Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Farm Produce

Farm Produce Truck

Fantastic photograph by Beer Brain

Friday, August 20, 2010

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

This beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is missing one of his tails. Probably had a close call with a bird, but he seems to be doing just fine without it. The flower here is called Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), and it's one of my favorite late season perennial flowers.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tobacco Flower

Who knew Tobacco plants had such pretty flowers? Not me! I've never seen a field full of Tobacco plants growing down in Virginia or the Carolinas, but it must be quite a gorgeous sight when the crop is in bloom. My crop consists of just three plants but they are coming along quite nicely. They really give off a strong Tobacco smell, something else I wasn't aware of. I'm looking forward to my first attempt at curing the leaves at the end of the season.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August Harvests

Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day? Not in my garden!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seed Saving 101

Saving tomato seeds is very easy and a great way to continue growing your favorite variety of heirloom tomatoes for years to come. By saving the seeds from the best fruits of the season, you are assuring the continuation of excellent fruit production in the coming seasons. You are selecting the best from your own particular growing conditions, not some generalized hybrid seed meant to be grown anywhere.

Here is all you need to do...

Squeeze the seeds from a tomato into a clean jar. Remember, use one of your top quality specimens.

Add some water to the jar...

Cover the jar with plastic and poke some holes in the plastic. Place the jar on a shelf out of direct sunlight for several days.

After three or four days a layer of mold will have formed on the surface of the water, and you will notice that the seeds have settled on the bottom. Use a spoon to remove the mold from the jar.

Now gently run water into the jar and carefully pour off the rinse water. The seeds will stay on the bottom of the jar as long as you pour the water off gently. Keep doing this until the water runs clear and all that is left is clean seeds. Pour these seeds onto a coffee filter. You can also use a paper towel, but the seeds tend to stick to paper towels.

Place the coffee filter on a plate and set it back on the shelf to dry for a few days. When completely dry, you can now store the seeds for next season. I usually just wrap them up in the same coffee filter and then put them into a white envelope. Make sure you label the envelope with the name of the tomato variety and the year you saved them.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tomato Report

I have not heard a single complaint from a Mid-Atlantic tomato gardener this season. Excellent Spring conditions followed up by a hot dry summer have resulted in near perfect conditions for growing tomatoes. I had a small case of Blossom End Rot show up on my early Schimmeig Creg fruits, but that seemed to correct itself with some fertilizer applications. No sign of the dreaded Late Blight that so devastated the crops of 2009. I'm looking forward to the final push of late season fruits as we wind down to the end of a wonderful growing season. Here is a collection of the best examples of my tomatoes so far this season...

garden peach

assorted cherry tomatoes

dr. wyche's yellow


german red strawberry

santore roma

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Giant-Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

This is one of my favorite sections of the garden. I planted this Giant Hyssop here about six years ago and it faithfully returns every season to reward me with tall sweeping fronds of gorgeous lavender colored flowers. Throughout the day these flowers are swarming with bees of all types... from tiny little bees to the biggest Bumble Bees, it is a non-stop frenzy of activity. The path leading to my garden hose is right next to this row of Giant Hyssop, and I walk right past this party of bees several times a day. The bees are so engrossed in their pollen gathering activities, they never give me a second glance. In fact, did you know that when a Bumble Bee is collecting pollen you can actually pet it? Years ago I used to show my kids how to "pet the bee". They would watch in amazement as I would find a Bumble Bee and gently reach out and stroke it's back with my index finger. I've never encountered a Bumble that seemed to mind it a bit.

Now these guys below are a different story. While they don't seem to mind me getting close to them with my camera, I don't think they would tolerate being touched.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dr. Wyche's Yellow

This is the first year I have grown this variety, and this is the very first fruit I've harvested. Haven't tasted it yet, but it sure is a beautiful tomato! I am certainly going to save some seeds for next year.

DR WYCHE'S YELLOW TOMATO (Solanum lycopersicum) was developed by the late Dr. John Wyche who owned the Cole Brothers Circus. Produces meaty, rich tasting yellow-orange one pound tomatoes. Heavy yields even without elephant manure, which is supposedly what the good doctor used in his garden soil!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Where did July go?

Wow! I just realized that I didn't put up a single post in the month of July! Seems like the Summer is flying by. It has been very hot and dry here in the Mid-Atlantic region, with an occasional severe thunderstorm to stir things up with sudden heavy rain and high wind. Four inches of rain on a recent Monday morning!

I've been taking lot's of photographs of the garden even though I haven't been posting them here. Just to catch up, here are images of delicious produce from the garden that were all harvested during the month of July...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tomato Update

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday night harvest

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Tomato Beds

I built a couple new raised beds for Tomato plants. These are 9' by 3' each and they are on the only section of my property that gets full sun. After last year's issues with Tomato Blight I decided it was time to move the tomato plants to an entirely new location to help reduce the possibility of re-infection from any residual spores. The tomatoes will do really well in this spot with full day sun and a nice warm brick wall behind them. I'll do a row of Basil in front of a back row of my Amish heirloom plants.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Harvest Baskets

I'm experimenting with some harvest basket designs. The bottoms are new galvanized hardware cloth, but everything else is salvaged... Antique Pine for the box and Rhododendron branches for the handles.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region the long accepted rule of thumb is that summer season plants can safely go outside on Mother's Day weekend. Not this year! We have had many very warm days so far this Spring, but this weekend has been very windy and downright chilly. The forecast is for a low of 38 degrees for the next two nights! I covered my cold frame with two layers of canvas drop cloths to try to keep in some of the heat from today's sunshine. I also covered my potted Tomato plants with plastic trash bags to protect them from tonight's chill.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom who is in sunny warm Florida !

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wheat Grass

I wanted to cultivate Wheat Grass indoors over the winter months but I never got around to it. Last weekend I sowed some seeds in several large pots outside and within a week's time I have shoots almost ready to harvest. I don't have a juicer. I plan to simply chew on these grasses to extract the juice. This is not a very common way to ingest Wheat Grass juice because most people don't like chewing on a mouthful of grass for several minutes, but it doesn't bother me at all. I actually enjoy it. After the juice is extracted, you simply spit out the remaining grasses.

Wheatgrass refers to the young grass of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum, that is freshly juiced or dried into powder for animal and human consumption. Both provide chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. Claims about wheatgrass' health benefits range from providing supplemental nutrition to having unique curative properties.

The Benefits of Wheat Grass

Botanical Interests Wheat Grass Seeds

Friday, May 7, 2010

Herb Garden

The Herb bed seems to have exploded with greenery in the past week. The Oregano and Mints are growing vigorously, while the Thyme appears to have lost energy over the heavy winter. I have added new Thyme plants to supplement the older patches of Lemon and English Thyme.
I've added several new Sage plants, as well as a row of Dill. Lot's of medicinal and culinary properties in this herb garden!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Solly Brothers Farm

Solly Brothers Farm
707 Almshouse Road
Ivyland, Pa 18974

Open everyday 9-6

Local produce, pies, preserves, pick-your-own

They start selling their own produce in June

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lancaster's Eastern Market

Lancaster's Eastern Market
by Jean Fitzgerald for Metrofarming

Eastern Market

MetroFarming visited a wonderful farmer's market space in Lancaster County during this past weekend. We were invited to the practice run for the 2010 Eastern Farmers Market at 308 E. King Street which opens officially on May 29th Our primary contact was Douglas Smith, Director of the Eastern Farmer's Market in Lancaster. The market is incredibly easy to find for out-of-towners, and the people running it are just as accessible. Parking nearby is convenient; we were a 1/2 block around the corner on a shady, unmetered street.

What makes Eastern Farmer's Market in Lancaster special and worthwhile to all of us? It is a non-profit market that was established for the purpose of providing low-income individuals and families residing in the city of Lancaster with a cornucopia of affordable, fresh food and produce. It was also created to give local, low-income and other neighbors an opportunity to sell their own local, home-garden and farm wares. Most significantly, the individuals and families who have begun to participate are collaborative, creative, mindful, enthusiastic, organized, and very clearly becoming successful entrepreneurs. It was interesting to perceive how the unique rural qualities of Lancaster County combine with the varied inner-city residential cultures & urban demographics. Lancaster is an extremely vibrant, colorful, beautiful city in all of its parts.

We mingled with a great number of hard-working and dedicated vendors at The Eastern Market and were grateful to be extremely well-received by everyone we met, from Eastern Market board members, to administrators of the organization, contributing local produce growers and meat vendors, neighborhood culinary specialists, Lancaster County craft and natural soap artisans, to a booth providing educational and media materials regarding a specific, critical, current environmental issue.

There were also an inspiring number of collaborators and pro-bono supporters who attended the event helping to prepare and sell food, guide patrons on product ingredients, communicate ideals, issues, and farming techniques, and basically just assist their friends and family by showing up to have fun, celebrate life and farming, and to set-up and close-down booths. The rest of us grew in knowledge, health and wellbeing, good cheer and even awe as we browsed, sniffed, ate, asked, listened, and filled our baskets for subsequent enjoyment... and eventual nostalgia for the savory and tender experience that Lancaster is.

I descended upon a gregarious and engaging family vendor displaying a rich array of Middle Eastern cuisine. Hamid Hamid is a long-time vegetable grower, originally from Jerusalem. The ecstasy his market customers enjoy, he emphasized, is the result of tasting the exquisite, singular quality of his produce, including a rare and delicate cucumber, and unfailingly delectable eggplant that is solid and thick when it is cooked and has a wonderful texture and taste. His zucchini is extremely fine as well. Although Hamid admitted to importing some of his superlative produce from other continents- he is eager to introduce a local crop as well and for that purpose, is sharing land with a local Amish Farmer. $4.00 will buy you a belly-full of delicious falafel. I personally experienced the joy of connecting with Hamid and his wife Nowal; they were full of stories from the Middle East, the recounting of which was evidence of great humor, bliss and yes, sorrow; and still, we now also have memories of the fine treat of our moment together in the day.

Lime Valley Mill's produce

Bryan Campbell, an Eastern Market board member, introduced us to the beautiful produce of Allyson and Dale Brian as he made his weekly purchase; this time mustard greens. Allyson described her farm to us, Lime Valley Mill , with straight forward speech and energy; their livestock is not given antibiotics unless they are sick and they do not use growth hormones either. So reassuring and hopeful to hear. Although they are not currently certified organic, they follow all OMRI standards and do not use non-OMRI pesticides. On 118 acres, 6 acres are used for produce, and the rest is pasture-land for livestock, farming animals and field crops which include corn, beans, wheat, barley, alfalfa, and orchard grasses. Their meat offerings to the community are beef, pork, and lamb. Allyson is a significant contributor to this Farmer's Market and will welcome all inquiries and new customers. We plan to visit Lime Valley Mill in the near future, and greatly look forward to becoming repeat customers.

A tantalizing ingredient of this market is its diversity - global cultures, individual participants of all ages, and the support of a low key, but committed group of young people from the community who lend the entire organization their many helping hands. They are examples of an awakened and very conscious, conscientious generation who will influence many lives around the world for the better. And from my perspective, corporate, civic and institutional leadership will find that the long journey home to greater integration in society and the provision of key infrastructure to end destruction of the earth's precious environments will be led by just such young people as these. Collaborative groups like this group who are nurturing the local, inner-city customers and budding micro-entrepreneurs in the downtown city of Lancaster, Pa. are making a huge difference behind the scenes and in the battlefields of every farming and wildlife environment around the world.

Another young local has been instrumental in entertaining the young people who walk with friends and parents to the Eastern Market. We watched Rob Seitz, manager of Art in Action at local Lancaster schools, help neighborhood children create art for the market by designing and painting fruits and vegetables on poster board. Everyone we met Saturday is involved in farming in some way and Rob is no exception: he is part of a farming co-op with 8 friends just 25 minutes away from Eastern Market.

Etayehu Zeneba of Gursha Organics

Our beautiful new friend Etayehu Zeneba of Gursha Organics is another vendor at Eastern Market, grows herbs and lettuces in her backyard garden; her very delicate looking, but strong hands deserved the jewels of the soil she held out to me: gorgeous chives and fragrant oregano made us best buddies immediately. The lunch that Etayehu prepared for us was an Ethiopian vegetarian platter of lentils, vegetables and couscous that was wonderful along with a refreshing jar of home-made mint tea with honey. Etayehu also provides the greater Lancaster community with her food specialties from Ethiopia at a much touted local natural foods store called Expressly Local Food.

Mint Tea with Honey

We were drawn towards a serenely perfumed scent emanating from the Peace of Soap booth, belonging to Tandi Book. Tandi was handing out samples of her hand crafted soaps made with locally sourced ingredients. A hot bath later that day using one of Tandi’s soaps was a sublime pleasure bordering on transcendence.

After the market closed, Douglas Smith introduced us to the Lancaster Eastern Market's first neighborhood co-operative, garden plot. It is a small lot with beautiful and unusual raised beds built from Osage Orange wood, as well as various brick, stone and cinderblock-lined beds. The land has been loaned to the Eastern Farmer's Market by a Good Samaritan in the community. It has been designated The Alley Garden; and another neighbor is donating his own previously farmed soil and compost with excellent PH and nutrient-rich minerals. The community lot has been cleared of trash and debris, some rain barrels donated by locals, and customer-farming/vendors of the Eastern Market are eagerly watching the delicate green of sprouts just beginning to show new growth of carrots, spinach, onions, squash, cucumber, cilantro, arugula, chard, green beans, black beans. Hands that previously were unaware of the magic of mulch are getting dirty and the individuals involved will benefit from a new hobby or, in some instances, the beginning of a life-long passion.

Franklin & Marshall College's Department of Agriculture has been involved in soil testing for The Alley Garden, as has the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The services of each has been enormously helpful and appreciated.

The Alley Garden

Many thanks to Douglas Smith of the Eastern Farmer's Market. His effective leadership, operational skills, patience and great kindness to constituents builds relationships and tears down walls. We were greatly impressed by the raised beds he has built at The Alley Garden and the knowledge base that he has developed in the evolution of the Eastern Farmer's Market in Lancaster and that he so willingly shares. Thanks in advance to Bryan Campbell, board member, for his insights and competence on an on-going basis regarding the New American Slow Food Movement and social justice "with access being key". We look forward to future dialogues and becoming equally fluent on these urgent, many-layered issues.

Eastern Market

Lime Valley Mill

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fresh Spring Greens...

Picked right from the garden, washed & chopped and into a salad within minutes. I drizzled on a Lemon vinaigrette... Fresh squeezed Lemon juice, Olive Oil, fresh chopped Garlic, Fresh Oregano, and some crushed Red Pepper. Heaven!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Funk's Greenhouse

Spent the day driving through Lancaster County to visit some beautiful Amish farms, an urban community market and garden, and even found a stunning wildflower preserve. The photo above is a wonderful family run greenhouse operation on the banks of the Suquehanna river near Millersville, Pa. The Funk family sells hundreds of varieties of plants and vegetables, including 50 varieties of tomatoes, some of which are very unique heirloom varieties. Even though I have too many tomato plants started already, I couldn't resist buying Red Candy (a sweet grape tomato), Dr Wyche's Yellow, Garden Peach, and German Red Strawberry (an Oxheart variety). I'll just have to find room!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Turnip Greens

Before I started growing Turnips, I never gave their green tops a second thought. I planted several rows last Fall and after an early hard frost I thought I had lost the crop. Thankfully I didn't dig them up. I left them in the ground and to my delight, they greened up vigorously in the early Spring as soon as the snow melted. When the rest of the garden is nothing but rows of sown seeds waiting to grow you learn to use what is available at the moment, and in the early Spring this has been Turnip Greens for me. I am now finally able to harvest things like Radicchio, Arugula, Mustard Greens, and Chinese Cabbage; but for many weeks it was nothing but Turnip Greens. While I am enjoying my new level of variety, I have discovered the joys of these simple and often ridiculed greens.

Turnip Greens are loaded with vitamins A, C, and B complex, as well as a good source of the minerals potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

These green are wonderful in soups. I have used them several times in Miso Soup. I also like to steam them. Throw a pile of chopped Turnip Greens into the steamer and layer on top of them some sliced Carrot, Celery, and then some nice fish such as Tilapia or Lemon Sole. Sprinkle on some Red Pepper flakes or diced JalapeƱo if you like a bit of heat. Let this steam for about ten minutes, or until the fish is just cooked. Serve with a squeeze of Lemon. Fantastic!

... and many thanks to my buddy Ronnie who sent me a link to a unique variety of Turnip, Seven Top, that doesn't grow a harvest-able root. Instead it concentrates all of it's energy on a great tasting top! I think I'm going to give this a try next season.

Turnip: Seven Top

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Cost of Genetic Modification

From Natural News website...

Bayer admits GMO contamination out of control

(NaturalNews) Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.

"Even the best practices can't guarantee perfection," said Mark Ferguson, the company's defense lawyer in a recent trial.

Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company's Liberty-brand herbicide. The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.

"Bayer was supposed to be careful," Downing said. "Bayer was not careful and that rice did escape into our commercial rice supplies."

The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion.

Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices. The jury disagreed, finding Bayer guilty of carelessness in handling the genetically modified crops. The company was ordered to pay farmers Kenneth Bell and Johnny Hunter $2 million.

"This is a huge victory, not only for Kenny and me, but for every farmer in America who was harmed by Bayer's LibertyLink rice contamination," Hunter said.

According to Hunter, the company got "the wake-up call they deserved."

Bayer is still being sued by more than 1,000 other farmers from Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I need to find a way to cover my Blueberry bushes so the birds don't steal all the berries. My plants are loaded with flowers!

In response to this post, The Giving Garden sent along a nice photo of a relatively simple way to support a netting system to keep the birds away from berries... (click the image to see a larger version) Thanks Giving Garden!

In response to metrofarmer...here is a photo of the blueberry... on Twitpic