Hello Spring!

Even though it’s currently snowing…

Nursery News

Blueberry, strawberry, gooseberry, grapes, raspberry, blackberry, elderberry. Apple, plum, peach, and pear trees too! And Chestnut trees! Even some Ginko and lots of Figs!

We added some more heirloom veggies to our offerings, and are testing a few others in the production beds before we give them our stamp of approval.

We are growing more of our own flowers this year (and learning lots!) We have natives and wildflowers, lots of succulents, and plenty of edible flowers too!

Growing Grove

Things are jamming down in the production beds.  Even with the snow predicted today, on Friday we put in a few early tomatoes.

There’s a little bit of everything here, from the big 1lb monsters like Cherokee Purple and Brandywine Pink to the small Black Cherry, with some funky stuff like Cosmic Eclipse, Dark Galaxy, and Atomic Grape thrown in too!

The lettuces are really starting to look beautiful, and the other cool season crops are in and growing too.
Outside, we trimmed the grapes WAY back, hoping for a harvest this year to make jellies and jams from!  Under some of the grapes, we built up a hugelkulture bed to plant sweet potatoes in later this spring.

Kids Corner
When you come into the greenhouse, ask us to show you what the kids have planted for sale this year!  They’ve been hard at work filling and seeding trays, dividing and transplanting starts, and propagating various other plants.  Sales of some of these plants will go directly to fund future projects for the kids to do.

Raising chickens is next, methinks.  A friend dropped by Friday and left behind an incubator for us to use!  Now all we need is literally egg money.

Lots is happening here on the farm. And we want to share it with you!!

Hello everyone,

Maggie here, dropping you a line with a quick update on what’s shaking for 2018! So much is going on! I’ll try to keep it short, but…I get carried away.

We’ve been having a great time working with ‘the kids’ from Easterseals Midwest and the NKC Work Experience Program. Right now, we have groups at the farm every weekday. They are a tremendous help! In fact, lots of the bedding plants we’ll have this year have been seeded or propagated by them. Technically, we teach them skills they can use to find employment. In my brain, I’m teaching them survival skills. How to grow food, take care of livestock, and what to do with the harvest.

In the upper greenhouses, Sean has been busy getting a great start on the bedding plants this year. We’re focusing on heirloom and non-gmo hybrids for the edibles, native and/or non-invasive flowers and such, and lots of other stuff not found in a typical nursery. Opening day will officially be April 2nd.

On the farm and in the lower greenhouses, production is starting! Mikey has lettuces, peas, beets, and cabbage in the ground. Carrots are going in today. The garlic we planted last fall is sending up shoots. Green things!! GREEN!!! Our focus this year is to grow what we like to grow, things we actually eat ourselves. And grow extra to sell at the farm, the farmers market, and a few crops we’ll grow significantly more of to sell to local restaurants and grocery stores.

Now that the days are longer and the temps a bit warmer, the chickens have started laying more eggs again. Eggs are available for purchase at the farm now! We’re going to hold some back, too and teach the kids how to care for broody hens, and in 28 days, baby chickens.

The goats…are fun and ornery!! They’ve got a nice warm stall in the barn, and spend plenty of time out and about on the farm eating up all that stuff growing along the fence lines, and back in the woods.

In other news, we took the plunge and borrowed money (thanks Mom!!) to get the materials for two new layers of plastic for each of the four greenhouses. The plastic on the greenhouses was old, like decades old. It had holes and rips and tears. And there was only one layer on each. Now, all four have at least one new sheet, and we’re waiting for a nice, calm, warm day to put up the rest. The two sheets are separated by a pocket of air that’s kept inflated by a blower. We’ve noticed a significant difference in how warm the greenhouses get during the day, and how warm they stay at night.

We’re starting a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise the funds to pay the loan back, and to start an infrastructure improvements fund. This Spring, we’ll have wildflower seed bombs, special four packs, and lots of other goodies that the sale of will go directly into that fund. I’m working out kinks on our website before it launches. We’ll have these items available for direct purchase at the greenhouse, and with us at the farmers market.

There’s tons more I want to tell you!! Hope to see you soon and get caught up!

Blessings and love from all of us to all of you!!

Kids are the Future

For the past 6 weeks, through a work program partnership with Easter Seals Midwest and the NKC School District, four young adults with autism have been sweating alongside of us, learning various aspects of what we do here, gaining experience and skills to prepare them for entering the work force once they graduate.  They’ve helped us spread mulch, pull weeds, dead head plants, paint, haul soil, clean produce, take care of the chickens, and much more!

Their last day with us was this past Thursday.  We had a farewell lunch for them and their families and sourced everything locally from our friends at the Gladstone Farmers Market.  Hamburgers made from Bartholomew Beef, buns from Great Harvest Bread Co, homemade pickles (thanks Shelly!), and veggies from our own gardens.  Special thanks go out to our friend Liz from Lend a Farmhand who prepared it all.  Dessert was cookies and cupcakes from Aunt Mary’s Cookies!

Before leaving, there was one last task.  City Union Mission’s City Camp dropped by for a field trip.  The kids got to share what it had been like working there, and stuck around to help with the tour and activities.

It was an incredible day and one we will remember forever!

Why Are Honey Bees Disappearing?

Many people don’t realize this, but the global population of honey bees is at a record low. The primary reason for this decline has to do with pesticide accumulation inside the honey of bee hives. Pesticides are used so much in this day and age. In fact, there are billions of pounds of pesticides being sprayed all over the world each year. Farmers use them to keep insects off their crops and government officials use them to ward off mosquitoes. The problem is these pesticides are also killing honey bees, which are responsible for producing honey and pollinating flowers. Not only are pesticides linked to the death of these bees, they also cause bees to become disoriented with the inability to nurture their colonies.

According to researchers at the Department of Environmental Health of Harvard Chan School of Public Health, neonicotinoid pesticides are the cause of the sudden loss of honey bees throughout the entire planet. Researchers at the school analyzed 53 honey samples and 219 pollen samples that were extracted from 62 different hives in Massachusetts. These hives were taken from 10 of the state’s 14 counties in order to be diverse. The results of the analysis concluded that neonicotinoids were in both the honey and the pollen of each sample that was collected. This proves that neonicotinoids are not just in one particular location, but rather everywhere. These same conclusions were made by Canadian researchers who studied bees up in Ontario. The Canadian government is ready to take action by limiting the amount of pesticides that can be used throughout the province.

The simple solution to this entire problem is to stop using pesticides all together. There are already dozens of countries that have banned the use of pesticides on their crops and food. Unfortunately, the United States has not gotten to this point yet. The country has sustained its reputation for wanting the cheaper and most cost effective way of preserving crops.

Did You Know?

Without honeybees, human beings would lose 33% of the fruits and vegetables we eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated that honeybees pollinate about 80% of our food crops. These crops are what give us apples, strawberries, broccoli, blueberries, nuts, cucumbers, asparagus and more. It also affects our beef and dairy supplies because cows won’t have enough alfalfa to eat, which is also pollinated by honeybees.

Why Buying Heirloom Plants and Seeds Matter

Heirloom plants are open pollinated plants which have the ability to reproduce themselves through their seeds. These seeds will produce offspring that is genetically the same as their parent plants. The significance here is that you can grow 100% organic produce from these seeds without having to generically engineer or hand pollinate them. The plants get pollinated through the open air and are grown until full maturity before they are harvested. Without heirloom plants, the health of the human race would be in jeopardy.

The 20th century has certainly seen a lot of changes within the agricultural industry. Food companies are now bioengineering seeds in a way that will enable them to grow faster. This allows more crops to be harvested at a faster rate, so that more food can be available in the supermarkets for our growing population to purchase. However, the fruits and vegetables that come from these crops have fewer nutrients and more toxins in them. And as a result of all the bioengineering, it is decreasing the number of heirloom plants and seeds that currently exist. It is at the point now where you have to go to a private organic farm in order to find heirloom plants because they are so rare. But if you purchase these plants or the produce derived from them, you are promoting their conservation. In a way, heirloom plants are like an endangered species of animal. They have been on the earth for thousands of years and are now becoming under attack due to human interference with the natural process. If we don’t save heirloom plants and seeds soon then we will end up eating nothing but genetically modified foods. This will result in more health problems for people and the eventual extinction of the human race.

Did You Know?

A non-profit organization called the “Seed Savers Exchange” has been dedicated to saving heirloom crops from extinction for about 30 years now. Their goal is to conserve America’s endangered food crop heritage so that future generations can consume the crops and keep up the tradition of heirloom plant and seed conservation. Anyone can make a donation by visiting their website at seedsavers.org.

So what do you choose heirlooms or hybrids?

Six Safe and Effective Alternatives to Pesticides

Organic gardening is the way of growing vegetables and fruits with the use of things only found in nature.

Why would one want to indulge in organic gardening?

1. One can easily make compost from garden and kitchen waste. Though this is a bit more time-consuming than buying prepared chemical pesticides and fertilizers, it certainly helps to put garbage to good use and so saves the environment.

2. Organic farming does not use chemicals that may have an adverse effect on your health. This is especially important when growing vegetables. Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used according to direction, but research shows that even tiny amounts of poisons absorbed through the skin can cause such things as cancer, especially in children.

On the average, a child ingests four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than an adult. This can lead to various diseases later on in the child’s life. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.

Remember, pesticides contain toxins that have only one purpose – to kill living things.

3. Less harm to the environment. Poisons are often washed into our waterways, causing death to the native fish and polluting their habitat.

4. Organic farming practices help prevent the loss of topsoil through erosion.
The Soil Conservation Service says that an estimated 30 – 32 billion tons of soil erodes from United States farmlands every year.

5. Cost savings. One does not need to buy costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic gardening. Many organic recipes for the control of pest and disease come straight from the kitchen cupboard. Sometimes other plants can be grown as companions to the main crop. An example of this is the marigold, which helps to repel aphids from vegetables.

Mixing 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap and 1 cup of cooking oil can make a cheap garden pest spray. Put 3 tablespoons of this mixture in 1 quart of water and spray on plants.

6. A simple mulch of pine needles will help to suppress the growth of weeds as well as keeping the moisture in.

4 Tips to Healthier Plants and Bigger Blooms

Knowing how to care for your flower garden can make a big difference in the look and over-all health of your plants. Here are some simple hints to make your garden bloom with health

1. The essentials must always be given major consideration.

Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, sunlight, and fertile soil. Any lack of these basic necessities will greatly affect the health of plants. Water the flower garden more frequently during dry spells.

When planting bulbs, make sure they go at the correct depth. When planting out shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don’t heap soil or mulch up around the stem. If you do, water will drain off instead of sinking in, and the stem could develop rot through overheating.

2. Mix and match perennials with annuals.

Perennial flower bulbs need not to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Mixing a few perennials with annuals ensures that you will always have blooms coming on.

3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms.

Deadheading is simply snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will make the plant produce more flowers. Just make sure that you don’t discard the deadhead on the garden or mildew and other plant disease will attack your plants.

4. Know the good from the bad bugs.

Most garden insects do more good than harm. Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival.

Sowbugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.

Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like aphis.

An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer.

Always prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted up to give you a new plant, so it won’t be wasted.

4 Organic Methods to Repel Garden Pests

Pest control must be done with utmost consideration to safety; safety in terms of the plants, animals and humans. This holds especially true for those with vegetable and organic gardens.

The main purpose of growing vegetables organically will be defeated if they become tainted with pest control chemicals.

Here are a few long-term maintenance tips to make pest control less damaging and more environmentally friendly.

1. Use the physical pest control process.

This may be accomplished through picking grubs off by hand, creating barriers and traps and plugging holes. Snails can be found hiding in damp places under rocks and towards the base of those plants with straplike foliage.

2. Apply biological pest control.

Encourage predatory insects such as green lacewings and dragonflies to feed on aphids and other pests that attack your plants. You can do this by placing a shallow bowl of water in the garden. Dragonflies especially will hover around water. Bacterial insecticides such as B. thuringiensis could also be used against caterpillars.

3. Only as a last resort should we turn to chemical pest control.

Organic pest control methods can be successful and the ingredients for many of the recipes can be found in the kitchen cupboards. If chemical sprays are really necessary, try and find the least-toxic. These include insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, dehydrating dusts, etc.

4. Consider the use of safer pest control substitutes.

Recipes for alternative pest control include the following:

Against Green Aphids and Mites – Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and a cup of vegetable oil. Dilute a teaspoon of this solution in a cup of water and spray on aphids and mites.

Against Cockroaches – Dusts of boric acid can be applied to cracks or entry points of these insects. Bay leaves on pantry shelves could also help in warding off these critters.

Make sure that the chemicals you use are made specifically for the insects you are targeting.