Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photos: Johnny's 2011 Calendar

Watch slideshow of images from the Johnny's 2011 Calendar.

The Johnny's 2011 Calendar makes the perfect gift.
Known Locally – Grown Locally; a sampling of Maine farms. Organize your growing schedule and be informed of important industry events! Entitled ‘Farms of Maine', Johnny's 2011 calendar has 14 months of local market farm imagery with brief descriptions of the vivid photos displayed. Also included is a listing of local agricultural shows we will be attending, a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map with in-depth explanation, and some very helpful reference charts for seeding rates and yield data for direct-seeded and transplanted crops.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Johnny's retail store will be open day after Thanksgiving

The Johnny's Catalog Store will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, November 26, the day after Thanksgiving. For shoppers who like to get an early start on holiday gift purchases, we'll have a few prizes and special offers available at the store on Friday.
  • The first 25 customers to visit the store on Friday, November 26, will receive a free gift worth up to $25.
  • Free standard shipping on a purchases made in the store on Friday, November 26.
  • A drawing for up to an additional 40 percent off your highest priced item.
If you're in the area, stop by for a visit. The store is located at 955 Benton Ave. in Winslow, Maine. Click here for directions.

A few photos of the store display, dressed up in holiday colors.

A customer asks Cathy, Johnny's Store Manager, about a kitchen composter.
Inside of store with balsam decorations.
A little holiday cheer. Poinsettia looks divine.
Holiday seed rack display.

While the store will be open on Friday, the rest of Johnny's business operations, including the call center, are closed both Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. We will resume normal business hours on Monday, November 29.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of here at Johnny's Selected Seeds!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coming soon: Johnny's 2011 catalog with 200 new products!

This is one of the most exciting times of the year here at Johnny's.

The big news? We've just printed the 2011 catalog. You should be receiving your catalog within the next 6 weeks, or so. This year's edition contains more than 200 new products, including 75 new organic seed varieties and 6 new Johnny's-bred varieties.

A few highlights:

Defiant PhR tomato: from the Johnny's breeding program; a mid-sized slicer with full resistance to late blight and intermediate resistance to early blight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's new at the Farm? Winter beckons

The middle of November already! Where has the time gone? I guess we were so busy harvesting and trying to get everything done before the weather got cold, by the time we sat back and looked around the leaves were gone along with the birds and winter is quickly approaching. Although it's been a great fall, warm and pleasant, we'll be plunged into cold and wind before we're ready as usual. Time is upon us to get what we need to get done before the cold weather moves in. The darkness comes so early now it's near impossible to get anything done after work and everything gets put off to the weekends.

The field work here is wrapping up with the plastic being pulled out of the fields. That'll be our next to last activity in the field for the 2010 growing season. Our last task will be chisel plowing along the contours of the field to prevent winter erosion. It's too late to plant any cover crops now so we'll rough up the surface to catch the water and prevent erosion. It's wet right now and an inch of rain is in the forecast, but once that dries up we'll get out there one more time.

The winter rye we planted the week of October 17th is up and growing but slowly. Mid October is pushing the "best planting window" and growth is marginal through the late fall. Winter rye will technically grow down to 32 degrees but it's very slow. The brassicas we planted are doing much better; they really enjoy the cooler weather and frequent rains of fall in Maine. The warm fall weather has helped our cover crops grow but, alas, all good things must come to an end.

Fall activities, besides wrapping up the field work, include banking of the older buildings, recovering greenhouse No. 3 and storing everything we can under cover or out of the way of the snow plowing crew. All the tractors get a thorough going over and the a good pressure washing. Then, after drying, they'll go into storage until next season. Same with the equipment.

Now is a good time to look for holes around buildings where critters will try to get in before winter. Newer buildings aren't as prone to critters as the older ones and the greenhouses. An unused or "closed for the winter" greenhouse is an excellent spot for a rat to spend the winter. One of the best ways to keep them from settling in is to deny them a food source; not easy if you have animals or like to feed the birds. Here we clean the greenhouses prior to closing them down for the winter and at home I keep feed and seed in steel garbage cans. Still they get in, and more than once I've switched the lights on to see them scurry around.

A rat is a very smart creature; smart like a coyote. As much as they have been trapped and poisoned they thrive. They live in and under buildings, in compost piles and thrive on our throw away materials. I've seen them under our bird feeders, scavenging seed and chasing away the squirrels, I've seen them in my workshop keeping warm next to the hot water pipes and I've seen many of them in the greenhouses during the winter and early spring. Wanting to get into my birdseed bin they chewed a hole in the plastic cover, and I would have never known, but one popped out when I went to fill it up.

A couple of years ago we started seeing colored rats; multicolored rats, mostly brown and white but sometimes black and white or just black or white. My neighbor has been seeing them too, so it's not just me. I'd speculate someone released some domestic ones nearby and they bred with the wild ones but that's only speculation. They don't seem to be as wary nor as wild as the regular rats. It does add some variety to just trapping old fashioned brown rats. Yes, things can get pretty slow at times. Catch one rat and the others learn real quick that a trap means death, and they'll avoid it. Like I said; they're smart.

I'm off next week so there won't be my usual column. Time to get some stuff done before winter sets in. I think what little bit of garden I had this year needs to be cleaned up; I guess I can mulch the blueberries now. The Brussels sprouts will be ripe for harvesting and everything else can get pulled up. I didn't get a cover crop planted so will leave the weeds there to protect the soil. There's a little more work to do on the woodpile and that'll be done. And there's lots of chicken manure to take out of the buildings and apply to the garden, well anyways, I think I can find enough projects to keep me busy.

See you in December, Brian

Monday, November 15, 2010

Photos: Farming in Saudi Arabia

Kate Frey, a Johnny's customer, sent us these photos of a farm near the city of Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. The farm fields being converted from flood irrigated beds to drip irrigation.
New beds replacing the flood irrigation previously used. This saves water and time weeding.

View looking west, when finished there will be one hundred beds 10-12 meters long. All on drip tape.

Middle upper area, as you see the plants are all coming along.

Experimental bed with cabbage and broccoli plant on a no till ground cover.

Looking East with broccoli and beneficial flower mix along the road.

Flower bed.

Drip tape helps garden thrive.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What's new at the Farm? Harvest near completion

The mild fall weather continues and many crops look surprisingly good considering the date. Ample rain has fallen over the past month so we shouldn't have any concerns about lack of groundwater going into next season. Not now, anyway. The view from my office window is of fall lettuce, fall spinach, fall greens and the fall carrot trial. Carrots were dug late last week and look great! There will be lots of fine meals with them as a guest.

The seed processing is done; at least the outside part. Kelly is busy running our array of seed cleaning machines. Several people on the farm crew are working on the bean tables in the wet and cold parts of the week. A bean table consists of a hopper that dispenses seeds onto a conveyor which are then examined and the damaged and broken seeds, along with any pulp and stems, are removed by hand. A labor intensive job for sure, but we end up with the cleanest seed possible.

The only crop we have left to harvest is Sweet Annie. This is one of the easiest crops from which to gather seed. We start it as seedlings in the greenhouse in April, transplant them out to the field in May on plastic and forget about them until the end of November. Once the stems are ready to harvest, we'll cut them off and spread them out on row covers in the greenhouse. After a couple of weeks of drying, we can thresh them. After seed cleaning, they'll head off to the Winslow facility for storage and packaging. Then the harvest for seed will be officially over.

And then we can start looking forward to next year. Well, no, actually we are planning next year's crops and locations now. We predict what we're going to need to meet sales for the next couple of years then decide who is going to grow what and where. No easy task here.

Our Production Coordinator, Mike Brown, is instrumental in finding growers to grow our crops and I work closely with him in placing productions locally and here on Johnny's farm. Growing crops for seed is different than growing for market as seed requires a longer season and , more often than not, growing aids to insure we get mature seed.

Growing aids include plastic mulch and floating row covers. These are instrumental in insuring we harvest high quality seed. Plastic mulch heats the soil and helps control the weeds. Floating row covers heat and protect the plants and keep the insects at bay. They work in conjunction giving the transplants every opportunity to succeed in their quest to produce viable offspring. All our squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and some tomatoes get this treatment. All the peppers and most of the tomatoes get plastic mulch, and our brassicas and corn get row covers.

Row covers work great in keeping pests at bay. They discourage vertebrate pests like the crows from the corn; woodchucks out of the brassicas; and turkeys from eating the cucumbers. Row covers work equally well in the battle against invertebrate pests like flea beetles, potato beetles, and striped cucumber beetles. They also work well for catching seed from seed pods that would otherwise fall onto the ground and be lost; like in the case of the Sweet Annie above.

Floating rows covers, after their initial use can be used for other projects after their insect exclusion tasks have been completed and are no longer as insect proof as they once were. They have many uses other than protecting the crop. They can store things like garlic – hanging from nails to keep dry. And they can be used solely for adding heat to overwintering crops where insect exclusion isn't a priority. I'm sure you can find uses for used and holey row covers that I haven't thought of – and at least some of those "yard ghosts" before Halloween.

Until next week, Brian.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Photos: Frozen food section

Jack Frost visited Johnny's Research Farm last week. His icy breath brings out the flavor in many cold-weather vegetables. The flavors of Kale, Carrots, and Spinach, to name a few, are often enhanced by a little nip of frost. And these frosty photos are pretty cool too, especially if you view them in full-screen mode.

See Flickr slideshow below.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Hampshire farmer wins Johnny's Gift Coupon prize

Elaine Haynes, of the Haynes Homestead Farm in Colebrook, N.H., was the winner of a $100 Johnny's gift coupon. Haynes drew the winning ticket in a raffle held at the New Hampshire Vegetable and Berry Growers' Seminar held October 27 in Whitefield, N.H.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's new at the Farm? Oh deer, Jerusalem Artichokes

The harvest season continues to wind down. This week finds us processing the last two squashes and digging the artichokes. Jerusalem artichoke that is -- commonly referred to here as JAs.

The finishing of the harvest happens as the weather turns decidedly colder and working outside some days now isn't overly pleasant. As I write this, the Farm Crew is digging artichokes and it's 42 degrees with a brisk northwest wind.

Jerusalem Artichoke: A favorite menu item for deer.
We've been raising Jerusalem Artichokes here since before I started. Most years we have adequate supply. This year is no exception.  We used to dig and ship them in the spring -- one of our first tasks in the field in the early spring. I remember one year when it was snowing and we were digging them in the mud – fun, fun. We also didn't replant them; we simply left them in one particular field and added some compost to them every spring.

We found out that this didn't always work as some years the deer beat us to the patch and we came up short. We did discover that while the deer can follow the stems down to the tubers, they can't smell newly planted ones. So we started fall planting them, and voila, we had good tubers again. We also plant them in different fields and maintain them like corn – rows 36 inches apart, and tubers a foot or so apart and cultivate them as such.  Growing them this way gives us excellent yields and makes it easy to cultivate.  Aggressive weed control in the early season really pays off with them. They can be harrowed before they come up or when they are very small and that'll kill the first flush of weeds.  JAs are very hardy and they won't be hurt by aggressive cultivating techniques.

We planted around 1,500 bed feet, which is 3,000 row feet, of JAs last fall. We plant them this time of year for a couple reasons: No. 1 -- deer, and No. 2 -- timing.

Timing first. Because we have more time available now than in March/April, anything we can do now is something we don't have to worry about next spring.

And the deer?  Deer love artichokes. We'll leave many artichokes in the field, where the deer will dig them up through the fall and into the winter to get at those tasty tubers. They'll eat all we leave; some years being hundreds if not thousands of pounds; most years anyways. At least they don't go to waste. Some years, for some unknown reason they don't touch them, but that's not something we can count on.

What we don't dig up for sales will be left in the ground. We'll use the same field two years in a row then we'll move them to another field. This way the first year you'll get a really good harvest and the second year they'll size down a bit but by the third year they'll become overcrowded and tuber size will be reduced.

In 2009 we planted them at one of our isolated fields but this year they're coming back to the farm. I expect the deer will eat all that we leave in the field so we'll want to replant here anyways. If the deer don't eat them all, we'll wait until they're a foot to a foot and a half tall, then plow them under. This way they have used up all their reserved energy and can't regrow; otherwise they can become a nuisance. We've had them in many different fields over the years and don't have any issues with them becoming weeds here.

Until next week, here's to cool temps!