Despite the snow and freezing rain, spring feels a little closer. I've started to order seeds for this year's growing season, so visions of tomatoes and zucchini have been dancing through my head. Planning a home garden takes some thought, and planning a garden you intend to sell from is an even bigger project!
We start out with the list of what we planted last year and decide if we want to plant the same varieties this year. There are so many varieties of each type of vegetable, there's no use sticking to one that doesn't do well for you. I had no idea there were over 70 varieties of sweet corn available until the cover of one of our wholesale garden catalogs came last year! Our next consideration is how long the plant takes to finish growing. We have a short growing season this far north, and need to make sure the plant will do what it is supposed to do before the frosts come again in the fall. Also, if you plant varieties which ripen at different times, you can have that vegetable available for a longer season, both in the stand and in the kitchen.
The order I just sent out was to Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit group committed to saving rare and heirloom vegetables. They have lots of things not seen in any of the other catalogs we receive (and we get plenty!) so I always spend a little extra time picking out a few goodies to experiment with. As an added bonus, I can save the seed to plant next year if they do well! Last year I fell in love with Grandpa Admire's lettuce, so I ordered lots more of that. Since it was such a rough growing year, I ordered a few things that didn't do very well last year, but either showed promise or I just can't resist. Normally, we wouldn't be so lenient, but almost no tomatoes survived the summer anywhere, and the weather didn't favor melons either. However, if I don't get any Delice de la Table melons this year, they won't be on my list next year. I ordered most of my fun experiments through this catalog. Hopefully, I'll find a tasty use for a bounty of ground cherries and you'll be able to purchase mini popcorn on the cob from the stand this fall!
SSE also carries flower seed. I love to plant flowers, but I favor hardy perennials that take care of themselves year after year. I simply don't have time to spend hours on flowers in the spring, but I love having good habitat for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds, and every place needs a bit of pretty, farms included! My mom had her own floral shop once upon a time, so I know a bit about flowers, which is more than I could say for vegetables until recently. This time I decided to give hollyhocks a try- they are big, bold flowers that come back on their own, although planting from seed I won't see flowers until next summer. This variety is called Outhouse Hollyhocks, which sound like a terrible name for a flower, but they have a charming story. According to the Seed Savers catalog, "years ago, refined ladies just looked for the hollyhocks and didn't have to ask where the outhouse was." Being 6-9 feet tall, they hid the building as well. We still have an outhouse here, although we do prefer the pleasure of indoor plumbing, it is a part of the character of the farm and we have no plans to tear it down. So it seems fitting to me to decorate it with hollyhocks!
I've been working on the website again, and have plans to start a monthly e-newsletter. If you'd like to be a part of that, just go to www.pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com and fill out your name and email on the form on the home page. There is a place to leave a comment or let me know what you'd like to hear more about as well. And when I say monthly, I mean it...I'm too busy to send you spam! I also set up a fun little poll you can vote as well. Once I get some names, I'll work on a newsletter, but it will probably be late February before it goes out.