Fall Planting 2015

Fall planting is right around the corner and we want to see your garden thrive! Here’s a quick guide to preparing your garden for its second growing season this year:

Start Your Seeds

seed starting image

There are many seeds that you can start indoors at home and now is the time to start them. You can start your brassicas (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collards) as well as your lettuces and other leafy greens. You will need seed starting medium, a seed starting tray, seeds, water, and sunlight.

We’ll be hosting a seed starting party and workshop at the end of the month, so be on the lookout on our Facebook page for details!

Amend Your Soil

Good gardeners grow plants, but great gardeners grow soil. After pulling out your summer plants, replenish your soil with compost and fertilizer. If you weren’t able to compost this summer, no problem because Farmer D Organics has got your back! We sell organic compost at our garden center by the bag. A 16-qt bag amends up to 100 square feet of soil.

We would also recommend that you invest in a basic organic fertilizer – the Farmer D Fertilizer is 3-4-4. If you’ve noticed any specific deficiencies in your soil, perhaps extensive yellowing of your foliage or weak fruit production, it may be worth it to get your soil tested so that you can fertilize according to your soil’s specific conditions and needs. We can send your soil off to be tested at Farmer Ds or you can connect with your local extension office.

Purchase Your Transplants and Root Veggie Seeds

If you don’t have the time to start your own seeds, you can always purchase transplants. Transplants, or seedlings, are seeds that have been started for you and have grown to be about 3-to-4 weeks old. This fall Farmer Ds will be carrying broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, lettuce, and herb transplants. We also have a wide variety of cool season vegetable seeds – carrots, kohlrabi, beets, radishes, and more.

After you’ve started your seeds, amended your soil, and purchased the other transplants and seeds that you need, you’re all set to start growing this season!

In addition to a fall seed starting workshop, we’ll also be hosting a fall planting workshop in September. At this workshop we’ll discuss even more details of fall planting, cover cropping, and how to prepare your garden for the cold winter months. Follow our Facebook page for those updates!

 

Growing in Shade

As you probably already know, sunlight is a vital element in the process of photosynthesis and is thus incredibly important to plants. Different amounts and types of sunlight are required by specific plants in order to grow or produce fruit. As important as it is, unfortunately sunlight is one of the plant requirements that we are able to change or manipulate the least. You can amend your soil, add organic matter, create a water schedule, but for the most part, creating more sunlight is beyond most people’s means. When designing your garden, it is quite important to understand how the sunlight moves across the property in order to place plants in their best locations.

tree canopy shade

Most fruiting vegetables, trees, and shrubs require full sun in order to produce substantial yields, though beans and peas can tolerate higher levels of shade than other fruiting plants. Root vegetables are typically able to thrive and produce with less sun than fruiting plants. Leafy greens are usually able to tolerate the least amount of sun, as far as the most commonly cultivated plants are concerned. They still require some sun, though.

The categories most typically used when discussing amount of sunlight are full sun, partial sun, partial shade, and full shade. Each one is defined by the daily amount of uninterrupted sunlight a location receives. Full sun is typically defined as at least 6 hours of unfiltered sun while partial sun and partial shade are between 6 to 3 hours of sunlight. Shade is typically defined as less than 3 hours of direct sun, with filtered light during the rest of the day. Important to note that full shade does not mean no sun, as that is inhospitable to most plants.

While these categories are useful, the full picture is a bit more complicated as sunlight can not only vary in length, but also in intensity. Afternoon sun is more intense than morning sun and a denser canopy will allow less light to pass through. A plant which needs partial shade may be alright with a few hours of sun, as long as it is in the morning. Sun loving plants can tolerate less direct sun as long as the rest of the day the shade is not too dense. Some shadier plants are able to stand more sun if they are watered more frequently while some shade plants will only burn in direct sun.

So, now let’s say you’ve a property with a lot of shade but you still want to garden. There are a few techniques and design strategies you can use. First, there is the possibility, depending on circumstances, of thinning out a canopy, either by taking down limbs or entire trees, in order to allow more sun in. Though clearing trees will not normally create a drastic shift in sunlight, due to forest and gap dynamics. A clearing has to be a certain ratio of width to height in order to create a sunny spot. Trees will also grow in order to fill in gaps that were once occupied. This means in order to create a lot of sun in a fully wooded area, many trees would have to be cut down as the clearing needs to be wide enough to let sun in as well as big enough to keep the trees from closing the canopy.

Second, you can take advantage of what little sun may be present and simply design around that. Typically, the northernmost edge of a clearing will receive the most sun. Eastern edges will get afternoon sun while western get morning sun. Sunnier plants would be on the northern and eastern edges while the shadier plants would do well on the western side. Selecting plants to the site is a very useful design process. While you may have really wanted to grow tomatoes and watermelons, you may have to grow shadier plants, like strawberries or blueberries, which can thrive in sun but are also able to tolerate more shade. Shading greens can keep them from bolting too quickly in hot summers. Herbs are also able to tolerate greater amounts of shade. In such an instance, I’d suggest making friends who also garden. You can exchange resources, like herbs or other medicinal plants, for veggies that they were able to grow.

The third technique may seem counterproductive but can actually be quite useful and interesting and that is to possibly create even more shade so as to grow specific plants, many of which can be medicinal. You could also grow mushrooms in a denser shade.

This Season’s Pick – Tomatoes!

TomatoesThis April, the Farmer D Blog is dedicated to all things tomato! Tomatoes are a Georgia favorite for spring and summer farms and gardens. Not only do we have a long growing season for them, but there are tons of varieties to choose from. Whether you are looking for cherry tomatoes as a snack, or paste tomatoes to make delicious marinara sauces, growing tomatoes is a move in the right direction!

General Growing Tips
Tomatoes prefer loamy soils, full-sun, and a lot of depth to extend their roots. In order to provide the depth they need, we recommend that you plant your tomatoes in a raised garden bed as opposed to in a planter. You could also plant your tomatoes in a large pot or tomato bag, so long as you have 24”-30” of depth for them to grow. When putting your tomatoes in the ground, plant them deeply, such that ⅔ of the plant is actually underneath the soil. All of the tiny hairs on the stem will shoot out as roots and will ensure a healthy, strong, and fruitful plant. “Full sun” refers to at least six unfiltered and direct hours of sunlight per day. When it comes to whether or not to stake your tomato plants, we suggest that you stake them or provide some structure to support the vertical growth of the plant. This saves space in your garden bed and prevents the spread of disease to your plants’ stems, leaves, and fruit!

Heirloom Vs. Open Pollinated Vs. Hybrid
“Heirloom” refers to a seed a variety that existed before 1940 and was passed down through the generations. Heirloom tomatoes often have distinct and funky shapes and add character to any garden. However, they generally don’t produce as much fruit as your open-pollinated or hybrid varieties. “Open-pollinated” refers to when a seed’s pollination occurred by natural mechanisms, i.e. by insect, bird, wind, or humans. Open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse and adapt to local growing conditions over time. Lastly, there are “hybrid” seeds which refers to seeds that are intentionally crossed by humans in a controlled environment to breed a desired trait. Hybrid seeds are known to be very prolific.

What’s great about all three of these seed populations is that they can each be organically certified and naturally-grown. It’s truly a matter of finding the seeds’ tastes, colors, and textures that you enjoy most!

Determinate vs. Indeterminate vs. Compact
Another important distinction between tomato plants is determinate vs. indeterminate vs. compact varieties. A determinate variety will grow to a specific height and will only fruit for a set period of time. After that growth stage has been reached, you will find your determinate tomato plant fruiting less and becoming more susceptible to rot and disease. Determinate varieties are great if you know that you will only be able to tend to your garden for a couple of months rather than for the entire growing season. Indeterminate varieties will grow taller than most determinate varieties and will produce fruit for the entire growing season (early-summer to late-fall.) The last option refers to our compact varieties. As the best of both worlds – these compact plants only grow to be a couple of feet tall (similar to determinate varieties) but will fruit throughout the entire season (like the indeterminate varieties!)

As you can tell, there are many many options for growing tomatoes in your garden this year! If you’re new to planting tomatoes, come by Farmer D Organics Garden Center and we can help you pick out some tomato varieties that will work well for you. And if you’re a seasoned gardener, maybe this could be the year to try something new!

Farmer D’s Compost Tea Recipe

Farmer D Compost

Have you wanted the boost that a compost tea can bring to your plants but aren’t sure where to start? Here’s a simple compost tea recipe from Farmer D’s first book Citizen Farmers.

Compost feeds the soil biology in a garden. This enhances nutrients, moisture retention, disease resistance and overall plant vitality. When making compost tea, be sure to start with good quality compost and follow the National Organic Program’s safety guidelines. This recipe makes 5 gallons of tea, enough for a large home garden.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 Clean, 5-gallon (20 L) bucket (preferably ceramic or stainless steel. Plastic is ok- no bleach or chemical residues
  • 4 Gallons (15 L) rainwater, spring water or tap water
  • 1 Quart  (400 G) aged, good quality compost
  • Pantyhose, cheesecloth bag or fine screen colander
  • Stinging Nettle or Burdock leaves
  • 3 Tablespoons compost tea activator (such as unsulphured organic molasses or a ready-made activator such as Growing Solutions compost tea catalyst)
  • Small fish tank aerator pump with tubing and several bubblers or air stones to pump oxygen into the bucket of water with compost and activator

Bubbling compost tea

Fill the bucket with water. If using tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours to release chlorine. Place the compost in the pantyhose, cheesecloth bad or colander. Fully immerse the compost in the water without allowing soil particle to get in the water. (you can also brew without a mesh bag and instead run the finished tea through a fine-mesh or cheesecloth strainer.) Toss in a few handfuls of fresh stinging nettles, burdock leaves or other other appropriate herbs and weeds for added benefits. Add the compost activator, turn on the aerator pump, and let brew for 24 to 48 hours. If you are not using aerator, let sit for 5 to 10 days to allow for adequate fermentation.

Once brewed, compost tea has a short shelf life, so it should be applied as soon as possible, no later than 24 hours after being brewed. When using compost tea, dilute at 10 parts water to 1 part compost tea and apply as follows:

Foliar Applications: Spray in the morning or evening on underside of leaves of plants, shrubs and trees.

Soil Drench: Water new transplants or existing plants.

Lawn: Spray or run through your irrigation system.

Grubs in the Grass

japanese beetlesRemember Japanese Beetles from earlier in the season? I bet you were glad as their numbers waned, and eventually disappeared without a trace. They are not, however, gone. Their progeny are in your turf grass and planted beds, consuming, growing, waiting even as you read this! Oh, the horror.

Ok. So what can we do about it? With the warm weather, grubs that will become beetles next year, are eating the roots of many different species of plants. They are trying to get fat and happy for their winter hibernation. Can you hear the chewing of the grubs, Clarice?
Paenibacillus popillae, aka Milky Spore, is here to break the cycle. 
When applied to lawns and beds, it is consumed by the grubs. When ingested, the bacteria proliferates, eventually killing the grub. As the grub decomposes, the new bacteria colony spreads. It is said that the bacteria can last over 20 years under the right conditions.
This is a great preventative method for treating Japanese Beetles, as well as other destructive beetles. It will not harm beneficials, bees, pets, butterflies, or anything not a herbivorous grub.

The Earth Magic Learning Garden Takes Root

School Garden InstallationThis summer, the Farmer D team had the pleasure of installing an incredible school garden at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. Primary School Principal Greg Kaiser spoke about the importance of exposing young children to nature and the inspiration behind their school garden in an interview with Katie of Farmer D Organics:

Why did you decide to implement a garden for the younger students?

Having been raised by a lifelong gardener and teacher, I learned from an early age what a wonderful learning tool a working children’s garden can be.  It has been my goal for quite a long time to build this garden for the children of Holy Innocents’, and this past summer we were able to make that dream a reality through the support of our HIES Parents’ Association as well as contributions from individual donors.

Why do you think it is an important part of their daily experience at school?

Our number one goal in the Lewis Primary School help our children to become “courageous learners.”  In other words, we want them to have the confidence and the enthusiasm to build, to explore, to create, to imagine, to predict, to design and to share.  Giving our students the opportunity to regularly participate in the planning, planting and maintenance of our garden allows them the chance to exercise all of these skills.

What influenced the garden?
My late mother, Suzanne Linstrom Kaiser, who ensured that from my earliest days I would never be afraid to get dirt on my hands.  We are naming our garden the “Earth Magic Learning Garden,” taking the name from a poem that she wrote. Above is a photo of students making an initial exploration of the garden.  The dedication will be held in early September.

For more information on Farmer D’s Consulting services, including school gardens, please contact Katie at Katie@farmerd.com 

Summer Gardening with your Kids

This month at Farmer D’s, we are excited about gardening with kids!Farmer D and Tilden with goat

Gardening with kids is not only a great educational resource, but reminds us all of how magical and full of wonder the gardening process really is. From planting and watering seeds to harvesting and eating summer garden treats, gardening starts kids on a lifelong adventure of knowing, and loving, where their food comes from.

There are many simple ways to get your kids involved in the garden. Jenny, an Atlanta-based mother of three, introduced her kids to gardening last summer by helping them plant flowers from seed in raised beds at their home. The kids were responsible for the watering and maintenance of their own garden plots. Later on in the year, they raised vegetable seedlings in egg cartons and then transplanted them.

kids radish“They’re so into it that they love picking out seeds. Its fascinating to watch them grow,” says Jenny.

If you’re looking for seed and plant varieties that are kid friendly, give radishes, cherry tomatoes, sunflowers, and peppers a try. Click here to see Farmer D’s top ten list of crops to grow with kids. You should also consider getting a good set of sturdy kid-sized garden tools. And of course, have a ton of fun!

Everything that you need to start gardening with your kids is available at the Farmer D Organics Garden Center. We look forward to seeing you!

Pea Smile

Farmer D & His Backyard Chickens

 

Screenshot 2014-03-17 17.35.07At my urban abode in Decatur, Georgia, my wife and I keep a few chickens in the backyard. We love them for many reasons: they give us yummy fresh organic eggs, eat lots of our kitchen scraps, fertilize our lawn and garden, give us fuel for our compost pile and provide entertainment for the whole family, especially our little guy, Tilden.  I use the spent bedding and manure out of their laying boxes as a prime source of carbon and nitrogen for the compost pile and move their coop around the yard to areas needing a boost of fertility.  Our chicken coop is homemade in our woodshop and has two stories with the upstairs for sleeping and laying, and the downstairs is open to the ground for scratching and pooping.

We named our first flock of hens Rosie, Hazel and Slow Poke and we feed them all organic soy-free layer feed along with kitchen scraps. We even plant them a rotating pasture in the backyard of chicken lettuce, peas and more. Our favorite thing to do with the eggs is poach them in a slow boil of water with brown rice vinegar and then plop them over a bowl of hot millet with arugula or kale dressed up with olive oil, salt and lemon. We also love to rock out veggie frittatas with broccoli, leeks, avocado, tomato and fresh herbs like basil and marjoram.

Yard to Table Broccoli-Leek Frittata

This homemade frittata is one of our favorite go-to meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is made with free-range organic eggs from the store or from our backyard hens, Rosie and Hazel.

frittataMakes 4 servings

Ingredients:

8 eggs
3/4 cup finely grated mild cheddar cheese (we prefer raw goat cheddar)
Handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs fresh marjoram, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 medium leeks, white and light green part only, trimmed of roots and thinly sliced
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small tomato, sliced
8-10 whole basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk eggs and then add ½ cup cheese, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Heat oil in a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until they are tender and soft but not too brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add broccoli and sauté for a few more minutes until broccoli is bright green and slightly tender.

Transfer the broccoli and leek mixture into a medium roughly 9” cast iron sauté pan (if you want to use the same pan, let it cool before adding eggs). Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Thinly slice tomato and evenly spread them with fresh basil leaves on top of the frittata. Finally sprinkle the remaining finely grated cheese on top and place in preheated oven.

Cook for 30 minutes or until puffy and lightly golden on top. Let rest for about 3-5 minutes before serving.

Garden Potatoes

blog potatoes For those of you “eyeing” your calendar it is definitely seed potato time, and Farmer D Organics has a wide variety of certified organic seed potatoes that are great for Georgia growers.

Potatoes are a fun and nutritious garden crop. They are high in Vitamins A, C and K, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium…you get the point.

Choose a bright, sunny spot for potatoes. They like to be drenched in sunshine, 8+ hours. Soil should be well draining and crumbly. Our planting mix is perfect. Watch the weather, as April 15th is our last frost date, and potatoes do not like to freeze. In case of hard freeze, you might want to protect your taters!

Before planting a seed potato, cut up the potato so each chunk has two sprouts. If the eyes haven’t sprouted, you can put the whole tuber in a brown bag with a banana peel for a few days. The ethylene gas will stimulate the sprouts to emerge. Cover each bit of potato, with the sprout up, with 2-3″ of soil. When the sprouts are 6″ high, mound some garden soil around the sprout. Keep new tubers covered with soil. This keeps the potatoes cool and will result in tastier tubers. Water about once a week in dry times. Mulch with straw to reduce heat and evaporation. It takes most potato plants 10 weeks before harvest.

Here are some of our favorite varieties:

Yukon Gold
A well known yellow flesh potato with yellow skin and pink eyes. Sets 5 to 7 tubers per plant  that size very quickly. Great as a fruit stand or farmers market variety.  Good eye appeal and excellent quality. Great mashed, or as french fries. A mid summer maturing variety.

Banana
The most recognized of all fingerlings. Can also be the biggest yielder as it can set up to 40 tubers per hill. A late maturing variety thats  good boiled, fried or in your favorite salad.

Caribe
A very nice pastel purple variety with creamy white flesh. Its very early and has a big yield. It can get very large if left growing all summer. A great multi purpose variety that will grow well in short season areas.

All Blue
A late summer to early fall maturing variety. A tall up right plant with beautiful purple flowers. Deep purple skin with a nice purple flesh. Great anyway cooked, especially when turned to purple french fries.

Farmer D Organics Garden Centers
2154 Briarcliff Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329
Phone: (404) 325-0128
Summer Store Hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am - 6:00pm
Sunday 11:00am - 5:00pm