Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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2014 Seed Starting Plan

free seed starting plan software

Earlier this month I shared the 2014 Main Garden Plan for Arcadia Farms (and you can see it by clicking here). I’m still working on plans for the Fenceline Garden because I’d like to transition it from a garden of annuals to a space for perennial fruit and herbs. (Here’s a picture of what it looked like last year.)

The seed catalogs have started pouring in and, just like last year, I’m looking to get a jump start on my spring garden by starting seeds indoors. Because last year’s garden was the source of my CSA produce, I needed to consider criteria such as yield (high), days to maturity (short) and uniqueness as I selected seeds. This year the Main Garden’s primary function is to feed our family although I will occasionally be selling excess produce or crops planted especially for our brokerage customer(s). That allows me to have different criteria, including:

  • Suiting our family’s tastes and needs
  • Limiting varieties to better facilitate seed saving (less chance of cross-pollination)
  • Timing for personal consumption (spread out) rather than commercial (large amounts maturing at once)

Fortunately I’ve assembled quite a collection of seeds over the last few years – including purchases and seeds from my own garden – so I have relatively few seeds that I need to buy. My plan is to save even more seeds from the garden this year and slowly reduce my dependence on outside sources.

Click here to read the rest of this article, including:

 
 

Chitting (Sprouting) Seed Potatoes

bags of seed potatoes

Our seed potatoes came yesterday! I ordered certified organic Nicola and Desiree seed potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange and can’t wait to get them planted! (I also ordered sweet potatoes from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds and expect they’ll be coming soon as well.)

This year before I plant my potatoes I’m going to chit some of them. No, I didn’t just cuss at you. Chitting potatoes is the act of sprouting them before they are planted. This is my first year trying it out, but those who’ve done it before say you can harvest your taters up to three weeks early if you follow these steps. Here’s a quick tutorial.

Chitting Potatoes – A How-To Guide

  1. Start the process 3-4 weeks before you’re ready to plant the potatoes in the ground
  2. Place the potatoes in a bright location (sunny windowsill or under a florescent/grow lamp)
  3. Sprouts will emerge. Try to keep the potatoes stable so that these sprouts don’t get broken. Placing the potatoes in an open egg carton would do the trick.
  4. Plant the sprouted potatoes just like you would plant them without sprouts. Just like you plant regular potatoes withe eyes facing up, plant these with the sprouts facing up.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company

corn seed watermark

Seeds are a hot topic at Arcadia Farms these days. We just wrapped up an heirloom seed giveaway this past week. The week before that I shared a Seed Starting Spreadsheet with you that can help you determine when to plant seeds and approximately when your harvest will be ready. That same week I also shared a list of seed sources with you. It wasn’t until after I created that list of seed sources that I realized I had forgotten someone! I want to share information with you about a new heirloom seed company founded by some of our family friends. But first a little background…

Around the time I left my full-time job to become a suburban farmer, an article came out that discussed a movement of young people (20’s and 30’s) flocking to farming. The article cites several reasons why young entrepreneurs are turning to agriculture rather than corporate jobs. Some of the major reasons include the stifling nature of corporate America, a strong demand for local and organic foods, the opportunity to be self-employed and the intangible rewards of doing work you love. The article is endearing to me because I am part of that movement of entrepreneurs who’ve (passionately!) traded desks for dirt.

The Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company Story

Jarrod and Kendra Tishhouse are part of that movement as well as co-founders of Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company (located in Lancaster County, PA). I recently had an opportunity ask Jarrod some questions about Urban Farm HSC. If you’re interested in supporting creative entrepreneurs who are investing in the future of sustainable agriculture, you’ll want to read on to hear their story!

Q: What inspired you to start Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company?

A: Kendra (my wife) and I really feel called to sustainable living and we feel that one way to preserve sustainable living is in the preservation of heirloom seeds (non-hybridized non-genetically modified varieties of seeds that produce true-to-form generation after generation). In light of big agriculture and chemical companies stream-lining “perfect” tasteless vegetables, we want to make sure that people continue to have access to heirloom varieties of seeds, and also invest in their food future!

Q: Please share a little bit about how Kickstarter played a role in the startup of your company. [Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects.]

A: Kickstarter is an invaluable resource to us. Not only does it provide all the start-up costs for your business, it single-handedly proves that you have an idea worth selling and helps you access people out of your immediate circle who would be interested in your project. Heck, we sent seed capsules as far as Portugal, Taiwan, and Australia among others!

To visit Jarrod and Kendra’s Kickstarter page for Urban Farm HSC, click here.

Q: What surprised you most about the startup process?

A: It is definitely a lot of work getting all of your ducks in a row! You have to know all your costs from A-Z, and you have to connect with the people that you want to support your project – let them know that you’re a real person with a real beating heart who believes in what they are doing.

Q: Please tell us about the products you offer.

A: We currently offer seed “capsules” in a couple of different options – a standard Survival Capsule with everything you need to plant a well-rounded garden, and a completely Customized Capsule where you choose all 25 varieties. We also just launched a new, “Ready-to-Start” garden that comes unsealed and non-capsulated for those looking to get started right away at a cheaper price! Now’s a great time to get your garden kit for the Spring season, and all of our kits come with included planting-times and seed-saving instructions! We are also looking to the future with other sustainable garden capsules and new projects.

These capsules contain heirloom seeds sealed in mylar bags for safe-keeping!

These capsules contain heirloom seeds sealed in mylar bags for safe-keeping!

Q: Some of your products are designed for long-term storage. What measures do you take to keep seeds from becoming sterile over time?

A: There are three specific factors that harm a seed over time: Light, oxygen, and temperature. Our Urban Farm capsules aim to keep the first two intact, but unfortunately we have no control over the last. (We put a suggestion on all of our capsules to store them in a cool place). Our seeds are sealed in mylar bags which are then encapsulated. You can literally bury your capsule in the ground if you want to (we keep ours in the freezer)!

Q: What can customers do to help maintain the viability of their seeds?

A: You’ll want to keep your capsule in a cool place. I suggest a fridge or freezer, a cool basement or cellar, or just burying it straight in the ground. The mylar bag has a zip-lock enclosure, so you can re-seal your bag after you’ve opened it. (It comes heat-sealed, however, and once you do unseal it initially the oxygen absorber inside can be spent rather quickly if you leave it open).

Q: Why did you select the seed varieties that you offer?

A: We wanted to offer the standard varieties, but I really like fun varieties too. We are constantly going to be updating the different kinds of seeds available for our custom gardens. I’m a big fan of purple and red carrots, yellow lemon tomatoes, and banana melons! When we started on this journey, we had no idea how many varieties there are out there that you would NEVER find in a supermarket!

Q: What are some of your future plans for Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company?

A: I have been thinking about this since day one! The seed capsules and gardens are only a start for us. We are looking to the future for other sustainable methods that we can apply not only to our lives, but to those around us! Our next step is to start a full local CSA in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, transforming our yard-space into a literal “urban farm.” I am in the midst of planning out the details right now, and we are VERY excited about this! Look forward to a new Kickstarter project within the next week or two!

Q: What advice would you give to new gardeners?

A: I would suggest doing research. Organic gardening is the only gardening worth doing and many people frown at the amount of work they think is involved. I suggest Googling a film called “Back to Eden” as a good starting place, as that revolutionized the way my wife and I did our garden this year. Gardening can be far easier than people make it out to be, you just need the right resources at your fingertips!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like Arcadia Farms’ readers to know?

A: We are so grateful for people investing in a young company like ours! Many people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into running a personal business – it’s a lot of work with little pay, but for me it’s a labor of love. We enjoy what we do. Sure, gardening, canning, dehydrating, and all the other facets of sustainable living definitely are a lot of work, but I can tell you one thing for sure: Every night at dinner time I am SO glad we do what we do. Our food is fresh and delicious, not stale and filled with preservatives and chemicals. It’s an ongoing transformation, and Urban Farm HSC is just one way to help us live the way we do, while helping others too!

capsules watermark

Your Part of the Story

If you live in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania and would like to join the Tishhouse’s CSA – or if you love what they’re doing and would like to support their newest endeavor through Kickstarter – check them out here:

Cinderblock Gardens CSA Kicstater Campaign

Urban Farm Heirloom Seed Company Website

Another Annie’s Heirloom Seed Winner

Last week we ended a great giveaway for heirloom, non-GMO seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. Thanks again to everyone who entered! We had such great participation. Even though I was very happy for our winner, I wished I could do more for the rest of you. So I gave an open invitation for our readers to comment here on 1) What one thing they’d love to have from Annie’s catalog and 2) one garden tip. We planned to  pick our favorite reader tip and give the winner the seeds they desire courtesy of the farm! And that’s just what we did…

Everyone had great tips (and I wish I could have picked more than one “winner”)! But at the end of the day, Tina’s Folded Newspaper Pot Pictoral takes the cake seeds. Congrats, Tina! She’ll be receiving the purple Falstaff Brussels Sprouts she desires. Thanks to everyone for their tips!

 Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.   

 
 

Annie's Heirloom Seeds Giveaway Winner

Spring is on the way and at Arcadia Farms, we’ve been dreaming about what this year’s garden will look like. And thanks to our giveaway from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (www.anniesheirloomseeds.com) many of you have been dreaming about what you’d do with $25-worth of free, heirloom, non-GMO seeds! One lucky winner gets to turn those dreams into reality.

To find out who the winner is, click here: http://www.arcadia-farms.net/2013/02/17/annies-heirloom-seeds-giveaway-winner/

Best wishes!

 
 

2013 Seed Starting Plan

I’m getting giddy about spring now that I’ve purchased seeds for our 2013 gardens! I spent a lot of time looking through websites and catalogs last week to make my selections. I started my seed search having a general idea of what I wanted to grow (thanks to our members!) but I needed to explore all the available varieties for crops that have just the right qualities for our gardens. I considered things like:
  • Drought-tolerance (what if this year is like last year?)
  • Yield (plants with ‘heavy production’ sound like a winner for market gardening)
  • Days to maturity (how long it takes a crop to grow from seed to harvest time)
  • Uniqueness (it’s fun to have something special in the garden)

Once I found varieties I liked, I tried to find the best deal, which involved comparing price to the number of seeds per packet. My seed sources are listed in this blog post.

By the end of last week all of my selections were set and I was ready to order. Fortunately for me, a friend came over to swap seeds and I discovered that I had a whole heapin’ mess-o-seeds hiding out. I decided to be frugal (part of sustainability is using what you have to make the most of it) and incorporated the seeds I already owned. That meant I had to make the decision to forgo some of the more “Oh-that’s-cool!” crops I was going to buy in exchange for some of the “Well-these-are-nice…” seeds I already owned.

So now after all of that deliberation, the list of crops we’ll be growing for 2013 is complete. Click here if you’d like to see it. I won’t bore you by talking through each crop, but there are some I’m especially excited about and would like to highlight in a later post.

Starting and Transplanting Seeds

Now that it is ‘Garden Planning Season’ I’ve had many people ask me about when to start their seeds. Here’s the deal: I’m not an expert. Remember, the whole point of Arcadia Farms is to provide an opportunity for our family to develop a sustainable lifestyle and to share what we learn with others. So while I can’t pretend to offer you an authoritative answer to the “When do I start my seeds?” question, I am happy to share my thoughts and experience. (As a matter of fact, I’m looking forward to talking with some other growers/farmers this week to get their advice on when and how they start their seeds. Look for that update soon!)

If you click here you’ll find a spreadsheet that shows when I plan to start all of my seeds. (Don’t hold me to it! I may make changes… especially if I find errors!) My start dates are based on a few different factors. First, I assessed which plants do best when they are sown directly into the garden and which plants can be transplanted.  Please note that there are some plants which can be transplanted that I am choosing to direct seed under row covers. (After a few years of gardening this is something I have a pretty firm handle on. If the concept is new to you, a quick Google search like “can radishes be transplanted” should yield the info you’re looking for.) For those that can be transplanted, I tried to find information on the best age for transplanting. Next, I determined which crops could be planted before the last frost date and which needed to wait until after. (The average last frost date is the projected date on which the last hard freeze is predicted to be on during the spring.  Cool-hardy plants can survive – sometimes thrive – through some frost, but more tender plants such as tomatoes will be damaged by extreme cold and need to be planted past any danger of frost.) This factor – before or after last frost date – will be fudged a little on my part because I intend to plant some crops under plastic row covers which will warm the air/soil and protect from frost, thus allowing me to plant earlier than recommended. And finally, I determined the days to maturity for each crop. This information is usually included on the seed packet and often can be found on the distributor’s website.

Using all of this information, I setup a spreadsheet that would allow me to enter the transplant date and days to maturity to find out both when I should start my seeds and approximately when I’d have a harvest.

Would you like to try a similar approach to starting seeds? If so, you can click on the image below to download a Seed Starting Plan template. Instructions are included on the first tab.

lettuce seedlings in seed starting medium

Click on the image above to download a spreadsheet that will help you determine when to start your seeds.

The average last frost date for the Kalamazoo/Portage area in 2013 is May 18 according to www.letsgrowveggies.com. To find the average last and first frost dates for your area, click here.

Companion Planting

I’ve also recently received questions about companion planting. What is companion planting? According to Wikipedia, companion planting is “The close planting of different plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect each other from pests.” Creation is pretty cool. All of the symbiotic relationships that exist in nature are astounding. The whole thing reminds me personally that God knew what he was doing when He made it and it emphasizes the value of interdependence in all creation (including humanity!). On a practical side, companion planting is very important for organic gardening. Done well, this method can help you to fight against plant disease and pests without the use of chemicals.

Again, I’m not expert in companion planting, but here are the resources I currently use:

Source: amazon.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

thorns in the garden

Click the image above for a list of companion plants found at
http://en.wikipedia.org

Planning Your Garden

If you’re new to gardening or just have questions about how to plan yours, I would love to help (FREE)! I can help you select crops that will work well for your land, climate, family, etc. and to select a layout. Feel free to email me with any questions or garden-design requests: Katie@arcadia-farms.net.

Want Free Seeds?

Did you know that right now we’re in the process of giving away $25-worth of FREE heirloom, non-GMO seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (a Michigan-based company)? Click here to enter – it only takes 1 minute! Giveaway ends on February 16, 2013.

 
 

FREE Heirloom, Non-GMO Seeds

I am so grateful for Local Harvest. They provide an amazing interface for consumers to connect with local farmers, and if you're reading this post you're probably already convinced about the myriad reasons why that's healthy for our communities. The Local Harvest blog rules request that bloggers don't get "spammy" in their entries and out of respect for the organization, I want to be sure to abide by that request. 

However (you saw that coming, right?) Arcadia Farms (that's us!) is currently partnering with Annie's Heirloom Seeds (a Michigan-based company) to offer $25 in FREE heirloom, non-GMO seeds to one lucky winner. Since many of our Local Harvest readers are gardeners and small-scale farmers who could benefit from free seeds, I didn't want to hold out on sharing this awesome opportunity with you.  To avoid being "spammy" about it, I'll refrain from posting the giveaway app directly on this page. If you're interested in entering the giveaway, you can do so by clicking on this link: Win $25 in Heirloom, Non-GMO Seeds!

Thanks for reading our blog! Spring will be here soon! :)

 
 

Seed Sources

lettuce seedlings in seed starting mediumI did it!

After many hours of possibly making the process more complicated than it needed to be looking through seed options, I’ve selected plant varieties for Arcadia Farms’ 2013 season! This is an exciting time for a gardener – exploring the vast world of possibilities as you imagine what your upcoming garden could become, what it could yield. There are so many varieties and sometimes making a choice between what would be prettiest and what would be most productive is an agonizing trade off.

Deciding what to grow is made one step easier for me by our members. All of our CSA members provide us with a list of veggies they love, veggies they hate, and veggies they’re willing to try when they submit a completed Membership Application. Last week I spent quite a bit of time digesting (pardon the pun) those preferences to amend the original garden plant I presented to you in this blog post last fall.

Based on customer preferences, the Main Garden will now look like this and the Fenceline Garden will now look like this. (Click on the links in the previous sentence to see a visual representation of what the gardens will look like in spring. Keep in mind that you’ll need to zoom in quite a bit – like 400% – to see the details.) I also have some succession plans for replacing crops that will be fully harvested early in the season, such as lettuce or peas. More on that when the time is ripe. (Get it???) I’m eager to share info with you on all the varieties we’ll be growing, including information on where to buy the very same seeds we’ll be using. I’ll also talk about a seed-starting plan so you know what to plant, when to plant it and where to plant it (indoors or direct-seed). But alas, I’m not quite ready to share that info now. (I’ve been way to busy drooling over photos of heirloom tomatoes and plugging price-to-seed-count numbers into my what-should-I-buy spreadsheets!)

All the same, I recognize that if I’m thinking about what to plant this year, you probably are too. I’m not ready to spill the beans (get it???) on everything I’m planting, but I most certainly would like to help your search by sharing some tips on where to get seeds. So without further ado (and no more tasteless food-puns… did I say tasteless??…) here is a list of some of my favorite sources for seeds. You probably know of even more seed sources – we'd love to hear about them! Please stop by our website and share your thoughts, reviews and sources in the comments section!

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds

Annie’s Heirloom Seeds is owned and operated by Scott and Julie as (in their own words) “a labor of love.” Their “about” page explains that they have “chosen to grow heirloom vegetables for a variety of reasons.  Better taste, better nutrition, disease-resistance, independence, and self-sufficiency all play a role.” However, the “heart” behind their operation is to honor the traditions and influence of their grandparents who passed gardening knowledge and passion on to this couple. Scott says “that connection with the past, more than anything else, is the reason we love heirloom vegetables.” Annie’s has a good selection (if you can find it with one of these other vendors, you can probably find it with Annie’s too) and I love that they are a Michigan-based company (Clarksville, MI). I’ll be doing business with Annie’s whenever I can.

 

Wedel’s Nursery, Florist and Garden Center

Wedel’s has a rich history of serving the horticultural needs of the greater Kalamazoo area. Founded in 1946, the business has evolved through many stages and locations to become the amazing garden center that stands today at 5020 Texas Drive. As a newbie gardener, I found the staff to be very helpful and approachable. In addition to seeds, Wedel’s sells many gardening supplies, including organic potting soil. Although you can buy online directly from any of the vendors I’ve listed in this post, you can also find many of them in person at Wedel’s (think: no shipping!). I’ve purchased Botanical Interests, Hart’s and Seed Savers Exchange seeds at Wedel’s. If you’re new to gardening, have questions, want to avoid shipping and want to support a local business, you should stop by Wedel’s.

Source: wedels.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Hart’s

My first garden consisted primarily of Hart’s seeds. I still find that they have some of the best germination rates of all the seeds I start and I’ve always been pleased with the resulting crop. I appreciate that Hart’s is committed to selling only non-GE (genetically engineered) seeds. You can be assured that all of their seeds are open-pollinated seeds. Their packaging isn’t nearly as appealing as some of the other vendors listed here, but don’t let that fool you about what’s inside!

 

Botanical Interests

I’ve grown many crops from these seeds. The packets provide lots of growing tips and usually include recipes on the inside! Lots of heirloom varieties and they also offer some organic seeds. I especially enjoyed their Easter Egg Radishes.

 

Victory Seeds

Victory seed places an emphasis on maintaining seed quality and providing quality customer service. They have packaging and growing procedures in place that help them meet and often exceed industry standards for quality. In their own words “our goal as an organization, is to provide you, our friends and customers, with the highest value for your money — a good selection, reasonable prices, high quality open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, and responsive customer support.” They seem to have a good selection, great prices, and helpful growing information on each crop which has helped me determine which seeds to purchase based on my needs.

 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I have not yet planted seeds from Baker Creek – 2013 is the first year I’m buying from them. So far, I’m impressed. Their selection is amazing and I appreciate the informative “blurbs” they provide about each plant. Gardener reviews are also great – several of them helped me decide what to purchase and what to pass over. Their website is beautiful and they offer additional products and services, including an Heirloom Gardener Magazine. Their “About” page says “We do not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. We boycott all gene-altering companies. We are not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! We work with a network of about 150 small farmers, gardeners and seed growers to bring you the best selection of seeds available! Many of our varieties we sell were collected by us on our travels abroad.”

 

Seed Savers Exchange

Maybe this is childish, but one of the reasons I like buying from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is that their website and catalogs have such amazing photos! But there are more grown-up reasons to buy from SSE, like the fact that they are dedicated to preserving America’s gardening heritage by “saving and sharing heirloom seeds.” This non-profit organization is all about preservation of heirloom, unique seeds so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. In addition to seeds they offer cooking beans, books, workshops and seed-saver gatherings.

 

Burpee Organic Seeds

Burpee seeds are everywhere. Meijer. Wal-Mart. Walgreens. Everywhere. They have a good variety of selections and are usually very economical to buy. I personally don’t like the fact that it’s sometimes hard for me to tell by their packaging if seeds are genetically engineered or not. However, I have purchased and grown some non-GE, organic seeds from Burpee and have been satisfied with the results.

Source: burpee.com via Arcadia on Pinterest

 

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.   

 
 
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