Updates from the Gardens – January 12, 2014

Greetings from the Gardens,

Gardens? What gardens? Luckily they’re hiding under the very protective snow cover. Snow with all the little air pockets, provides the best cover, so we’re grateful that the snow preceded the bitter cold. I think Midwestern fruit trees might struggle through this winter. Hopefully, our first pears last year, won’t be the last ones. When ordering seeds and plants for the next year, I’m looking for an additional zone upward for survivability.

Speaking of ordering seeds, the gorgeous seed catalogs are in with lots of new varieties. Of course, each one has attributes that make it something wonderful. Luckily some are newly rediscovered heirlooms, but others are new hybrids. New hybrids come with a price, so we have to be judicious about what we order. A 10 cent seed for a large luscious cabbage that will stay in the field for an extra long time might be considered a wise choice. A 10 cent carrot seed?? Maybe not.

We’ve had fun this winter using the grow lights in the basement to grow trays of microgreens for restaurants. They are tiny flavorful plants used mostly for edible plate décor and interest. It’s been another learning curve trying to figure out how many seeds per tray, and how many days to grow each variety until maturation. Soon we’ll need the space for slow growing onion, leeks, basil, parsley and rosemary seedlings. We’ve gone from a 20 tray capacity to a 60 tray capacity and will probably buy some seedlings from a new farmer in Naperville. With the cool wet spring last year, seedling transplants were so much more viable than direct sown seeds.

Of course, later, we will still be sowing the cabbage, broccoli, kales, Brussel’s sprouts, and kohlrabi in beds in the hoop house as they can with stand some cold temperatures under protection. They can be transplanted out at a younger age. I feel like we are organizing quite a “plant dance” trying to coordinate all individual needs, timing, light requirements, and space. Luckily, our starting soil came in bags this year and much is already in the “potting zone” or basement. Last year it was one huge 2 cubic yard bale and frozen solid as a rock when we needed to use it. There is a huge learning curve to this business and we’ll never be at the end of it.

Looking back on the last two years and trying to answer the question, “which was harder to deal with…the drought year or the cold wet late spring?” It was hard to answer. Each year has its challenges. That’s the frustrating fun. This year may be the year of the really cold winter. We’ll see what challenges this brings.

Our 2014 planning and planting is in progress and we hope you and your families will be again joining our family whether as U-pickers or CSA members. The website is updated to make sign- ups more user-friendly. It’s a matter of copying off your chosen form and sending it in with partial or entire payment. Last year, involved too many steps and I think some “rightly confused” people simply gave up. In this weather, we all need something pleasant to look forward to.
We hope to hear from you soon.

Jill, Bill, and Ben Beyer
815-980-0589, 815-629-2126, 618-967-4729 for more information