2012 Growing Season

Early farmer's market finds

Early farmer’s market finds

Ever wonder why some of your favorite gardening/farming magazines only produce 11 issue a year with June and July being a combined issue? It certainly isn’t because they have nothing to write about. Could it be that some of the best contributor are  growers and farmers alike? And that their busiest time of year to work the land is, well, summer time?

It occurred to me this past growing season that my available writing time was at a bare minimum. I am by no means one of the best growers or writers but I do know that once the temperature started to rise above 55-60, I was switching my inside pleasures for outdoor ones.

Tomatoes and Peppers are planted in the Hoophouse on May 20th.

Tomatoes and Peppers are planted in the Hoophouse on May 20th.

The growing season here in Maine is relatively short compared to other parts of the country but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until Memorial Day weekend to plant your garden. Last winter, I spent a lot of time exploring extended season growing. It involved hoop houses, caterpillar tunnels, determining seed varieties and quantities, seed starting dates, maturity dates, fertilizing schedules, insect controls and marketing.Caterpillar Tunnels planting in early AprilJuly 2012 Gardens and fruit 052

The hoop house was perfect for growing tomatoes, cukes and peppers.

The hoop house was perfect for growing tomatoes, cukes and peppers.

As I planned a schedule for myself built around the available time I had outside of my day job, I managed to start my growing season in March instead of late May-early June. My goal was to have produce ready for the farmer’s market in early May.Grand Opening  Despite the roller-coaster ride the weather took us on last Spring, I hit the first farmer’s market in Sanford with fresh salad greens, radishes, chives, tarragon and oregano.

Fresh packed salad greens

Early radish, crisp and crunchy!

Early radish, crisp and crunchy!

From there it went on with a weekly supply of salad greens, kale, tomatoes, cukes, peppers, summer squash, garlic scapes, snap peas, green beans, potatoes, melons and squash. For my first year at marketing, it was a great success. I surpassed my goal two times.

Note: I completed the marketing research as part of the Farms for Maine’s Future business grant Rivard Farm received in 2011. StuCroft Farm  (my farm) sold produce grown in Acton, Maine. Rivard Farm sold tomatoes and berries from the family farm in Springvale, Maine.

Below are photos from the Farmer’s Market and Growing Season 2012 year in review.

cluster tomatoes are a popular hoop house variety

cluster tomatoes are a popular hoop house variety

The Blueberry Season arrived 2 weeks early.

The Blueberry Season arrived 2 weeks early.

Blueberries and Raspberries were a good seller at the farmer’s market.

Melon, squash and corn patch

Melon, squash and corn patch

Sept Farmers Market 002

Watermelons and Cantaloupe anyone?

Watermelons and Cantaloupe anyone?

Labor Day Harvest

Labor Day Harvest

As I write this post in mid January 2013, I realize that it won’t be long before I fill the seed trays with potting soil and start dropping in tiny seeds for a new year of growing. I would like to say that I will have time in the coming months to keep you updated but somehow, I know that the pleasures of writing will succumb to the demands of growing produce. I’ll do my best.

Busy as a BEE

Busy as a BEE

Best Wishes for the New Year! Diane

PS. Stay tuned for some great news from Rivard Farm!

Tomato Graduation Day

My tomato babies!

April 21, 2012

by: Diane Rivard

Just 6 weeks ago, I planted some tomato seeds for dad’s hoop house project. I was a little apprehensive at first because I had the expectations of growing something for someone else. No, not just anybody, it was my dad, a man, a farmer with years of experience. I knew I had to get it right.

hoop house tomatoes started in oasis cubes.

I’ve grown tomatoes from seed many times before but this time was different. The seeds were started in oasis cubes. After nine days I need to fertilize them because the nutrients in the cubes ran out, then 2 weeks after sprouting they were turned on their side so they could grow a stronger root system. So many things to think about.

Everyday, twice a day, I climbed the ladder to the loft’s attic garden under the 6 x 6 sky window to check on my little tomato babies. I made sure they had enough water, they were rotated so they got even light exposure, and brushes my hands over the tops of them to help strengthen the stems. I could almost see them growing before my eyes. At four weeks old, they were transplant into peat pots and fertilized with fish fertilizer.

As they grew, I had to move them apart from each other so the leaves would not shade its neighbor.

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the loft garden

Then three days ago, dad said he was ready to accept his tomatoes. Oh boy, did I think they were ready to leave home…so soon? I put 12 Clermon and 12 Geronimo’s in trays and carried them down the ladder on my right shoulder. I brought them out to the garage and set them up with an oscillating fan.

the fan running on medium speed, 6 feet away from the tomato plants

The move to the garage would get them ready for cooler temperature (nighttime temps of 60 degrees) and the fan got them ready for the stiff breeze that would no doubt blow through the hoop house.

This morning, I loaded the tomatoes into the car and drove them down to the farm. It was a bittersweet moment when I sprang the trunk and my tomato babies got their first taste of pure sunshine at their new home. Dad walked out of his hoop house with a smile and said, “What do we have here?”

“Your tomato graduates!”, I said

We carried the trays into the hoop house. It was a comfortable 78 degrees. Together, dad and I put two tomato plants, peat pot and all, into a five gallon grow bag half-full with bark mulch, we added more mulch to the bag, filling in around the sides of the pots and over the tops.

adding bark mulch to the grow bags

We talked about keeping them warm at night, a few nights a 60 degrees, then lowered a few degrees each night down to 55 degrees. My motherly instinct was working, I guess. Dad assured me that he planned to cover them with a low tunnel and use a quartz heat for supplemental night-time heat.

I gave dad a hug and said, “Take good care of my babies. I guess they’re not babies any more, they’ve graduated!”

Dad with his new hoop house tomatoes