Instead of doing my favorite part of running a CSA while the gardens are a mud bog, I am putting my attention into The Country Gardens Test Kitchen. One of us attempts to test each recipe that will end up on the boxes during the season (there are a few thrown in that we don’t get to before the print deadline).
To be honest, I am not a chef. I used to trade my brother his outdoor chores for my kitchen chores when I was growing up! There a couple issues with running a test kitchen when you are a gardener rather than a chef.
First, I am a free spirit kind of cook. I find myself making substitutions, adding things, skipping steps, combining two recipes… So I make something tasty that works out and I couldn’t tell you how I actually made it! When you pick up your box and read your recipes this summer…remember that the “bones” of the recipe are good but feel free to create your own special recipe.
Second, my kids aren’t the best taste testers. My husband will try just about anything…once. It makes for a challenging meal time and when you try to cram 10+ new recipes into a two week span, mutiny is considered. It is also hard to smile and encourage your kids to try something that you would like to feed to the chickens instead of eat for yourself. Last season, I made a soup and bread combination for lunch that none of us wanted to eat. I find recipes that include bacon are the best crowd pleasers!
Third, I am even less used to buying produce at the store than you are! I get at least an additional month (actually longer) of fresh vegetables out of my garden then a CSA member! Even during the winter, I am using canned, frozen and dried produce from the past season. To actually buy a bundle of beets or a bunch of kale seems CRAZY! I also know that many of the items that I need to buy are out of season and will not be as delicious as they could be. I may be a little bit of a produce snob…
One of our hopes is that we can introduce you to new vegetables and help you find ways that you like to eat them. We know it isn’t always popular but we try to incorporate some of the lesser known vegetables into your basket a couple times during the season. This allows you to try a couple different recipes and maybe hit on the one that you like. We also try to help give you new ideas for the common vegetables that show up regularly in your basket.
Here is the list of “must find a recipe for” vegetables: kohlrabi, garlic scapes, kale, beets, fennel, eggplant, tomatillo, pak choi, summer squash, cucumbers, turnips, swiss chard, leeks, fingerling potatoes, winter squash and parsnips. I have six that have made the final list…only a dozen left to go.
Remember, our website has a recipe box full of past season’s recipes and I attempt at adding recipes and ideas to our Pinterest page on a regular basis. Bookmark and follow us so that you can make the most out of your basket.
Have a great recipe that you found last year, an old favorite or a new one you want someone else to try first? Share it with me. I will run it through the TCG Test Kitchen and give it our rating.
Off to the stove…tonight’s menu: Roast Chicken with Rosemary Roasted Beets and Sautéed Brussel Sprouts. I love it when the menu sounds fancy but the prep is easy!
Starting seedlings is a great activity for young children. It is can be inexpensive (critical when you have a plant habit like the two of us). It brings spring to your home just a little sooner than the Idaho climate does. If you shop seed catalogs, it brings more diversity to your garden than you can find in local greenhouses. It expands the growing season in Idaho and allows you to eat fresh sooner.
Honestly though, starting seedlings can be discouraging when you don’t have a flat full of nursery quality plants and instead have wilty, spindly, pale yellow strings that are struggling for life. It happens to us too, especially when we attempt new kinds of seedlings we are not familiar with. There are tons of blogs out there on how to properly start seedlings…here are just some of our tips that have made us more successful, especially in Idaho and our busy lives.
1. Designate a safe area. More seedlings have succumbed to toy tractors driving through their soil, helpful little fingers “weeding” out the ones they didn’t like, curious minds looking at the roots, balls bouncing through the area… My kids get their own flats and seeds to plant. The youngest kid gets peas or beans that are easy to handle and oldest his choice of favorite vegetables. Remember that brightly colored seeds (pink, blue, orange, red) have chemical on them to prevent disease – your children should NEVER handle these seeds!
2. Let them have light. My biggest challenge has always been finding high quality light conditions in my home. I should have bought the $10 grow lights years ago! You can see right away if your plants are looking for light as they start to bend and get spindly just a few days out of the soil. Rotating their direction can help minimize the effects but a light-lacking plant will always be spindly and not have the strong main stem of a happy light-filled plant. Spindly plants are also harder to harden off and transplant to the garden. Some starts, like tomatoes, can be planted differently in the garden to overcome this growth but others cannot.
3. Not all potting mix is created equal. We prefer a mix specifically designed for starting seeds. They are typically a finer texture and help us get good soil to seed contact. A good soil mix will have enough nutrients to maintain almost any seedlings growth until it is ready for transplant unless you are delayed in getting larger starts out of their pots or you are over-watering.
4. Think outside the pot. Don’t get locked into the traditional image of what a seedling in a pot looks like. Check out these sites for ways to use items around your house as pots. Some of my favorites that I have used (and still do) are solo cups, old egg cartons, apple cartons from Costco and Rubbermaid bins.
5. Hold the flood. We are bogged down in mud and standing water right now and hating it. The plants do too! It is so tempting to encourage plant growth by giving them more water. Sometimes the answer is to just let them grow. Depending on the pots you have chosen to grow your seedlings in, water encourages mold and fungal growth or just drowns the seedlings. Seeing fuzzies on the top of your soil, time to back off on the water and let them dry off. Depending on how much humidity is in your growing area, a fan may be useful in drying off foliage and also is a great start for preparing your babies for the Idaho wind.
6. Prepare them for Idaho. Idaho springs are a tough environment to handle seedlings. Winds, frosts all the way into the end of May, hot days at the beginning of May…you need to be prepared for everything. I lost all of my seedlings one year when I set them outside and forgot about them while I was cleaning house, a wind came up and they were crispy before I could rescue them. Hardening plants take patience and a good location to slowly expose them to the elements over time. Always start this on a day when you will be home and check them often!
We hope you are getting your veggies from us this year BUT we also want you to enjoy a garden at your house as well. Start some flowers for containers. Make sure you always have your favorite herb on the kitchen counter. Grow some flowers for cutting.
What else is on the list this time of year? I am starting to clean out the shed from the fall and winter accumulation of “stuff” that didn’t get put away. I am hoping to do a re-arrange to make the pickup location more open and welcoming. There are handles to replace on shovels, harvest knives to sharpen, compost to spread, the hoop house to setup for March plantings and a new section of garden to break in. We really are expanding! It will be great to get back outside as soon as the mud becomes bearable to work in!
Some days our corporate past shows through our farm roots. We set agendas for meetings, make action items and schedule sessions for reviewing our performance. Yes, we do our own year-end reviews! While some of you are laughing right now (yes, I know my husband is one of them!), Bonnie and I are of like mind – something that helps us through the challenges and aligns our dreams.
In a real year-end review, you turn your self-rated performance in to your boss. Bonnie and I are going to turn our self-performance reviews in through the blog. The plan is a series of 4 blogs: the top failures/losses from each of us and the top wins from each of us. Let’s get started and see how we line up!
I am starting with the top losses for 2016 so I can end on the high note of our top wins. Always leave the boss with a positive last impression, right? In no particular order…
Local Basket Additions: This year we included Kaufman’s Barley Soup, Russet Burbank potatoes, Kelley’s Orchard peaches and Ballard’s cheese curds. That isn’t a very long list! It is not our goal to include a product from another producer every week BUT it is one of our goals to show the diversity of local, delicious food products that are available in our beautiful valley. We also are aware that some of our neighbors grow better products than us! We missed out on melons this year because our baskets were full of our own produce. They would have been better baskets if we would have supported our neighbors and included a tasty watermelon or cantaloupe.
Action Item: Make a list of products and include them regardless of the items available from our own gardens!
Cole Crops: These are the brocollis, cauliflowers, cabbages… You know the family – it is a loved or hated one. Some of you were happy to see very few of these in 2016. I was disappointed.
We took our cabbage for granted. We did this with carrots last year. You plant it and it grows, right? Not this year. We fought bugs, they split, they quit growing, you name it and it happened to our cabbage. We had 8 different kinds of cabbage for you this year and most of you got 2 kinds. There were conical, red, traditional, Asian, late, early and mid-season – all failures.
We are slow learners about some things, one of these is broccoli and cauliflower. We figured out bug control. We can’t find the variety. We have struggled to find a broccoli that gives a consistent head so we can do an easy harvest. We had some beautiful big heads of cauliflower that we tasted one morning and spent the next 30 minutes spitting trying to get the bitter taste out of our mouths. There was also a lot of seed that failed to germinate at both locations. Research tells us it is a combination of planting timing, variety and nutrient management.
Action Items: Eliminate a couple cabbage varieties. Try again! Don’t take anything for granted.
Bugs: They are everywhere! It is completely normal to have a whole host of these little guys in the garden…some pests others just bugs. We use Bt (an organic pesticide) to control caterpillars in all of the cole crops and it works great. But we also struggled this year with some other big issues. Earwigs ate our cabbage leaves into lace. Aphids took over whole sections of the garden. Squash bugs attacked in Jerome. A mysterious bug (flea beetle in Jerome? ??? in Hazelton) ate a couple weeks of succession plantings in late summer. Some of these issues I was late in taking seriously in my garden. I failed at my scouting and lost a couple crops because I wasn’t paying attention.
Action Item: Pay attention! Release lady bugs early. Research pest control options.*
*This is a tough one. I know how to control these little bugs! Pesticides are easily available to control almost every issue we had this year. Finding the best option so we don’t need to use pesticides is the challenge. Our kids play in the garden and eat the veggies right off the plants. Bonnie controlled her aphids by getting rid of some of their environment and her plants rebounded. I think I created my own issues with how I rotated succession plantings.
Nutrient Management: We push our garden plots to produce more than almost any other gardener. Half of my garden area grew 2 crops this year! Beans followed peas. Pak choi followed beets. Beets followed kohlrabi. Lettuce followed spinach. Spinach followed cilantro. It goes on and on. We plant zucchini and cucumbers in April and expect them to produce full crops for 18 weeks. It is a lot to ask from a plant and the soil. Maintaining properly balance soils is crucial to vigorous veggies.Watching Bonnie’s garden last year, I know that she has super rich soil because of the history of the land. It also means she gets monster weeds! I could see the difference in growth patterns between the locations. My soil needs built up to maintain and improve its health. So, I changed up my management and top-dressed some of my heavy feeding crops in the spring with really good results. Peppers and tomatoes were planted with a scoop of compost. The little boost got them growing until their roots could more fully explore the soil profile for nutrients. Win! This wasn’t successful in late season plantings. Loss! Parts of the garden just felt tired.
Action Item: I need a more comprehensive plan for building soil health in Hazelton. Compost this fall. Plan for spring and summer nutrients.
Communication / Blog: Do you regularly visit our website? Is there anything new and interesting on the website to give you a reason to visit? Nope. Did you have questions during the year that didn't get answered? Bonnie and I both prefer chatting with each of you as you pick up your baskets rather than sitting down to write a blog or update the website. But, we sometimes forget to share all of the information with each of you while we are gathering vegetables, making sure the kids aren’t smooshing tomatoes and answering your questions. Some of you are getting extra tips and recipe suggestions, some more information about how our gardens are doing, and some more details about our little ones.
Did you know we have a website, Facebook page and Pinterest site? Not everyone is into the technology but these are great ways to allow everyone access to more recipes and garden updates. It also lets us have a presence in front of a greater audience that will expand our business. We hope to someday grow our little business into a medium size business. The kind compliments that you have shared with your friends are our greatest marketing tool but we also need a place to allow interested customers easy access to our business.
Action Item: Figure out a way to make communication a habit instead of an afterthought.
I will forever think of the word “challenge” differently. My favorite boss used it whenever there was an issue in my job that I needed to address. “Your challenge is to deal with…” I have to admit that I used the same phrase later when I was managing employees! So, looking at our list of opportunities for improvement I see an easy fix, a couple big challenges and a few challenges that will take many more seasons to perfect. In the corporate world, we would now have meetings to check the progress on our challenges. Lucky for me, the meetings are now in the coffee shop with a friend!
Both of us tend to avoid the squash patches of our gardens from June to September. As long as the area looks healthy and green, we just hope that there are lots of squash developing under all the foliage. So, Thursday after harvest was finished, I went squash diving. I grabbed my phone and waded in to check out our situation. I came out with a twisted ankle and a set of pictures that I have been trying to match up with what we planted this spring.
When we looked at our business goals while we were picking seed this spring, we decided that we would only grow plants that were edible. We aren’t a pumpkin patch! Since I was charged with the squash seed, I took the challenge to find varieties that were edible but beautiful ornamentals. Who doesn’t love a pile of multi-colored pumpkins to celebrate harvest? That does mean that in my pictures are our old stand-by’s – butternut, spaghetti and acorn. But it also means that I have some questions – Winter Sweet, Jarrahdale, Carnival, Winter Luxury…??? We planted 14 different kinds of squash and pumpkins! What were we thinking?
There are some on the list that obviously didn’t do well under my care this summer. Some are small, too immature or just didn’t make squash. We may find them hidden in Bonnie’s garden when we venture out squash diving there. These aren’t failures, just an added bit of information in our garden notebooks about what seed to pick next year. In our opinion – you can’t plant the same garden every year but have to add in something new or interesting just for the challenge.
Here are some pics and list of what may be coming to your basket. I don’t know if it will be come with a sigh of relief or disappointment but, you will not receive a dozen more squash in the last couple weeks of the CSA! Everyone should get a spaghetti, a butternut, a baking pumpkin for pies or breads and one of the decorative squash (but edible!).
Shamrock – Like the name implies, these squash ripen to a light green color and are shaped like a three leaf clover. They look amazing and will be one of the first to adorn my front step in October. Protect it from frost on your step and then enjoy it during November or December.
Then there are a couple mystery pumpkins. I have a guess but wouldn't put money on which is in the pictures and which isn't!
Jarrahdale – When you are looking at pumpkins in the seed catalog, you HAVE to pick a blue one and a white one. This is a large blue pumpkin that is excellent for baking when you are done admiring it.
Valenciano – And here is the white pumpkin. I found one that is has the dual purpose of becoming your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
Winter Luxury – An orange pumpkin with white webbing. Not that special to look at but will be delicious in your fall pie baking.
Kakai – Roasted pumpkin seeds? This is your pumpkin to make easy cleaning and prep work so the delicious snack is a snap.
I am almost positive that some of these varieties aren’t going to mature by the last basket. Looking for one in particular? Let us know and we can hook up in October!
I just returned from a blissful week in Kauai! The beaches were beautiful but the plant life was amazing! Coffee plantations, cocoa plantations, tropical orchards, reclaimed cane fields and lush state parks - so many things to see. I even found my perfect golf course - a mini golf course that wound through a tropical botanical garden!
On this tiny paradise, you can go to a different farmer's market every day of the week! And it wasn't just pineapple, papaya and coconuts...fresh greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets could all be found. Restaurants proudly listed the farmers that produced their food on their menus. What an amazing farming and food culture.
On Monday, I bravely took the boys into Twin to refill our refrigerator at the grocery store. While I have access to wonderful food from these stores, it just isn't the same as shopping in a farmer's market. This time of year I long to be able to walk out into a garden and pick fresh produce that hasn't been stored or shipped hundreds of miles. We are blessed to live in beautiful Idaho, but it does have some challenges for year-round gardening. My solution is preserving the harvest. This week I have pulled canned beans, pickled beets, frozen corn, applesauce, salsa and canned tomatoes from the pantry to put nutritious meals on the table. While it isn't "fresh", I know exactly what ingredients went into each jar and that each vegetable was picked at its peak.
Ask us about canning shares and what vegetables we recommend that can get you started. Canning can be intimidating at first glance with all of the warnings of food borne illness. I grew up canning with my mom and had a pretty good handle on the basics. But, I still took a class! My good friend, Grace, teaches food preservation classes through the University of Idaho that gives you all of the details as well as a hands-on experience. Her next class is in May....
There are countless blogs on the internet written by farmers and farmer’s wives about why or why not they are organic. Here is OUR blog on the topic.
In my limited experience over the last year, the organic question is asked even more often when you are marketing fresh locally grown produce versus growing agricultural commodities in the Magic Valley. We are asked often “Are you organic?” or sometimes it is assumed “It is so great that there are organic producers leading the way in our area!” Either way, it opens a conversation that I am more than willing to have.
No. We are not certified organic. The answer could be as simple as we are organic producers we simply don’t complete the documentation and go through the inspections to get the stamp for our produce. It is not that simple.
My response brings on one of two responses: 1) “Good for you!” or 2) “Oh, well I really feel that organic produce is better.” These responses bring a variety of thoughts to mind. The first – “Have you personally been hurt by an organic producer?” “Why the excitement to assume the last few decades of agriculture should be the status quo?” The second – “Nutritionally?” “Environmentally?” “Because of the news?” Either way, I think “Why the bias?”
Let’s talk The Country Gardens philosophy. To us, it boils down to a couple issues: The Chemicals, Our Natural Resources and GMO’s.
1. The Chemicals
It is a complicated issue that can’t be simplified as good guy vs bad guy, organic pesticide vs synthetic pesticide. A pesticide, organic or synthetic, by definition is meant to kill or disrupt an organism’s lifecycle – they are all bad guys! That doesn’t mean that pesticides don’t have a purpose in agricultural production.
Don’t make your decision to buy organic because they don’t use pesticides. Organic pesticides can be and are used in organic production. Organic pest control is an industry by itself and the major chemical companies are bigger players than you would think. Don’t also assume that organic pesticides are safe: nature holds the power to poison, mutate and kill. On the flip side, don’t assume that synthetic pesticides are safe or unsafe.
OUR PHILOSOPHY ON PESTICIDES: Using any pesticide limits our ability to safely work and let our children play in the gardens. However there are instances when, even with other preventative measures, pests exceed limits and we risk losing current and future crops. In these cases, we do use the best pesticide based on current scientific knowledge to control issues in our gardens. While we do look at organic pesticides, we are not philosophically opposed to using a synthetic pesticide if it is the best tool for a specific circumstance.
All pesticide applications (organic or synthetic) will always be disclosed to our members. This is one of the many benefits of being a CSA member – you know the production practices that are used to grow your food!
2. Our Natural Resources
I haven’t met a single farmer with the goal of destroying the environment and putting themselves out of a job! I can only think of a few other professions that work day in and day out with the land. Most farmers have invested decades of their lives in a single piece of land (big or small). Their land is their most expensive and greatest asset.
Each individual grower’s production practices are a result of so many factors: available equipment, government program enrollment, personal philosophies, market availability, previous owner’s decisions, labor issues, crop contracts, financial considerations…
The number of combinations is limitless in how you manage a piece of land. The pros and cons are also limitless. Each management decision has an effect on future decisions – some seen in the same growing season or some a decade or more down the road. It is impossible to discuss these in such a brief forum and I am by no means an expert that will pretend to understand the repercussions of each decision.
OUR PHILOSOPHY ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Our gardens allow us to build a business doing something we love. Our management of these resources will affect how successful we are today and in the future. We truly believe that nutritional quality of produce is not a direct factor of organic vs non-organic production but is a reflection of soil nutrition and health. Tillage can have some negative impacts on the soil but is necessary for other crops. Cover crops are great ways to build soil but can increase weed issues in the garden. Compost can build the structure and fertility of our soils but can also be slow to provide benefits. Fertilizers can be a seasonal solution that increases plant vigor and prevents damage caused by diseases and pests.
Management of natural resources is a balancing act and it is also an active pursuit. We have interrupted nature’s balance to produce food for our family and yours. We will forever be involved in amending, controlling and balancing while we are in production on this small patch of land. Another benefit of being a CSA member – come and see exactly what is happening around your vegetables as they grow. Enjoy the sunshine and pull a few weeds while you are here!
You are talking to 2 women who have worked in public and private plant breeding programs. We have been involved in the research and even planted and harvested GMO crops! It isn’t all science fiction and frankenplants. Are they good, bad or necessary? I think it depends on each individual situation.
I have sat in a boardroom with some of the best minds in agriculture and discussed the challenges we anticipate agriculture encountering in 10, 20 and 50 years. Reality is that GMO’s are not all about chemical resistant plants (Roundup Ready) or insect protection (Bt). Droughts, disease, soil salinity and limited nutrient resources are serious issues that our current crop varieties are not going to overcome. Traditional methods may get us where we need to be but I’m not going to ignore the technology that has the potential to get us the better answer sooner. Most of us wouldn’t trade our cell phone for a land line, our car for a horse and wagon or our vaccinations for blood letting.
OUR PHILOSOPHY ON GMOS: We can’t embrace a production system that removes a technology that has the potential for reducing water use, improving nutrient utilization or preventing disease. Our husband’s farms do grow GMO crops and this technology has allowed them to limit pesticide use and incorporate more cover crops into their rotations – both organically minded pursuits.
Reality – most garden crops do not have GMO varieties commercially available and not in the small quantities that we grow in our CSA.
Confused where we stand? I have given you our philosophy but what is the answer bottom line in regards to organic production at The Country Gardens?
In 2015, we were 95% organic within the bounds of the gardens. Why weren’t we 100%?
What is our plan for 2016? Continue on the same path. Our weed populations are dropping and we will be expanding the use of mulch because of the benefits we observed in 2015. Pray that this cold weather is dramatically decreasing vole populations!
Traditional and organic producers have often placed themselves as enemies rather than as farmers with a common goal of producing nutritious food for the consumer. Maybe we are able to see a slightly clearer picture of both sides because we are wives of farmers who fall on the traditional side while we lean more toward the organic side in our gardens. Traditional and organic are not mutually exclusive – both have tools that are beneficial.
More than anything, we want our members to understand where their produce comes from and we want the public to understand how food is produced. Read, ask and think about agricultural production. You are surrounded by it in the Magic Valley. Find a farmer and chat. Even if you grew up in Twin Falls, you might be surprised at the issues that are worrying farmers in 2016 and you might come away with a better understanding of exactly what is happening in the field.
A Side Note:
Remember that the “Organic” label is administered by the federal government. Definitions, exemptions and guidelines are all available for the public online. We encourage everyone to read and understand about labels on their food!
We get lots of questions about what is actually in each basket and what to expect. I also know people wonder if they are getting a good value for the price. Here is the answer!
Check out what a Full Share Member received by week in 2015.
See some vegetables on the list you aren’t sure about? Check out our Recipe page for the complete set of recipes that we handed out last year. We already have a list of NEW recipes for 2016. These are targeted at the vegetables we know are less common or a little scary to cook with. All of the recipes that we put out have been eaten by our own families and are part of our recipe boxes.
Click here for the 2015 CSA Weekly Basket Content and Value.
Some astute readers will notice that the 2016 season has been shortened by 2 weeks. Do not despair – the fall harvest of winter squash and root vegetables will still be yours. The last few weeks of harvest will be ABUNDANT and include these seasonal favorites!
I am known in my circle for having a list or spreadsheet for everything! I have a spreadsheet checklist for my bulk pantry items, a spreadsheet with recipes and ingredients for making freezer meals, a shopping list, house cleaning lists, garden lists, a project list… I even have an app on my phone specifically for lists that I want always with me! One of my favorite lists is the list of things we “need” for The Country Gardens – such a great one to just look at over a cup of coffee.
Late last summer, Bonnie and I started to prioritize that list and the number one priority was a permanent growing structure in the Hazelton garden! YEAH! WOOHOO! SWEET!
I have lusted over Bonnie’s front porch where she starts our seedlings and her big greenhouse that grew our amazing tomatoes last year. My temporary hoop house worked in the spring to get us some great early veggies but I spent hours repairing wind damage and sleepless nights peering out my window wondering if it would survive the night. A sturdy structure – a dream come true!
Why did a physical structure beat out dripline irrigation, better tillage equipment, permanent washing stations and automated harvesting equipment? All of these items would make our labors in the garden significantly easier – A permanent structure minimizes our risk and gives us more flexibility in providing our CSA members with diversity early in the season and late in the season. That is something that no amount of extra work can accomplish without the unique environment that season extension structures can provide.
The first zucchinis, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes in our CSA shares all come out of some sort of season extension system. The same is true of the diversity that we protect from cool and freezing temperatures on the other end of the season. This can be as simple as row cover that lets sun through but keeps temperatures about 4 degrees warmer than outside temperature. The difference seems small but a big deal when nighttime temperatures dip to the 30’s. Simple plastic row covers using PVC structures heat up the growing climate in the spring to push early growth allowing plants to be flowering by early May and in fruit production by June. The true greenhouse with full ability to heat and cool and with lights to hit optimum day length is the Holy Grail of controlling climate to produce food.
We aren’t in need of the Holy Grail. We just need a place that we can walk into in the spring and be greeted by calm winds and 80 degree temps. This gives us all we need to extend the Idaho growing season while exploring new ways to expand our production and push the limits. Right before Christmas, we toured a structure where carrots and spinach were still in full production. No artificial heat, no grow lights and fresh homegrown veggies on the table at Christmas dinner!
So, we went to the catalogs and internet to pick out the perfect structure. Quickly over-whelmed by all of the options we gave up and sought help from a local couple who have been perfecting a structure that can withstand our spring windstorms but not break the bank. Right now they are working on designing us a custom base structure that our men can install and complete!!!
It will not be fancy but a simple design that we can upgrade if/when our needs change. Here is a look at how the 2015 temporary structure and 2016 permanent structure stack up:
PVC spans Steel spans
Greenhouse plastic anchored with dirt Greenhouse plastic anchored with wiggle wire system
Climb in access Real doors
Rope and digger link anchors Steel anchors
Less than 5’ high at center 7’+ high at center
No base walls Pressurized wood base walls
Greenhouses are one of my favorite places to spend an hour or five. A favorite drink and freedom to walk in a warm green place is good for my soul. Stay tuned for picture and updates of our progress.
Goal: Planting ready by March 1!!!
The last couple days have been FREEZING! The kind of day when you don't leave the house and keep a pot of coffee or cup of tea close by all day long.
But, we did have an amazing fall with warm, sunny days. The gardens have continued to produce for our own families into the beginning of November. It lulled us into such happiness that we were scrambling to get garlic planted at Halloween before rain storms.
So, now what? The next couple months can be as exciting as the actual growing season. I have seed catalogs with pages dog-eared, notes scribbled in the margins. My garden day planner has been getting as much use now as during planting -- checking comments on flavor, vigor, harvest timing and seed quantity from the past season. I am building a 2016 spreadsheet to finalize a planting plan. Drawing out garden plans to maximize production in our gardens while reducing labor. Researching structure designs for a permanent high tunnel/hoop house at the Hazelton location. Seeking out educational opportunities to expand our knowledge or production and business. Discussing growth opportunities and dreaming about where we will be in 2020!
Exciting things are happening at The Country Gardens.