Wednesday, April 20, 2011

8 Short Films About 8 Maine Farms

Watching these short films about 8 very different Maine farms drives home the message of the importance of supporting our local farms. The films are beautiful! You can even watch the films at the website below and for free!!! Whether from Maine or from away they are a visual treat.
Now go out and support your local farmers. Buy local produce, milk, and meat products.

Enjoy nutritious, delicious, local, organic food,

Why I Love our Local Cooperative Seed Company, FEDCO

One Aisle in the Seed Section of FEDCO Seeds in Waterville Maine

I finally went to FEDCO to get the seed I ordered online a while ago. I should have gotten it a month ago but never seemed able to make it there early enough. I could have paid the shipping but I LOVE going to FEDCO. It's just the best little seed company ever. I love everything about it. First of all it's a seed cooperative. Just look at this motto on their "about us" page - "The cooperative ethic recognizes that we are all in this together. What is good for our managers should be good for our workers and good for our customers and vice versa." How can you go wrong with thinking like that? There is no one owner. Actually the consumers and worker members are the owners. I believe FEDCO began around 1978.

FEDCO specializes in cold hearty seed that will grow healthy plants in our cold climate. Their selection never fails me. I have luck with all their seed year after gardening year. While I've used seed from other organic companies I keep coming back to FEDCO. The seed, prices, and customer service can't be beat. I know several folks who work at FEDCO and I'm sure that's part of what I like about visiting. I love my annual trek to visit them. Look at this note on my seed order!
LOVE it!

If you've never had the pleasure of reading through one of their catalogs (they have catalogs for seed, trees, tubers, bulbs, and organic supplies) during a cold wintery snowstorm you just must order their catalogs and give them a try. You'll be in for a treat. The humor throughout the catalogs is sure to cause you a few chuckles.

You can visit their website by going to: or just go to their seed page here:

Time to start some of the seeds I just brought home. I'm calling it close!
Happy planting!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

First Peas and Spinach Are In AND Dino Kale

These lovely little yellow flowers were covered with tiny honey bees all afternoon

Beautiful day today in the mid 50's. Sleet and freezing rain predicted for tomorrow.

The saying goes, "Peas in on Patriots Day." That's what MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) says. Planted peas and spinach today so I'm a day late. But figuring we had a garden covered in snow just a week ago I figure we're doing OK. Last year and the year before the peas were popping up through the soil right about now. So it feels late even though it's really not. I'll wait another week or so and get a second planting in. This weekend I'm going to plant a first planting of radishes, carrots, beets, chard, and lettuce as well as some more spinach and who knows what else.

Tomatoes, basil, peppers, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, dill, cilantro, cabbage, brussel sprouts seedlings are all doing well indoors. The only thing that didn't come up was the swiss chard. The spinach, broccoli, and lettuce in the cold frame are not looking great but they're still alive. The broccoli and cabbage look better than the spinach and lettuce.

Going to FEDCO to finally pick up my seed order. Note to self; pay the shipping next year. I'm also going to get some hoop wires and floating row cover material so I can put the plants that flea beetles love under it. In particular the radishes, pack choy, and the new "dinosaur" kale (Lacinato Kale - Brassica oleracea) seed I bought. I hear that flea beetles love that stuff. Who knows I may just put all the greens under the hoop. I also learned that greens grown under a hoop or in a hoop house are very tender and delicious if cut and eaten young. I did not know that! We had a taste testing at my school the other day. Barrels Community Market sponsored a greens taste testing. They brought in that dino kale, beet greens, and swiss chard. Each kid got a nice leaf or two of each and then voted on their favorite. Can you believe a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds were eagerly eating greens with nothing on them!? I was very pleasantly surprised. Beet greens won hands down in 4th grade and the dino kale won the taste test in the 5th grade. I must say they were the best beet greens I ever ate. And I loved the dino kale. They were the most tender greens I've ever eaten. All grown locally, organically, and in a hoop house. Hoop convert!

One more thing...garlic. As always I planted garlic in the fall. Covered the bed with a good layer of straw. Now I see some garlic spikes coming up through the mulch and I can't remember if I'm suppose to remove the mulch or keep it there. I read through my organic gardening book and no guidelines there. I also have some old articles from MOFGA newsletter and nothing about mulch there either. Then I checked online and found that leaving the mulch is recommended unless the mulch is getting in the way of the garlic spears from poking through. If that happens move the mulch away from each garlic plant a little so they can shoot up. But mulch will help keep weeds down (good thing since garlic hates weeds) and moisture in. So I'll double check my garlic and be sure they are all coming up. I will leave the mulch in place.
Happy "real" spring! Be sure to plant a new variety of greens and enjoy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's All About the Soil

Great stuff BUT not for seed starting. I notice that the top appears moist even mossy looking when in fact it is bone dry. Spoke with Coast of Maine folks and they said this is a great potting soil but due to the compost content it can be a bit too heavy for seed starting. Also due to compost ingredients it isn't sterile. So you'd need to be careful if using it for seed starting.

If ya want great plants ya gotta have great soil. Simple as that. If it was only that simple! We can make this idea, that it's all about the soil, as complicated as we want or as simple as we want. There are people who spend their whole careers studying soil and compost, many of them farmers and gardeners. I know I don't understand all there is to know about soil and all its components but I do understand that soil is one of the most important factors to healthy plants and thus gardens. If we want good soil then we want soil that is full of compost aka: gardeners' gold. Compost is everything! If you remember that and you keep adding compost to your soil you will have a great garden. I promise. Well, you have to have water and sunshine too!

To see how easy or difficult it is to find out what some of the benefits of compost are I Googled "the benefits of compost". Wow, quite a number of sites dedicated to just this topic. Just on the first site I found that compost helps plants retain water while at the same time allow water to drain. Compost has many beneficial microorganisms (and we LOVE soil microbes!). Compost adds nutrients plants need, it improves aeration of soil so roots can grow and breath, and using compost means less or no need for chemical fertilizers. I've been gardening for over 30 years and have never used a chemical fertilizer or herbicide or pesticide. It can be done and is way better for you, your family, your soil, and the environment in general.

When we first moved into our home 11 years ago there was a garden way out back. The previous owner had gardened there for 40 years. I tried with all my might to garden there and couldn't. Nothing would grow. There was not an earthworm in sight! I poured truck loads of compost on that soil and nothing. This info isn't to contradict all I just said but rather to support the notion that if you pour chemicals all over your soil - good luck getting the soil back. I'm sure it can be done but it would have taken me a lot more of everything. I instead moved my garden spot. The idea of eating anything from that soil ... well let's just say I felt it was not a good idea.

I moved the garden to a new spot. The very first year I had a garden. A wonderful, productive garden. And this was done with about a 2-3" layer of compost and composted manure. Earthworms galore!

Lucky for me I found the product shown in the photo above to use with my seedlings. It's a great organic and local mix. There are quite a few mixes that are made by this Maine company. To learn more about this mix and others from Coast of Maine compost products go to:

Transplanted most of my seedlings which seem to be doing fine with the above mix. But I do notice I have to watch them closly.
Spinach and lettuce. I have 2 of those pots for each. One of each will go out into my small cold frame today. We'll see how that goes. The other will stay in my sunny window.

I save these milk jugs for tomato transplants. We want lots of roots and as much of the stem into the soil so the stem can also develop more roots. Roots baby!

Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts. I HATE brussel sprouts but my daughter loves them. These are for you Erin! I also have an extra pot of these for the cold frame. Again, we'll see.

These peppers and basil haven't been transplanted yet. No "true" leaves yet. These "leaves" are what are called cotyledon. They act kind of like the yolk of an egg, providing the nutrients until the true leaves appear. You can see the true leaves of the seedlings in the other pictures. Those leaves look like what you visualize when you think of that specific plant. (There's also some dill over on the right and spinach way in the back)

Hope you've started at least one plant from seed so you can experience the absolute fun of watching an organism grow from such a tiny spec.

Happy Spring!
PS - Great post from Renee's Garden Blog on soil - the April 4th post-