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!

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Starting hoop house tomatoes

March 31, 2012

A few weeks ago I started tomatoes for Dad’s hoop house project. Starting tomato plants from seed is usually a simple process of dropping a seed into a 6-pack cell filled with soil-less potting mix. Starting tomatoes for the hoop house requires a different approach.

Dad and I visited McDougal’s Orchard recently to inquire about the how-to’s of starting hoop house tomatoes. Ellen McAdam, who grows hoop house tomatoes at McDougal’s Orchard gave us lots of growing tips.

oasis cubes used for starting tomatoes or other vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oasis is one of the growing mediums used to start hoop house tomatoes. The 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 cubes come in a sheet and can be purchased at Griffin’s Greenhouse in Gray, Maine. The cubes are just like the oasis medium used in flower arrangements.

Three varieties of tomatoes were ordered from Johnny’s Selects Seeds. Two varieties, Clermon and Geronimo were hoop house recommendations, while New Girl is a variety used by Eliot Coleman.

One seed is dropped into each oasis indentation and a light covering of potting mix covers the seeds.

first tomatoes seeds starting to sprout.

Clermon, hoop house tomato variety.

When the tomatoes are 2″-3″ tall, the oasis cubes are separated and turned on their side. This forces the tomato plant to grow at a new angle, which in turn, will cause the tomato plant to grow a deeper root system. When the seedling is potted deep in the peat pot, it will grow new roots along its stem.

oasis tomato ready for transplant.

This tomato plant was turned on its side and is now ready for transplant.

Ready for transplant.

oasis tomatoes on the right, transplants on the left,

transplants ready to be moved to the attic garden.

For the next few weeks, the tomatoes will grow in the attic loft under the 6 x 6 sky window.

It’s very cozy up here with plenty of sunlight.

In about 4 weeks, the tomato plants will be transplanted into 5 gallon grow bags filled with bark mulch.

At that point, they will be at their permanent location in Dad’s hoop house at Rivard Farm.

You can find more about Rivard Farm at rivardfarm on Facebook.

Happy Planting! Diane