Welcome to the May edition of the Seed Bin - High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
Spring has sprung, and it's off like a rocket. Good sun and a fair balance of moisture have left the fields in good condition for early working, and the season has gotten off to a great start. Greenhouses around the area have been active for some time, and by now the tables are looking much more green than brown; Charlie will tell you more about this in the Field Report. Mother's Day is coming up, a holiday that is often linked with spring gardening. To commemorate this time of year and as a gift to all the mothers reading this month, we feature a beautiful piece of writing by Vermont author Chris Bohjalian, titled "Sowing the Seeds with a Little Sprout". And if you're still looking for something to tell the gardening mom in your life that you love her, consider one of our Mother's Day Gift Collections
. We'll tell you more about them below. In this May issue, we'll also tell you about spring greens, as HMS Sales Associate Sara Schlosser of Sandiwood Farm shares her knowledge of how to get delicious baby greens early (or late) in the season, from seedling to post-harvest handling. Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith continues her pathology series, discussing approaches to dealing with bacteria and fungi diseases on the farm or garden. As mentioned before, Farm Manager Charlie Rowland keeps you up to date with the HMS Field Report, and this month's Ask The Grower answers a question about appropriate seed storage conditions. More recipies of the month and web-only specials can be found, too, all here in this month's Seed Bin.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your Spring, and Happy Mother's Day!
In This Issue:
- Mixed Young Spring Greens, by HMS Sales Associate Sara Schlosser of Sandiwood Farm
- Pathology Report from HMS Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
- Field Report from HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
- Ask the Grower
-"Sowing the Seeds with a Little Sprout", by Chris Bohjalian
- Special Mother's Day Gift Collections Now Available
- Weekly Featured Products On Sale Now
- Recipe of the month, and more!
Mixed Young Spring Greens: From Seed to Sale (or Plate)
by HMS Sales Associate Sara Schlosser of Sandiwood Farm
With a little extra effort any gardener can enjoy tasty, nutritious, early spring greens sooner than would normally be possible. Similarly, these greens can also be enjoyed long after the tomatoes are in jars – some even keep their greens growing year-round! This article introduces you to the basics of growing cool-season greens, from seed selection, to propagation, to harvesting and handling.
Seed selection and variety choice are crucial to a successful cool-season garden. Spinach
is generally very hardy, and a great choice to start early. Certain lettuce varieties, such as Jericho Romaine
, New Red Fire
, Pirat Butterhead
, and Red
and Green Salad Bowl
, are all good contenders for growing on the cool sides of the season. Many Asian and mustard greens and brassicas, such as Mizuna
, Tat Soi
, and the chards
, are also excellent choices for extending the growing season in spring, as well as in the fall. These greens can survive below-freezing temperatures outside under row cover, or can be grown in the ground in greenhouse beds or cold frames. You can actually sow and grow them thickly in open flats right in your house, too. Because these greens are cut and eaten young (Mesclun
is traditionally eaten fork-size, at 2-3”), they do well right on your kitchen counter, and will re-grow for succession cutting.
- light-weight rain-permeable blankets made of spun-bound polypropylene - are economical and easy-to-use materials that do wonders for the spring or fall garden. We call it magic fabric, as it offers the following benefits:
1) Row covers capture warmth resulting in healthier plant growth and earlier yields.
2) They insulate plants from damaging winds (we’ve really put this to the test as our farm is very exposed to gale-force winds).
3) They are the most effective – and least toxic – form of insect control for many pests.
4) They offer protection from light frost, thus extending the growing season.
We like to start seeds in plug flats and transplant them closely together after we prepare a spot in the garden. By starting them in flats, you can get an extra jump on the season before you would be able to direct-seed in the ground. It also helps to avoid competing with early weeds. Using a good potting soil, moisten it a bit and fill the flat(s) to the brim. Gently wipe the excess soil from the top without packing it down, but leaving the flat full. I take my finger and carefully indent (not too deep) each cell in the flat, leaving a nice space to receive the seed. Then, mindfully plant one or two seeds per cell. We use vermiculite to lightly cover the seeds. Water thoroughly, and set in a warm place to germinate. Spinach
likes a cool place to germinate; other greens may have other needs. Seed packets and catalogs are a wealth of information, telling when to plant, good descriptions of varieties, germination rates, temperature for germination, approximate days to maturity, and so forth. Read what you can about the varieties you choose!
Once your seedlings are up and doing well, you can harden them off for a week or two before transplant. “Hardening off” refers to the process of gradually introducing the seedlings to the outdoor environment by exposing them to incrementally-greater amounts of sun, wind, and cold, to reduce transplant shock and increase their chances of survival. After this process, transplant them out at a 1-1/2” spacing, and you can cut your tasty, tender greens within a month after starting them!
Harvest and post harvest handling of mixed young salad greens
Young salad greens are becoming ever more popular among market and CSA customers. These greens are traditionally harvested at fork size, before developing full maturity. It’s very important to harvest early in the day before the sun is on the crops. We use a sharp knife and cut into a net laundry bag-lined recycling tub. For us, recycling containers work well in the paths, and are manageable in size.
For instance, if we have orders totaling 25lbs. for the harvest, we cut the thickly sown greens into the bag trying not to cut more than 5 lbs at a time. We find that more than 5 lbs per bag doesn’t get washed as well. Once the bag is one-half to three-quarters full, we quickly bring it to the weighing, washing, and packing station, which is our converted garage for the season. Take the net bag out of the tub and weigh it. It’s important to write down the dry weight as the weight after washing isn’t as accurate. Nothing is worse than harvesting what you think is the total greens order, and coming up shy in the end weight and having to add to the mix. Of course, if the harvesting is good and you are just getting your estimating down, you can certainly put excess greens into another bag. After weighing, submerge the whole bag into cold water. Carefully open bag without the greens floating out, and mix the greens around with your hand. Always be mindful not to bruise the greens, as some are more delicate than others. If it has just poured rain and the greens are especially gritty, it might take 2 or even 3 rinses to get the greens table-ready.
After careful washing, the greens are drained; we use a commercial bread tray over a utility sink. Once drained, we spin the greens. If you have an old washing machine, the bags can be put in on the spin cycle; this won’t harm the greens. Another easy way is to simply take the bag while holding the top closed, and manually spin it in a yahoo style. Circular motions over your head and wide arm-circles to the side not only give you exercise and fun, but really drain the greens well, too.
Once spun so excess water is out, we spread the greens on a mixing/drying table. We use a greenhouse table with a fine screen on top so the greens don’t fall through. Continue cutting, taking dry weight, washing and spinning until total weight desired is harvested. Now you can toss the salad. We find that an 8’ long x 3’ wide green house bench can easily accommodate 25 lbs. of greens.
Now you can put your greens into bags for market or boxes for wholesale. If you are just growing for your table, you can modify these techniques down to a scale more appropriate for your application, but all the same principles will apply. Shake up a little dressing, and enjoy the bounty of the spring!
Supplier for net laundry bags: Nylon Net company
Pathology Report for April 2006
by HMS Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith
Basics of Plant Pathology: Organically-compatible control of bacterial and fungal diseases
Over the past two months I’ve been doing a review of the basics on bacteria, fungi, and viruses as they relate to plant diseases, and I promised that this month I would get to control measures for bacteria and fungi. (You might wish to stash this article somewhere until later in the season when these little buggers are threatening your crops…)
Unlike viruses, for which the only control measure is the planting of resistant varieties, we do have some tricks in our bag for control of bacteria and fungi. But as is the case for all areas of pathology, whether we’re talking plants, humans, cows, or frogs, the most effective control is always prevention. And so, before I launch into descriptions of chemicals and such, I’ll remind us all that the best way to protect our plants is to keep them in a state of vigorous and happy growth. If you do so, they’ll defend themselves without your help. So get your soil tested, feed it well with lots of organic matter and nutrients, mulch where you can, and do your darndest to keep your plants as stress-free as possible. Organic growers are particularly good at this, so we already have an advantage, in terms of disease control.
But despite all our best efforts, there are dry spells and there are wet spells, and plants are not always as carefree as we’d wish them to be. But there are some things we can do right off the bat to prevent fungal and bacterial disease. In the early-season, our most prevalent pathogens are the soil-borne fungi that cause various pre-emergence and damping-off diseases. As organic growers who do not use treated seed, treated transplants, or soil fumigation, we must wait until soil is warm before planting, because the pathogens grab hold of the plant when it is cold and wet and unable to get itself growing. A plant that takes off growing will much more easily fend off soil pathogens on its own. Even seeds treated with a heavy dose of fungicide will not be able to grow if they are planted so early that the pathogens have a long window of opportunity. Similarly, the ability to fend off soil pathogens is directly related to inherent vigor of the seed and the seedling. If you are planning to stretch the planting window and plant early, make sure you use only very fresh, highly-vigorous seed.
As the season progresses, we begin seeing symptoms of foliar diseases. Foremost among prevention measures for these is the need to keep foliage as dry as possible. Most bacteria and fungi require water to spread and/or infect the aerial portions of plants, so as much as we limit this medium, we limit their impact. This means providing adequate spacing between plants to allow for airflow, keeping greenhouses well-ventilated, and keeping leaves off the ground. For small growers and gardeners, this can also mean mulching with organic matter or green manures that prevent splashing of soil onto leaves, which is a very effective means to prevent certain common diseases such as early blight of tomato. Plastic mulch is not as effective because it tends to get soil on the top and provides a smooth surface off which raindrops splash up onto the plant.
But in wet years we will likely see foliar diseases despite our prevention measures. Again, though, early detection and treatment is much more effective than trying to stop the spread of a rampant disease. As soon as you see symptoms, or if you know that the disease is present and a wet spell is imminent, you can consider using a chemical protectant to prevent spread. For fungi, the basic types of protectants are sulfur, copper, oils and oxidizing agents, as well as some newer bio-control agents targeted at specific fungi.
For the more common foliar fungal diseases among vegetable crops, such as early blight in tomato, preventive sprays with sulfur and/or copper can be highly effective, especially if they are applied early enough that a “sticker” can be added to adhere the substance to leaves. (You won’t want to do this if fruits or other edible portions are already present.) Once diseases are present, some growers report success with reducing spread by means of an oxidate such as StorOx
, which kills fungal spores on contact, or by means of a smothering dormant oil, such as JMS-Stylet Oil
or Jojoba oil. These last two appeared to be particularly effective against powdery mildew in a study conducted by Meg McGrath at the Cornell L.I. Research Station in 2005.
In almost every study it is shown that copper and sulfur are particularly effective; however, both can be toxic to soil organisms and can change soil properties, so must be used sparingly and cautiously. Newer bio-control agents, such as Contans (C. minitans
) for white mold, are showing considerable promise and will hopefully become more affordable and available as research on them progresses.
Next month we’ll talk about insects!
On-The-Farm Rundown - April 2006
by HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
So it’s finally May, and the farm here at High Mowing is in full force. We have had much cooler temperatures than what we were experiencing last month; the average lately has been in the 50’s and dry. But as I write this, we are having a much-needed rainy day. All the fields have been harrowed or cultivated at least once for weed control. Also, manure has been spread on all the land on which we are growing crops for production, and on the trial garden. Needless to say, the new tractor has been getting lots of hours racked up on it very fast; it is almost time for a routine service on all fluids and clutch. It is nice to have a reliable piece of equipment that you can just get and go!
The greenhouse is jamming right now with the crew spending most of their time in there listing to music and planting seeds. The mizuna, wild arugula, and prize choy are really taking off and just about ready to go outside. Plus, the tomatoes and peppers have all been moved from the channel trays to their new cells, where they will stay until they go out in a month or so. Melons, such as Sugar Baby, PMR Delicious 51, and Rocky Ford Muskmelons, are starting to peek through the soil and say hello. The Waltham Butternut was planted right behind and we should start seeing them by this weekend. A lot of the trial crops have been started, and with all the varieties, it is a sight to see.
We have also direct-seeded some Mizuna and Tat Soi outside and are waiting for them to pop up their little leaves. The Mizuna is about ¼ acre’s worth, and the Tat Soi a little less. We do our planting and bed cultivating with our Duetz-Allis tractor, nicknamed the Benz for its fine German cousin.
We have also been working with our bee man about getting our bees here in June for pollinating. We are doubling the amount that we had last year and making two spots in the 30 acre production area for them to stay. We are going to put up high fencing and electric wire to keep the ever-present black bear out and the sweet honey in.
It really is an exciting time of year, with all the new growth and smells that nature gives you in spring. We look forward as it warms up to being outside in the sun more and more, planting, weeding, and rouging the fields. I know most of you are excited to be outside, too, enjoying the warm weather. So get out there, and I’ll see you in the fields.
Ask The Grower
This month, Jacob Racusin answers the question:
"Each year, we inevitably have seeds left over after we’re done planting. What’s the best way to store seeds for use the next year? Will the germination rate automatically go down, or is there a way to maintain a high germination?"
The most important factors effecting seed viability are moisture, temperature, and light. Therefore, the best storage conditions are in cool, dry, and dark environments. Storing seeds in a moisture-proof container, like a zip-lock plastic bag or tight-sealing jar, is a good start. A dark, cool closet, shelf, or drawer makes a great spot; the refrigerator or freezer is another option, if you ensure your seeds are in a moisture-proof container, as some refrigerators have high humidity levels. Freezing seeds are acceptable for storage; some flower seeds even require freeze-thaw cycles for germination, a process called stratification. A good rule of thumb is the “100 threshold”: if you add the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity percentage of your storage conditions, they should add up to less than 100 (examples: 60 degrees F and 40% humidity, or 35 degrees F and 65% humidity).
Even when stored in good conditions, some seeds will loose their germination faster than others. Onions, some flowers, and lettuce, may all suffer significant germ losses after a year; some others, like peppers, leeks, and sweet corn, will hold germ well for a couple of years. Cucurbits, like squash, melons, and cucumbers, will keep a good germination for many years, when kept in good conditions.
Have a burning gardening question? A pesky path problem? A vexing marketing quandry? Send us your questions, and we'll get you answers! We will publish one of your questions, with an answer given by one of the experienced growers on our staff, in each issue of the Seed Bin.
Send your questions to
, and please write "Ask the Grower" in the subject line.
Sowing The Seeds With A Little Sprout
by Chris Bohjalian
In the next two weeks, I will plant the seeds for my snow peas. In soil rich in compost I will mold beds from dark earth, and into those beds I will tuck the small light green – khaki-colored, really – marbles that with any luck will be robust, flowering plants soon after Memorial Day.
It is the peas that come first in this garden. I plant them with my hands and one tool: a hoe I purchased at a lawn sale eight years ago for exactly one dollar.
That day when snow peas go into the ground is one of my favorite days of the year, an hour-long chore that I extend – methodically, but joyfully – into a two-hour ritual. It is, for me, my own personal May Day.
It is not the May Day of labor rallies – although gardening is certainly about labor, and the fruits and vegetables thereof – but the May Day that celebrates something more primal. Rebirth. Renewal. The reassurance that we have survived another winter, no small accomplishment here in Vermont.
That’s why I use few tools and no gloves: I want to be, literally, in my garden. I want to feel dirt on my hands.
Some years, my peas may go into the ground as early as today, April 24; some years, I may have to wait until Mother’s Day. My May Day is hostage to climate, not calendar.
This spring, the ritual will be especially meaningful. For the first time I will have a child with me, a little girl who will be a few weeks short of six months when I plant. The ritual this year will feel different because I will have with me an audience of one, sitting in something called a Summer Seat: a canvas chair with a back designed to support a small baby’s back and spine.
During my own private May Day last year my wife was pregnant, but the distance between expectation and parenthood was as incomprehensible as the chasm that exists between a seed and a plant. I am always amazed at the way the seeds I grasp in one closed fist can become a flowering row of bushes thirty feet long and three feet high.
In my fantasy, the ritual will begin this year not with the moment I tear open a packet of seeds, but when I place my daughter in her chair at the edge of the garden. In my mind’s eye, one of her hands is in her mouth, the other is pulling at the cuff of her sweater. Her feet, in tiny corduroy slippers, touch the grass.
She watches me as I work, her eyes wide, and because she is watching I may decrease the time the ritual takes – a small concession to an attention span that is short. But it is also possible that this first planting may take even longer, as I pause to explain to her exactly what I’m doing, placing her on one of my knees as I show her dirt and seed and hoe.
My parents never gardened, and so I’m sometimes surprised that it has become for me such a passion. I like vegetables, but it is the act of gardening itself that I love. I have no idea if my daughter will share this interest, if she, too, will derive satisfaction from planting and watering and pulling the damned from the ground so that the chosen may prosper. On one level, I hope that she does.
But on another level, I know if she gardens with me my May Day will become clouded with the annual recognition that she is growing up and I am growing old. Last year she was in utero, this year she is in a Summer Seat. Next year she will be walking, and the year after that she may want to help: How many seeds can a two-and-a-half-year-old hide in her fist?
I expect I will learn. And I know I will be moved.
This essay appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press, and then in Chris Bohjalian's essay collection, "Idyll Banter." Bohjalian is the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestsellers "Midwives" and "Before You Know Kindness." Visit him at www.chrisbohjalian.com.
Now Available: Mother's Day Gift Collections
May 14 is the day for honoring our mothers, grandmothers, and other special moms in our lives. Why not honor her with the gift of seeds? We have put together a few collections of seeds and books we thought she would enjoy.
Take a look
at the details of the collections, and be sure to order now in time for Mother's Day!
Weekly Featured Products On Sale Now!
Every Wednesday, we unveil a new batch of featured products that we offer to you at a discount. Maybe we have extra supply of seed, or maybe we want to show off a particular variety. Whatever the reason, you can enjoy 20% off our featured varieties
when you order your seeds online at www.highmowingseeds.com
! Just add the varieties to your cart, and your discount will be applied automatically when you checkout. And yes, all sizes of the featured products are on sale, so the more you buy, the more you save! But remember, the products are only good for a week, so buy now before the sale ends.
Recipe of the Month
Sara's article on mixed spring baby greens got me thinking of salads, so this month we've got a few different salads, each with it's own style, to get you motivated to start that spring planting. Enjoy!
Baby Spinach Salad with Tomato and Mozzarella
Fresh herbs really bring out the flavor of this refreshing and satisfying salad.
Original recipe yield: 2 servings.
5 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 beefsteak tomato, cut thinly crosswise
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/4 pound part-skim mozzarella, diced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped fine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Alternate layers of spinach and tomato across plate. Top with basil, mozzarella, and oregano. Dress with oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
This is a delicious and easy salad which takes little time and is a great meatless main course. It uses beets, goat cheese, candied walnuts and baby greens. For a main dish salad, add chicken. Feel free to include more of your favorite vegetables too.
Original recipe yield: 4 servings.
4 medium beets - scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons maple syrup
10 ounces mixed baby salad greens
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Place beets into a saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and cool, then cut in to cubes.
2. While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.
4. Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing.
Easy Arugula Salad
So easy! It looks very presentable for guests and takes only minutes.
Original recipe yield: 4 servings.
4 cups young arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large avocado - peeled, pitted and sliced
In a large plastic bowl with a lid, combine arugula, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, oil, vinegar, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and shake to mix. Divide salad onto plates, and top with slices of avocado.
All recipes' source: http://salad.allrecipes.com
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. Please note that Sale items listed in these archival issues are no longer valid.
Let's Make it Better
This is your newsletter, not ours - we just write it. Just as your comments, questions, concerns, and field experience have helped to guide our business in every way, from variety selection to customer service, we rely on your feedback to guide the creation of a publication that is informative, inspirational, entertaining, and enjoyable to read. What would you like to see more or less of? Technical advice? Seed saving tips? Tools and techniques? Information about High Mowing Seeds? We want to give you what you want, so please let us hear from you! Write to email@example.com
with your comments, critiques, and questions.
Thanks for reading - and responding!
Sara Schlosser - Feature Writer
Chris Bohjalian - Guest Essayist
Charlie Rowland - Farm, Technical Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Technical, Pathology Editor
Jacob Racusin - General Editor