Thursday, June 16, 2016

Recently, a customer stopped by and when I asked if he was interested in anything particular, he said he'd see what was available at the end of the season. I mentioned it seemed funny to hear "end of the season" since spring was so slow to get started this year. Spring seemed condensed into just a few weeks this year. With all the rain in May, it was impossible to plant until nearly the end of the month.

But there is still plenty of time to plant. Even annuals have over three months to grow. That's lots of time to size up and produce flowers or foliage for harvest. Perennials can be planted throughout the summer as long as they are kept well watered until they get established.

With that in mind, remember that our plant sale starts June 25. Annuals are half off and perennials are buy 3, get 1 free (mix and match.) It's a good opportunity to fill in any empty spaces or to try a new, interesting plant.

We haven't had any more unusual animal sightings. We've seen signs of a fox, but not the fox itself. There are lots of rabbits this year, and John said the fox might be hunting them.

Last week, I took advantage of the bounty of lavender and roses for harvest. Every day, I harvested lavender for bunches and made lavender wands and woven lavender hearts for sale in the shop. I gathered loads of pretty, two-toned petals from the apothecary rose. These are drying on a rack in the office closet and it smells divine to walk into the room. It reminds me of the shop. People always comment on the wonderful fragrance in the shop. I say if I could bottle it, it would be my best seller.

Otherwise, we're working on garden maintenance. Weeding of course, and cutting back. The fragrant dianthus are done blooming. We cut off all the spent flowers and the pretty blue-green foliage remains. I'm dead heading perennial Jupiter's beard to encourage more blooms. Same for annual orlaya, which has flowers like Queen Anne's lace. The orlaya reseeded itself in several spots. As biennial sweet William finishes up, I make sure to shake seed onto the ground for next year's flowers. I also gather seed from both orange and pink perennial poppies.

John's been a big help in the gardens this year. Things are looking good. Feel free to take a stroll when you stop by.

Monday, May 30, 2016

We recently had some wildlife experiences concerning turtles. On our morning walk, Lucy came across our resident box turtle in the wild back corner of the property. She was curious, but timid, so we just called her off and continued our walk. I'm happy he's still around.

Later that morning, she was in her yard and was barking a lot. She kept looking toward the garage. I thought a customer parked in the top driveway, but no one was there. Instead, I see a large snapping turtle walking through our yard. That's something we never saw before! John said this is the time they lay eggs and we thought she was going from one of the farm ponds nearby to the pond on the property behind us. John managed to get her into the wagon (snapping all the time) and drove her to the fence line and released her. That's a lot of turtles in one day!

We finally got basils planted in the gardens. I didn't feel we were late at all this year. In fact, I encouraged customers to wait until closer to Memorial Day to plant basil. It wants nighttime temperatures consistently in the 50s and we just arrived there recently. Along with peppers, basil likes warm weather, so it's hard to get a head start unless the weather cooperates.

Don't forget to keep newly planted herbs and flowers well watered until they are established.  Plants are most likely to fail when they're young. So , after planting, water daily for the first week if it's not raining. Give them a good soaking. For the second week, water every other day if it doesn't rain. After two weeks, they should be pretty well established. At that point, most herbs are fairly drought tolerant. Concentrate your watering on ornamentals and veggies.

Our gardens are looking nice since the weather has improved. When you stop by, feel free to stroll through. Plants are labelled so you can identify them and see many plants we sell in a garden setting.

One of my outdoor rosemary plants survived the winter, but had the center broken due to the heavy snowfall. I trimmed out most of the center, and it's filling in now. I don't think the damage will be noticeable in a month or so.

We had a group tour from the Rosemary House stop by last week. It was a nice group, and they seemed very happy with our selection of plants. Many of them toured the gardens. They were here just over an hour, s we had many sales in a short period of time. John was surprised at the hectic pace, but he kept up well.
So he's not exactly relaxing during retirement, but he sure is enjoying it.

It is so gratifying to hear the comments our customers make. So many people compliment the health and appearance of our plants. Recently, two new customers really made my day. One walked in the shop and declared, "This is my new favorite store!" The other was a young woman who walked around the shop and said, "It's just like Christmas." We do appreciate all the kind words.

I'm continuing to harvest perennial herbs like mints, tarragon, oregano, thyme and lemon balm along with rose petals. Don't forget to cut off lemon balm's small white flowers before it goes to seed, s it doesn't spread everywhere.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

We completed another Landis Valley Herb Faire under conditions that were less than ideal. It rained on Friday and it rained hard most of the day, with two brief breaks. In spite of that, diehard plant shoppers came out looking for their favorites. We were quite busy in the morning, but people didn't dawdle- they got what they wanted and went home to dry out. By the end of the day, the grounds were a muddy mess. Saturday was a much nicer day, although still a little muddy getting around.

One thing I noticed, we still had stock left on Saturday of some varieties that usually sell out on Friday, like cilantro, dill, tarragon and white sage. Many customers who come to the farm stopped by to say hello, although most save their shopping for a visit to the farm. It's always great to see our LV regulars, although it took me awhile to recognize most folks since they were draped in ponchos, wearing hats or hoods and holding umbrellas. Many thanks to all who came out. Gardeners are an intrepid bunch!

Customers have been coming to the farm too, even on rainy days. I think it makes us all feel better to see signs of spring, especially when the weather doesn't cooperate. Also, if you have your plants, you can run out and plant them when the weather breaks.  I've been cautioning everyone not to plant basil in the ground yet. I know we're past our usual last frost date, but basil likes nighttime temperatures consistently in the 50s, and we're not there yet his year. Tonight's lows are predicted to be in the mid-30s, and basil will not like that at all.

We're planting other annuals this week, but I'm watching the trends in the weather. By the end of the week, I'll know if it's safe to put basil in next week.

It's been a struggle to plant this spring, since it's been so wet. We did one round of planting hardy herbs and John finally got beans planted last week. No tomatoes in yet, and peppers are like basil- they want warm temperatures to be happy.

I harvested a bunch of perennial herbs- mints, oregano, tarragon and thyme, along with some basil tops that I cut back to encourage the plants to branch out. Everything is still on the drying screens. With the wet weather, they reabsorb moisture from the air and are not dry enough to store. Storing herbs before they're thoroughly dry can produce mold, which means the herbs must be discarded.

John's retirement is going really well. He has no problem keeping busy, but at least he has a lot more time to get everything accomplished. And boy, is it nice having a helper this time of year! He handles things like restocking the plants and of course, waits on customers. The other day, I came into the greenhouse just in time to hear him explain to a customer how to pinch back basil to get it to branch out and become full. An extra pair of hands really lightens the workload.

If you haven't visited yet, please do. We have lots of plants left and it's still early in the season. People are saying they're behind in planting, but this year you can blame it all on the weather!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Thanks to everyone who came out to our open house. We had a great turnout. Folks are so complimentary about the appearance and health of our plants, our wide selection and how good the shop smells! Several customers congratulated John on his retirement which really tickled him. It's great having him here to help. An extra pair of hands makes the work go much faster.

Several people asked me if I'm ready for Landis Valley.  Not yet, it I'm working on it. It's a tremendous amount of preparation, but it's nice for us as we see returning customers there each year, too. And it introduces us to people in the area who are not familiar with the farm. The Herb Faire is on Friday and Saturday May 6&7 from 9am to 5pm. John will be here at home, so the farm is open our regular hours 9-5 both days. Stop by and visit us.

In front of the greenhouse, we have a big patch of old-fashioned clove pinks with a delicious spicy sweet fragrance. They are budded up and will bloom soon when the sun returns. Today I noticed a round, clear patch in them. At first, I thought Lucy had been rooting around. On closer inspection, I saw it was a rabit's nest. I'm surprised the bunny didn't choose the thyme walk, which has better cover. At least the babies can appreciate the wonderful smell.  Now we must keep Lucy away.

On a dry morning, I harvested some early herbs for drying. Lovely tarragon, oregano, catnip, thyme and some mints. These herbaceous plants can be cut back one third to one half and will recover quickly.

Mother's Day is generally considered our last frost date. You can plan to start planning annuals then. However, I recommend waiting longer to put basil in the ground. It likes nighttime temperatures consistently in the 50's and we're not there yet. Be patient- if it's not warm enough, the basil will soit and sulk till it warms up.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

What a start to spring! As I'm writing this, it's snowing. Forsythia, redbud, and daffodils all blooming and covered with snow. This morning, as we walked the dog, John asked if this would hurt plants in the gardens. Since it's just perennials that are up, the answer is no. And actually, it's cold temps rather than snow that does damage. Even with lows in the 20s, the plants' roots are well insulated underground. I did have to discourage people from planting last weekend. Annuals and even perennials that haven't been hardened off aren't likely to survive a hard freeze. The people with major problems are orchardists with fruit trees blooming. Not much you can do there, unfortunately.

The greenhouse is full and things look really nice. I haven't moved the perennials outside yet and the extra week or so has things really growing and sizing up. Hoping for moderating weather this week.

Even though it doesn't seem like spring, I can tell how the season is moving along. This week, I seeded my last batch of plants. I start with the first batch right after the holidays and the numbers gradually increase through March and then slow down into April. There aren't many flats of seedlings waiting to be planted anymore. The only perennials left to divide are two late varieties so planting will soon be done.

Someone mentioned Landis Valley recently and that's only a month away! The next thing we're preparing for is our spring open house which is Friday and Saturday April 22 and 23 from 9 to 5. All our plants are in stock then and the shop is full of fragrant body care products, dried herbs and spices, garden items and books, unusual gifts and lots more. We hope you can stop by and visit.

Last week a couple stopped by to look at plants and ask a few questions. The wife mentioned that her husband had retired the week before. I said, "So did mine." I called John over from his work outside and they had fun comparing notes. Both had plenty to keep them busy.

It's nice having a helper. John's getting a lot of outside work done (at least before the snow.) Plus, he's doing things like tagging plants that frees me up to do more planting.

Both greenhouse toads have decided to go back into hibernation until winter is really done.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Spring prep is in full swing here at the farm. The greenhouse is really filling up with herbs, perennials and the first annuals that have been potted. I enjoy looking back at the end of the day and seeing how much work I've gotten done. The other thing that amazes me is how quickly things can grow when we have nice, sunny weather. From one day to the next, the difference can be striking.

Of course, a few nice days doesn't mean the cold weather is entirely done. Two weeks ago, a lady stopped by to look at plants.
I told her it was too early to plant and she seemed surprised.  I told her it could still get quite cold at night and we had nighttime temperatures in the twenties right after that.

I watch the nighttime temperatures to decide when to move the perennials outside. It's best if temps stay above freezing, although we use row covers if it dips slightly below freezing. A customer that drives by frequently told me that's how she knows the greenhouse will soon open- when we put the skids down outside the greenhouse. That was accomplished yesterday. If the weather stays moderate, maybe things will get moved out next week. The greenhouse officially opens April 1. Then our spring hours begin-Tuesday through Saturday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday evenings until 7pm.

The other big news here at the farm is that John is retiring from his job at Hersheypark after 36 years at the end of March. So you'll see him around a lot more when you visit. And of course, it means I'll have a full-time helper. He's learned a lot over the past 18 years, so he should be very helpful.

If you have butterfly bushes, now is the time to cut them back and fairly hard, too. They will grow back quickly and bloom on sturdier stems which makes the flowers look better instead of being lanky. On nice days, get out and do general clean-up and weeding. Then your beds will be ready at planting time. If you do containers, dispose of the old potting soil and clean the containers so they're ready to go.

Our gardens look like they survived the winter pretty well. Lavender plants look good, after suffering through several bad winters. Most of my outdoor rosemary plants are alive, although they all have brown winter-kill at the top of the branches. Some have branches broken off from the weight of all the snow. I'll cut them back and hope they shape up, literally. They get so big by the end of the season that you often can't tell they started off rather misshapen. I always like to give things a chance.

Our two greenhouse toads are getting more active. Toad SR.comes out and basks in the sun. Toad Jr. is pretty lively. He moves from spot to spot and jumps out of the way if I get too close. Hopefully, he'll get used to the activity like SR. has done.

Upcoming- greenhouse opens April 1 and spring open house Friday and Saturday April 22 & 23.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spring is coming!

Even though winter won't quite let go, it's spring here at the farm. All the starter plants have arrived, so I'm busy in the greenhouse transplanting. As the early crops of seedlings mature, they are also transplanted. The greenhouse is quickly filling up. I love seeing the tiny plants grow into big, beautiful herbs and flowers.

I'm amazed at how specific plants are even when they're small.
The other day,  I was cleaning up lemon verbena starts prior to planting. The sweet, lemony smell was just as apparent on those seedlings as on a full grown plant in the garden in August. On warm days in the greenhouse, especially after watering it's filled with wonderful herbal scents combined with a warm, earthy smell.  Yummy!

Our original greenhouse toad has been emerging from he dirt on nice days. He (or she) comes out and basks in he sun. He reminds me of those angry bird pictures. He looks like he just emerged from his long winter's nap and is none too happy about it. Grumpy toad face. I haven't seen toad junior. I don't know if he's still hibernating or if he moved on.

Just a reminder-the herb shop is open three days a week in March-Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 to 5. The greenhouse reopens on April 1 and then we begin our spring hours which are Tuesday-Saturday 9am to 5pm and Wednesday evenings until 7pm.

I'm also working on the spring newsletter which will be out in mid-March. You can reach about our new plant selections, a popular native perennial and an article on edible flowers.

At the beginning of this spring season, I'm determined to pay attention and enjoy it all. I hope it won't just rush by before I know it. We'll see how successful I am.