Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oh, Let The Sunneth Commeth

I've been a farmer pretty much my whole life.  I'm always complaining about the weather, otherwise they take my overalls away.  However, I must remember that last spring was so horrible, that we barely got any clear days at all.  We've actually gotten a few really nice days - both this month and last.  Again, this didn't happen last year.  It appears we are headed for a couple more this weekend - I'm very excited!  Lot's of work to be done and my tomatoes are in sore need of some good sun.  They should pop up nicely over the next few days.  Hopefully in a 3 weeks or so, they will be ready for your (and my) garden.

Until then, I've got a great selection of lettuce, brassicas, onions, herbs, and other good spring garden stuff available.  You can take a peek at what's available here.

Tray packs (both 6 & 4 packs) are $2.00 each. 
4" herbs/flowers/fruit are $2.50 each.
2" herbs/flowers/fruit are $2 each.
4" Veggies are $2.

You can inquire about any of these fine products by emailing me at

Thanks - enjoy the sun, I know I have lots of good ideas on how I'll be enjoying it.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Another Weekend of Sun?

Could we be so lucky?  Lettuce hope!

I've got a craigslist ad up right now.  Lot's of greens and herbs available and are anxious for some soil to sink their roots into.  $2 for tray packs of greens, $2.50 for herbs.  Not tomatoes, peppers, or basil yet.  Still too damn cold for those heat-lover, but in a couple weeks, the tomatoes will be ready to go and the peppers and basil will be right behind them.  See the list of plants below.

I'll be doing the same around my own garden today and tomorrow.  At some point, I need to mow the lawn, if only to clip off the dandelion flowers.  Man, did they come out of nowhere in the past week. 

Getting the beds ready for the fun stuff like corn, tomatoes and peppers is one of my favorite parts of spring.  I love the smell of dirt and by the end of the day I come inside just covered in it.  Nothing better!

Okay - got to get some work done.  For now, here is the list of plants that I have available:
Romaine Lettuce (Parris Island, Outredgeous, Jericho)
Leaf Lettuce (Black Seeded Simpson, New Red Fire, Buttercrunch)
Mesclun (Farmer's Market Mix)
Head Lettuce (Crispino, Red Iceburg)
Mustard Greens (Braising stir-fry mix/mesclun, giant red)
Kale (Red Winter, Dwarf Blue Curled, Lacinato/Tuscan, Red Nagoya)
Broccoli ( Belstar, Spring Raab)
Cauliflower (Snow Crown)
Cabbage (Green Acre, Charmant, Mammoth Red Rock, Derby Day)
Celery (Utah 52-70)
Beets (Bulls Blood)
Arugula (Roquette)
Pak Choi (Chinese Bok Choi)
Onions (Walla Walla, Copra, Bianca di Maggio, Cipollini, Red Bull, Gallop, Everygreen bunching, Red of Florence)
Leeks (American Flag, Giant Musselburg)
Spinach (Tyee, Olympia Hybrid)
Collard Greens (Vates)
Swiss Chard (Silverado, Bright Lights)
Rhubarb (Victoria)
Artichoke (Green Globe, Purple Globe)
Garden Cresse

Herbs: culinary sage, painted sage, rosemary, lavender (hidcote & English), summer savory, winter savory, true greek oregano, marjoram, red-veined sorrel, catnip, English thyme, orange thyme, creeping thyme, chives, garlic chives, lemon mint, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, dill, fennel, cilantro, parsley (flat & curly), anise hyssop, lemon bee balm, wormwood.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Greenhouse Pics

April is just around the corner.  The days are getting subtly warmer and longer.  Lots of good stuff is happening here on the farm.  Take a gander at some recent pics of the plants that are started.  The weekend of sunny weather really put a charge into everything.  I got to work outside, soaking up vitamin D, and potting up herbs.  I had a blast!

I've got a cart of plants set up at Barber World Foods, on the corner of Barbur Blvd and Capitol Hwy.  Just cool season crops at this point, and a good selection of hardy herbs.  The good weather has people getting out in the garden and buying some plants to begin spring planting.  It's a nice change from how cold and wet it was last year - I get the sense that people are cautiously optimistic about the coming months, perhaps we'll get a mild spring with some good sunny days?  So far, so good.

You can also find some of my starts at Naomi's Organic Farm Supply.  This is a really cool store, and I'm extremely happy to be able to have some of my plants on their shelves.  They just moved into a new space and are still getting settled.  But it's really a fun place to walk thru, and they have top quality plants from Edible Horizons and Wildcat Mountain Farm as well.  You can get your baby chicks there as well.  Always a fun thing to raise yourself.

Take care everyone - enjoy the week!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

...And, We Are Live, People!

Phew - finally finished!  Please check out my brand-spanking new website at  Probably will be tinkering with it here and there, but for the most part, I'm pretty happy with it.  It's been 15 years since I did any kind of web-design work (back in college!  EGAD!)  Things have changed a bit since then, but I was able to pull somethings together to make them work out to my liking.  Sorry for the smartphone/tablet people, probably not real 'mobile' friendly.  I'll make sure that's a go for next iteration.  For now, I hope you can enjoy the pretty tomato pictures and my new favorite font - Nyala.


So, looks a little wet outside, eh?  And windy?  Well, yes.  It blew the top off one of my poly tunnels.  Thankfully, not to much damage occurred, and the plants made it thru okay.  Better than that 27 degree freeze last week.  Damn!  That's a bit chilly.  Lost a few flats of plants that morning.  Such is life, I suppose. 

Before all this rain hit, we did get an excellent weekend of sunny and fairly warm weather.  Keep in mind, we didn't get one of those days until the end of April last year - and it was only 1 day!  It was a gift to get 2 back-to-back in the middle of March.  It took full advantage by planting peas, potatoes, strawberries, carrots, radishes, beets, and onion starts.  Always good to get the first seeds of spring into the ground.

I mail-ordered a whole bunch of strawberries (80 plants!) of four varieties - Hecker (day-neutral), Tillamook, Benton, & Shuksan.  Not only am I looking forward for the bounty of fruit, I plan on potting up the daughter plants for sale in 2013.  I'm quite interested in the Hecker variety.  It supposedly is a heavy producer of large fruit over the season.  Time will tell, but I'm excited about the tasty berries!


I'll have my stand up at Barbur World Foods later this week.  Looking forward to getting some plants into peoples gardens.  Lot's of good looking greens and brassicas are ready for transplant.  I've also got a few other things I'm working on.  One of which is helping the Neighborhood House in Multnomah Village.  Details on that in a few weeks, but I'm very excited about this opportunity.

Hope all is well and your hatches have been battened down tight to wait out the weather.  Take care!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Getting Started

This post is inspired by Troy, who called me up this week wanting to talk about plants.  He purchased a few things from me last year and was very excited about the upcoming gardening year.  In fact, he wasn't willing to wait for the plants to be ready - he went about starting his own seeds.

I find this very inspiring.  One might think, as a nurseryman, that this lessens potential business that I may generate if people are starting their own seeds.  While initially this may be the case, I think it is net win in the end for all parties.  People who take the time to start their own seeds greatly increase their knowledge of gardening and how to best nurture seedlings along until they are ready to be set outside.  They begin to learn the signs of a healthy plant or a stressed plant.  What (and how) seedlings react to as far as soil, light, and temperature are concerned.  How to protect young seedlings in the early days.  Tons and tons of useful knowledge.

Now, it's wholly possible that Troy will jump in the ocean and become a full-blown nurseryman like myself and start everything that he intends to grow in his garden.  I would bet that this most likely won't be the case.  I do think he'll continue to grow things himself, but he'll likely purchase a few plants that he may not have time to grow or perhaps can't find the seed for.  It's in this case where someone like me - who puts tremendous value in the quality of seedlings - will benefit.  Troy and others like him will be armed with the knowledge of how to choose healthy vigorous plants.  While that may or may not be from me, my plants will be at least in the mix for consideration.

Good luck to Troy and all you self-seed-starting gardeners out there.  You increase the quality of what is expected for starts and for that I thank you!

With that said, here are some tips for people wondering how you can go about starting your own seeds.

1) Soil - For a professional grower, almost all seeds are planted in what is called a 'soil-less' mix.  Essentially, there are no nutrients or minerals available to the seed in the media.  It's been shown that seeds germinate better in an austere growing environment, as fertilizers and other pathogens naturally found in any soil can inhibit the sprouting process.  But, you aren't a professional grower (yet.)  My first year of starting seeds, I just used normal potting soil.  I probably didn't get the expected germination percentage, but I got a few of everything I planted.  The only recommendation I would offer is try to choose a soil that has the least amount of wood/forest product incorporated into it.  I find that seedlings don't like it (my guess is that it's too acidic.)

2) Pots - I used pots from plants I purchased in prior years that I saved.  If you don't have any on hand, you can procure some pretty easily.  Almost every nursery has a recycle bin for these pots.  I have scrounged many a pot and flat from these bins.  However, if you want something brand new, I'm pretty sure these same nurseries will stock normal 3-4" pots.  Craigslist is also a good way to score some cheap pots too.

3) Light(s) - You can use a sunny south-facing window if you don't live in Portland.  Otherwise, a cloudy south-facing window will suffice.  Plants can get a bit leggy as they reach for the light.  If you have a shop light around, these work very well for starting plants.  Two 4' shop lights can comfortably handle 4 10"x20" flats of plants.  The added benefit is that you can keep the lights on 24-7.  The seedlings grow exceedingly quick with this method.  All that talk about plants needing dark?  It's over-rated, at least in the initial seedling phase.  As they mature, they need a dark cycle, but they will be outside by then.

4) Bottom Heat - Some of you might be aware that seeds germinate a lot quicker when the soil is warm.  This is absolutely true.  You don't have to go out and purchase a seedling heat mat, thought, those do work very well.  The first year I started seeds, I placed the pots on the water heater.  The bump in temperature was slight, but enough so that it can make a difference in getting seeds such as peppers and tomatoes to sprout far quicker.  When you first sow seeds, don't worry about light.  It's more important to keep the soil warm (ie, the window sill is actually quite cold and will inhibit germination.)  At the first sign of seeds beginning to sprout, move them to the light source.

5) Moisture - Until seeds sprout, the best way to keep the soil moist is to cover it with plastic.  You probably have seen propogation domes and that's what they are used for.  However, you can achieve the same thing by putting some saran wrap over the top of the pot/flat to help retain moisture in the soil.  Just be sure to remove it when you see the seeds emerging.  Oh, and all those pictures you see of propogation domes with those nice healthy looking seedings?  It's a lie!  Plants need air movement to survive, much less grow.  Don't enclose a plant in a dome like that unless you want your seedling to lean over from suffocation.

6) Potting up - After germination and the first set of 'true' leaves (which are actually the second set of leaves to emerge), you can pot up the seedlings to bigger pots.  Take a knife, popsicle stick, screwdriver, or anything that you can find that can loosen the soil around the plant and allow you to lift it out of the soil.  Once plucked from the original, pot it into the larger one and fill in with soil.  If the plant has grown leggy (long stem between soil and first set of leaves), you can bring the soil line up to the first set of leaves on the stem.  This allows for a more solid base and your plant is less after to fall over as it gets bigger.

7)  Watering - water daily, but also allow the top of the soil to dry out to prevent against a fungal problem known as dampening off.  This occurs when the plant stem is infected and the fungus cuts off it's water and nutrient supply and it dies a very quick death.  Allowing the soil to dry each day will essentially eliminate this from occurring.

8)  Air Movement - Plants can't respire properly without air moving around them (they don't have lungs!)  A small fan will do the trick.  Even having a furnace that will blow warm air past them every so often will suffice.  Just don't isolate them in a box where the air grows stagnant and stale.

And that takes you to the time of setting it out into your garden.  Each type of plant is different in the time it takes for it to be ready.  Lettuce is 4-5 weeks.  Tomatoes are 6-7.  Peppers are 7-9.  Allow 4-7 days to 'harden off' the plant before finally putting it outside for good.  Start with a few hours outside the first day.  Increase the second and third.  Finally, if it's not going to be cooler than normal, leave it outside overnight for a couple days.  By then, your plants will be more than ready for the garden.

Best of luck to you all!  I hope to hear of your successes.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Saturday is Market Day

Wow!  It seems like it was only 2 months since I last posted!  Sheesh, how time flies.  Lot's of great stuff is happening here at Winona Farms.  Lots of herbs are growing, albeit slowly, and the lettuce, brassicas, onions, and strawberries are ready to be planted.  We are getting oh so near that magical point of the year where it's more light the dark during the day, which means time change is around the corner.  Spring ahead!

Saturday marks another great rite of spring passage - my first market day of the year!  I'll be selling starts in Sandy from 10am-3pm in the AEC Building, 39085 Pioneer Boulevard, Sandy, Or.  I can't wait!  Since it's in a building, I don't have to worry about the rain, which is a big relief for me and the market-goers.  Definite win-win for all.

Here is sample of what I'll have available:  Onions (bunching, red bulb, yellow bulb, & sweet varieties), alpine strawberries, rhubarb, chard, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard greens, various lettuces (letti?), rosemary, Greek oregano, winter savory, chives, artichokes, lemon mint, peppermint, catnip, and whole garlic bulbs.  Lot's of yummy stuff, for sure.

However, the best sign of spring?  I start planting tomatoes and peppers next week!  That's the fun stuff for me.  As much as I like growing EVERYTHING, I get my biggest thrills out of the tomatoes and peppers.  Lot's more grafting this year, both tomatoes and eggplants.  Once again, I'll have a lot of variety.  If there is something you are interested in, there is a good chance I'll be growing it, or at least have a good comp variety for it.

Take care, everyone!  Welcome to March!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome 2012

Ever since I stopped planting seeds for starts last summer, I've been waiting to begin once again.  It was near the end of August when I wrapped my operation up and I've planted my first seeds of the new year this evening.  Can't think of a better way to welcome in 2012. 

My first 'real' year of selling starts was excellent.  This year, I have even bigger plans and hope to be growing many more varieties for you to try in your own gardens.  I enjoyed the time I spent at the Tigard & Aloha Famer's Markets last year.  I learned a tremendous amount and have grand ideas on how to utilize my space a bit more efficiently.  I'm looking to get into some new markets around town.  My experience with Barbur Foods has shown me this is a valuable way to get my plants out into the market.

I had a really great year with my tomatoes.  On a whim, I tried my hand at grafting heirloom varieties onto virus-resistant and robust rootstock.  In my garden, it was quite easy to tell the difference between the traditional plants and the grafted plants.  The grafted plants grew far more quickly, had more fruit, ripened earlier, and generally were just a much healthier looking plant.  I guess there is something to that idea after all!

After essentially getting shutout with vine-ripe fruit in 2010, I enjoyed a bumper crop this summer as I pulled in nearly 300 pounds of tomatoes (both from conventional and grafted plants.)  Lot's of salsa, tomato sauce, and dried fruit still remain from the bounty.  My basil was also a dependable crop, with frozen pesto cubes still waiting to be warmed for a tasty winter pasta.

While those are all positive things, it's worth noting that 2011 wasn't 100% candy-apple great.  Spring and early summer rain plus chilly temps put a crimp on sales early on.  In my own garden, it pretty much doomed any hope I had of growing corn and melons.  Peppers didn't like it much either.  I did get a bunch of hot peppers to ripen, but the cool conditions made it hard to get a good crop of bell peppers and larger hot peppers like poblanos and anaheims to ripen up.  However, my one crowning achievement was to get a number of Manzano peppers to ripen.  These are bar-none my favorite peppers.  A notch below habaneros in heat, the citrus-y flavor is absolutely dynamite in salsas. 

Another addition to the farm is a small Solexx greenhouse.  With another La Nina predicted, this will be a great tool in the spring to keep the starts protected as they make their transition to the cruel outside world.  Knowing me, I'll fill it up in no time and will be needing something twice as big.  Guess I better find myself a few more markets so I can afford such pleasures!

That's it for now.  I leave you will a picture of 12 freshly seeded flats of herbs.  These mints, sages, rosemary, & thymes will take a while to get market ready.  Early January is a good time to get them going.  It makes for an easy start to the season. 

Happy New Year!