027We’ve just finished with our seed orders for the upcoming season. Folks often ask us which seed companies we buy seed from. As many of you know, the nursery end of our plant production is done on site. We propagate most of the woodland, native, and shade perennials ourselves. As you may remember from past posts,( 2nd seed post) seed collection is one form of propagation we use here. The seeds that we order from the companies I’ll be mentioning, are for the several large vegetable gardens we grow. We garden organically and feel very committed to purchasing seeds from companies that offer organic seed, open pollinated varieties, as well as a selection of heirloom varieties. Most importantly we want to support seed companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. As signers, companies pledge that they do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. As the seed industry is becoming dominated by large multinational corporations, sourcing safe seed from ethical and ecologically minded companies can be challenging. But good seed companies still exist, they are out there, and supporting them is important ( crucial, really) to the safety and health of all us, the environment, and the future of our food. Without listing the names of the ” multi -national giants” who are permeating the seed industry, we encourage gardeners and growers to do some research on the negative effects caused by GMO’s and treated seed. For example, neonicotinoids, an insecticide used by many of the large seed companies to coat their seeds, is absorbed into all parts of the plant, including the flowers. Residues build up in both pollen and nectar, and are extremely toxic to our bee population ( as well as all other pollinators), causing both paralysis and death. Who you buy your seed from is an important matter.IMG_0028
With all that said, here are the seed catalogs we primarily order from : Fedco Seed Company,, P.O, Box 520 Waterville, Maine, 04903 , ( 207) 426-0090
Johnny’s Selected Seeds,, 955 Benton Ave. Winslow, Maine 04901 , (877) 564-6697
Seeds of Change,, P.O. Box 152 Spicer, MN. 56288 , (888) 762-7333
High Mowing Seeds,, 76 Quarry Rd. Wolcott, Vermont 05680, (802) 472-6174
Territorial Seed Company,, P.O.Box 158 Cottage Grove, OR 97424, (800) 626-0866
Turtle Tree Seed,, 10 White Birch Rd. Copake,NY 12516, (518)329-3037
We buy the bulk of our seed order from Fedco and Johnny’s. Our favorite tomato variety, Martha Washington, is offered at Johnny’s. In addition to Fedco’s huge vegetable, tree, and cover crop offerings, I always buy my dye garden seeds from them and most everything else. They’re local and both great companies. We like Seeds of Change, Territorial, and High Mowing, and often find a few specific varieties that one or the other does not offer. My seed order with Seeds Of Change this year: Corno Di Toro pepper, Hutterite bean, Emerald Oak Lettuce, Tokyo Market Turnip, and Leonardo Radicchio. A small order, but very specific. I love to support Turtle Tree Seed company from upstate New York. They are a small bio-dynamic, open pollinated seed company that is doing great work to ensure the future of our seeds. Two things I will order from them ( for sure) is Phacellia, an annual that is native to California and Arizona, a great pollinator and used as a soil builder in Europe. The other is Silphium perfoliatum, also called Cup Plant, a native perennial from the mid west to the east coast, north into Canada. It grows 4-8 feet tall, with sprays of yellow flowers from July through September. It is also important to birds, butterflies, and bees.
There is so much conversation to be had regarding the future of our seed security. It is really worth reading up on and researching. It is truly worth the effort in knowing where your seed and plants come from. It can and does impact so much. Well, happy gardening…….not quite yet, we have to get through a few more snowstorms first! IMG_0033

BFL Skeins Still Available

DSC04995DSC05001There are still plenty of hand dyed Blue Face Leicester skeins of yarn available. Visit the nursery while we’re still open ( the end of September and then by chance or appointment thru October) if you’d like some soft and lustrous wool to knit with. You can also contact us, if you are coming just to purchase yarn. I have been knitting almost daily and so glad to be back at it. Outdoor work continues. We love being in the nursery at this time of year. Of course some of the native plants are going dormant, or have already, but the cool autumn days are a delight to work in, and we enjoy tending to the plants that remain. The hostas still look great, and many late blooming natives continue to put on a show. The vegetable gardens are getting a dose of sheep manure and compost, the beds turned over for next year. But, in the hoop house, things are just at their early beginnings……a new crop of spinach is coming along, mixed greens and lettuces are close to the picking stage, and another bunch of radish are close to being harvested. At the other end of the hoop house, there are still a few tomatoe plants producing and peppers that are waiting to turn red. Still, more food! In the evenings, after the chores for the day are complete, knitting and some spinning become my ‘after hours’ activity.DSC05019


Picture 069After freezing and canning all the peaches we are going to need this winter, a fresh pie was certainly in order. These peaches came from my friends tree. There has hardly been a year when that tree has not produced baskets full of peaches. I’m not sure of the variety, and Sue doesn’t seem to recall the name from when she planted it. No difference, it’s a honey of a peach tree. One of the great things about living amongst neighbors who share in the commitment and practice of self-sufficiency, is that lots of food gets bartered between farms and households. Sue had lots of extra peaches, I have an abundance of beans and tomatoes. Something got after her greenbeans early on, and blight has done a number on the remainder of her tomatoes. No problem. That’s why living with many diversified farms nearby can help you out of a tough spot. I am at the end of tomato canning and can’t squeeze even one more package of frozen beans into the freezer. Dilly beans already take up substantial room on the pantry shelves. So, peaches for beans and as many tomatoes as you can carry? Sweet deal! This kind of bartering is almost always in motion here in our community. Especially during the growing season. Why not feed yourselves and some neighbors along with it? Tonight, we feast on fresh peach pie and some homemade vanille ice cream. Thanks to my neighbor! Picture 071

This Time Of Year……..

Anemone vitifolia 'Robustissima'

Anemone vitifolia ‘Robustissima’

Fall is approaching, and we begin to see some of the foliage around us taking on their autumn hues. Along with the harvesting of ripe seeds from the display beds for propagating, and continuing to gather ripe fruits from the vegetable garden for processing, we are also beginning to put some of the beds( vegetable) to rest. The ornamental display beds are still glorious in growth and many fall blooming plants are just coming into their own.
Clethra alnifolia 'Compacta'

Clethra alnifolia ‘Compacta’

Picture 038The Clethra (Clethra alnfolia ‘compacta’) is blooming profusely and the sweet scent of its blooms are a delight in the garden right now. Anemone vitifolia , Kirengeshoma koreana, Kirengeshoma palmata, and Lycoris squamigera are all in full bloom. Cardnial flower ( Lobelia cardinalis ), gentian ( Gentiana asclepiadea), and the Helianthus( Helianthus divaricatus) are bringing great color to the landscape. Our native turtleheads ( Chelone), with both pink and white blooms, are just beginning to open.
Lobelia cardinalis 'Black truffles'

Lobelia cardinalis ‘Black truffles’

Gentiana asclepiadea

Gentiana asclepiadea

Gentiana asclepiadea

Gentiana asclepiadea

Helianthus divaricatus

Helianthus divaricatus

The fall gardens bring a new surprise each day, and many visitors to the nursery are using this time to add unique and special plants to their landscape. The ornamentals continue to do their thing as we begin to tend to the chores of the fall vegetable garden. Aside from the asparagus and herbs, the spent annual plants are pulled out, the soil turned over, and an amendment of compost or manure is applied. In some beds a green manure, like winter rye or buckwheat may be sown, and this will be turned under in the spring. Green manures are a great way to replenish the soil with some of the nutrients it may need. We are still collecting lots of food from these gardens, and will continue to do so through the fall, though some areas are ready for cleaning up. Two rows of green beans have pretty much exhausted themselves, several areas where lettuce and various greens are growing can be turned over, and the garlic beds are empty. The hoop house will soon be rid of its summer residents ( peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes)and replanted with a fall crop of kale, broccoli, and greens. I have to admit, this little bit of clean up helps to bring some order to the lush jungle appearance of the gardens. These tasks of both seasons, summer’s end and the fast approaching fall, merge together right about now. Yes, tomatoes are still being picked and canned, the lawn needs mowing, seed is still being harvested and sown, but the firewood is also being cut and stacked and we have our sights on cooler weather and what it entails. Tomorrow, I will begin bushogging the lower pastures at the farm , moving the ewes once again, and adding an anxious ram to the mix. All fall related tasks. For a while, we will feel like we’re living between seasons. Perhaps this overlap brings a flurry of work……ending some tasks and starting new, but I love that we so intimately witness and partake in the seasons transitions. We are a part of this change, we have our hand in it. It will happen regardless, but our lives which are so connected to the natural world, keep us rooted in observation and paticipation. Here are a few more photos of the fall bloomers we are enjoying at the moment:
Lycoris squamigera

Lycoris squamigera

Picture 024
Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma koreana

Kirengeshoma koreana

Making Shade

A few tomatoes brought in from the jungle

A few tomatoes brought in from the jungle

As summer moves into one of its hottest months, plantng the next succession of greens, spinach , and brassicas, can be challenging. We begin new seedlings in the big greenhouse which is covered with shade cloth. The shade cloth keeps the temperature down considerably and allows us to sow seed collected from the nursery. We also start sowing seeds for late season vegetables. Brassicas, spinach, and greens are not lovers of high temperatures ( the peppers and eggplant, on the other hand, are loving it). As we begin to replant some beds with these fall crops, we also create some micro- environments of shade to keep these plants happy. Our very excellent wwoofer, Jaime, built this over one of our raised beds.Picture 1123 Despite constant weeding and keeping the paths mulched, the garden takes on the appearance of a jungle. The tomatoes stretch themselves into neighboring beds, the squash meander throughout, and the bean plants become so lush that the beans hide discreetly within. A bounty in the form of chaos. The ornamental gardens don’t become so wild. They are managed and kept a bit more refined. I’m sure they’re looking over at the vegetable gardens and saying ” for goodness sakes, tidy yourselves up a bit, won’t you”. It’s all fine and we are appreciating all the fresh bounty that is making its way into the house. Last night……fresh greenbeans, broccoli and tomato quiche, salad, and blueberry pie. We will not complain about the nature of that unruly vegetable garden, it’s doing its job just fine. We are also busy clearing a spot for a small studio building. Yes, cutting wood and hauling brush when it’s 86 degrees out. At least it’s in a wooded area and perhaps a degree or two cooler. Picture 1151While moving pots in the stock area, I found a ( another) pair of Rick’s reading glasses. The glass was not broken but they could use a little dusting off. Goodness.Picture 1154 We continue to restock the nursery with new plants. Many new varieties of hosta that have been waiting on the sidelines to be divided and put out. I like this time of year when we begin pulling things from the stock area and giving them a place in the nursery rows. It’s like starting all over again and keeps the sales area chock full.
Our July hypertufa class is this Saturday and we are looking forward to another group coming. Liza Gardner Walsh will be coming August 1st from 10:00 to 12:00 for an adult fairy garden class and talk. We’ll be hearing about the history and lore of fairy gardens and then building some small fairy garden accessories…..tiny trellises, gates, and tables, etc. Come join us if you would like, there are still some spots open. Check out our class page to do so and for more information. Happy mid summer gardening to everyone and we hope your season is going well!