Thursday, December 30, 2010

What's New at the Farm? Last column of 2010!

To continue from my column last week, otherwise titled what worked and what didn't work and how to get better each year, we're looking forward to 2011 with anticipation of better things to come. Before we wrap things up for 2010, we have already started our planning for 2011. Yesterday's meeting was on greenhouse growing and what we plan on using for flats, potting mixes and fertilizers, what the temperature settings should be and our fungicide and disease control programs for 2011. Some of the projects I have lined up for this winter include:

  • Better time tracking. Accurate costs with all our projects have always eluded us. There are so many different crops and different activities associated with these crops; and lots of people working on all these crops that it's almost impossible to accurately and easily track the costs associated with each crop. I'd really like to know once and for all exactly how much it costs us to grow some of these crops.
  • I am applying for USDA Cost Share funds to build an irrigation pond. We own a 20-acre field that needs a water source for it to be used at its fullest potential. It's a flat and sandy field without any rocks at all. I'd love to put a trellis up in the field; a person could just about lean on the posts to get them in. It's long with 700-foot rows -- common and straight rows -- would look really good here. The biggest drawback is the lack of irrigation water and I aim to alleviate that issue with a new irrigation pond.
  • Speaking of that field, I'd like to give another liberal dose of compost and get it plowed under and reseeded. It has a really nice stand of red clover on it now, and it will be mature next spring. I can also split the field up into two or three smaller fields and eliminate some of the wet spots that we don't want to farm at this time.
  • I'm also going to look around town to find a place to process our cucurbits for seed. The place we have now is good, but with all that water we use it becomes a muddy mess by mid fall. I'd like to find a location near the farm, some place preferably with a pond or other water supply and perhaps a cement slab to work on. An old henhouse slab would work. The new spot would have to be secure as I intend to leave squash, pumpkins and equipment there for a couple of months in the fall processing season.
  • Field mapping. Where we're putting crops and how much space is available and how much space can we devote to cover crops and rock picking projects. I'd like to find or develop a system that works for all these small fields we have, and I'd like to have all our field histories on one database that we all could view and use as needed. There's lots of notes to go with the fields again what works and what doesn't, that would be useful in farm field planning down the road.

And there are lots of other projects on my winter list, most of which I'll detail next week.

See you next year,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ring in the New Year with Johnny's 2011 14-month calendar

Johnny's 2011 14-month calendar

The calendar features a sampling of Maine farm photos, plus information to help you organize your growing schedule and stay 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.

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Photos: Snow-covered high and low tunnels

Here are some shots of our winter Quick Hoops™ trials. These cost-effective structures are designed to extend the growing season and can be used to overwinter some crops. We're testing them to see how they hold up under snow cover. So far, so good. This is the first season we've trialed caterpillar tunnels. Last winter, we successfully trialed the low tunnels.

Watch slideshow below.

If you're interested in building your own low tunnels or caterpillar tunnels, we carry many of the supplies you'll need to get started. Visit our Quick Hoops™product page.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pests and diseases: Botrytis Blight or Gray-Mold

Photo courtesy of Dion Mundy

Life Cycle: Botrytis Blight or Gray-Mold is a common fungus disease found in many greenhouses and field crops. Caused by Botrytis cinerea, the disease is often referred to as gray-mold due to the gray, fuzzy-appearing spores which cover the surface of infected plant tissue. Botrytis can cause dampening off, fruit rot, root rot, leaf, and flower blight. Some species of Botrytis can develop sclerotia in dead plant tissue in which it can overwinter. The sclerotia can then germinate in the spring, if in the field; sclerotia can be spread from one plot to another in soil stuck to equipment (plows, tillers, etc.).  Fungal mycelium can also overwinter in dead plant debris, creating a host for conidia (infectious spores) to develop. These conidia can be windborne or splash onto host tissue from overhead watering or rain.

Germination, infection, and disease development is dependent on a specific range of temperature and humidity. In order for the germination of spores and infection of the plant, a film of moisture (dew) must coat the plant for 8-12 hours with humidity of 93% or greater and temperatures between 55-75°F/13-24°C. Gray-mold is much more common in spring and fall months. It can infect plants at any stage, but freshly injured tissues, new, tender growth or aging, dead tissues are preferred.
Plants Affected: Vegetables, ornamentals, fruits, and herbs.

Symptoms: Brown lesions on plant material that develops after periods of cool, drizzly, rainy weather. Look for masses of fluffy, silver-gray spores on dead and dying tissues and/or tiny black sclerotia.

Controls: In greenhouse settings, maintaining strict sanitation practices is always key. Remove all dead/dying plant debris off of benches, floors and plants themselves. Empty trash/compost everyday to eliminate places for Botrytis to thrive.  Inspections of all crops in greenhouses should be done on a weekly, if not daily basis. Not only will this help you spot Botrytis, but other plant pests as well.

Sanitizing benches, work areas, utensils and reused pots with a fungicide such as Oxidate will also help to kill any gray-mold spores.  Correct spacing of plants on benches/floors will also help by promoting good air circulation and by reducing humidity within the plant canopy.  Reducing the humidity with proper ventilation and heat can also play a major role in preventing an infection of gray-mold, and other plant diseases.  The use of circulation fans, even in a closed greenhouse can help reduce moisture on plants, by creating a more uniform temperature.  Thus reducing the chances of cool spots in the greenhouse in which dew can form on plants.  Avoiding overhead watering can also be very helpful in preventing infection.  If overhead watering, misting, etc., can not be avoided, good air circulation can again benefit plants by promoting rapid drying of vegetative surfaces.

In field crops, cleaning equipment in between plots can be very helpful, but time consuming.  Washing hand hoes, spades, plows, tillers, etc with water can remove dirt or plant debris that could contain, conidia or sclerotia.  Removing all infected plant material from the field during crop growth by way of culling or pruning can also be very helpful.

Remember, Botrytis can overwinter in several forms, so bagging and trashing culls or burning them is always the best method of disposal.  If culling or pruning is not an economically favorable control method, a fungicide such as Champ or Kocide 3000 can be applied by means of spraying.  When using any type of pesticide read product label in full and follow label instructions as specified by that particular product.

More information:
Benzimidazole management strategy
UMass Extension Pest Management: Botrytis Blight of Greenhouse Crops
Article by Sonya Reynolds, Greenhouse Coordinator, Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's New at the Farm? Reflecting on 2010 growing season

Now that the year is almost done, I like to reflect back on the past growing season. What worked and what didn't, and how to make things better for the upcoming growing season.

We had some great plans at work this year and most of them worked out well; well enough to try them again this year.

One thing we did was to hire three part-time people to work strictly in our tomato breeding project. This project takes up over three acres and there's lots to do including field prep, transplanting, and crop maintenance. The Farm Crew does all the prep work including the transplanting out into the field and the setting of the trellis posts and the top wire. The "Tomato Ladies" perform all the crop trellising and pruning which takes up most of the summer months. We currently hire high school or college students for these positions as they start in mid June and we wrap up the project by the middle of August. By having these dedicated people focusing their efforts on the tomatoes, we can continue our other tasks and not fall behind on any projects which can easily happen during the growing season.

Another thing we did this year was to expand our use of floating row covers (FRC). We've been using FRC since the 1980s and continue to expand their use. We now use them on all the vine crops for added heat and insect control. We use them on all the brassicas for flea beetle and woodchuck control. We also use them on our sweet and dry corn for crow exclusion. Other uses include overwintering crops in the field and keeping bees and pollinating insects out of crops we don't want cross pollinated. Improvements for next year include a better way to perform weed control with the row covers on.

Small improvements add up like transplanting the onion trial versus our usual direct seeding. We have always direct seeded the onions then spent lots of time weeding and thinning. In the 2010 growing season we started all the onions in the greenhouse then transplanted them into the field -- much better! We didn't spend nearly so much time working in the onions this year and that freed us up for other things. A word of caution however, if you transplant your onions instead of direct seeding, start scouting for thrips a couple of weeks earlier than usual.

We also improved our seed production processes this year with a conveyor for squash and pumpkins and chipper modifications to improve the harvesting of small lots of tomato seeds. We continue to streamline our processes with some shop projects this winter, which we'll use next harvest season. Jeff has designed and is building a smaller seed dryer so we'll have two dryers available for drying of seed. We can sometimes get backed up with only one dryer. Our yields have increased on many seed productions and we continue to get better predicting them. Look for subtle changes for 2011.

Until next week, enjoy the holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Johnny's new and improved virtual catalog online now

If you haven't received your 2011 Johnny's Catalog yet, you can take an online sneak peek at it now.

We've recently published Johnny's electronic catalog on the website. Check it out here.

It has the same look and feel as our printed catalog and also has some great interactive web features.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Photos: Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns Center

Several Johnny's employees attended the 3rd Annual Young Farmers Conference at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture on December 2-3.

According to its website, Stone Barns Center is a non-profit farm and education center located 25 miles north of Manhattan in Pocantico Hills, New York. Stone Barns operates an 80-acre four-season farm and is working on broader initiatives to create a healthy and sustainable food system. Johnny's was one of the sponsors for this year's conference. A few photos from the event:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Johnny's raffle winners announced

Johnny's is pleased to announce the winners of two separate drawings held recently for $100 Gift Coupons.

Geof Hancock, of Porter, Maine, won a $100 coupon at the Farmer to Farmer Conference, held Nov. 5-7 in Northport, Maine.

David Walton, of State College, PA, won a $100 coupon at the Western Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Seminar, held on Nov. 16 in Butler, PA.

What's new at the Farm? Dealing with pests

Last week I was looking out my window remarking as to how warm and beautiful the weather was. What a difference a week makes. Then it was 44˚F and raining and now it’s 22˚F, but at least it’s sunny. I think we’d rather have sunny and cold than warm and damp any day. At least I would.

Last week I also wrote about rats. Last weekend, I’d had enough of the smell of dead rats in my workshop so went to cleaning and vacuuming to try and get rid of the smell. I’d describe the odor as nauseating. Friday night and much of the day Saturday was spent in my workshop where everything is now clean and organized but I couldn’t find any culprits no matter how hard and thorough I looked. So Sunday I decided to work on Peggy’s bay where she keeps her car in the winter. 

I pulled out everything in front of her car including scraps of landscape fabric, a wooden barrel full of long handled tools, a copper bird bath, a barbeque grill, an old woodstove, several bird feeders, two cast iron radiators and many “needs repairing” projects which I will probably never do. I really don’t know how this stuff accumulates. I sorted, vacuumed all and put back in some sort of order, but still, the odor lingered. There is in the corner of the garage, two water pipes which run from my boiler into the house and back. As the pipes drop in elevation coming out of the garage they are housed in a wooden box we built when we installed the system. Sure enough, at close examination, something had drilled about a 2 inch hole in the wood and the smell was pretty strong in that area. 

I pulled the box apart, and there, nestled in between the heat pipes were three dead rats. They had taken insulation from the walls of my workshop (they drilled holes in the plywood to get at the insulation) and built a nest right between the pipes. As for the smell, whenever we  got a south breeze the wind would enter the hole and spread the odor through the garage for us all to enjoy. After removing the rats and vacuuming out their nesting spot, I reinsulated the pipes and put new boards over the water pipe box. Done, or so I thought.

The smell continues to haunt us in her bay but I think that will go away in time. It’s much better than it was. In my workshop however the smell was still quite strong. By now I’ve cleaned everything to within an inch of its life and am about to give up. But wait, I can’t do anything in my workshop with the current smell so it’s off to find the source. The smell is definitely strongest over by the furnace. Perhaps it’s under the pile of kindling wood – nope -  not there either, but at least it’s cleaned and organized now. Finally, in an act of desperation, I take my flashlight and get down on my hands and knees and search for the cause of the odors. Bingo – found him! A half grown rat underneath the furnace; dead as a door nail and he smells like he’s been there a while.  Once he was disposed of, the odor dissipated and perhaps now I can get something done!

So by now you’re probably thinking what does this have to do with the farm? Rats are surprisingly clever and adaptive animals. They have been poisoned, trapped and persecuted throughout the ages and yet they continue to survive, and in many instances thrive. They live around us because we supply them food and shelter, largely undisturbed. Birds feeders provide a food source as most are surrounded by seed thrown out  by the birds. If you have domestic animals that eat grain – well, there’s a free food supply.  Rats often visit animal feeders at night when we’re not likely to bother them. I’ve snapped the lights on after dark to see rats scurry from the chicken pens. They live under the barn, in greenhouses, in and around compost piles and anywhere out of the weather that’s close to their food supply. 

Trapping is effective for a while but they learn fast! If they step over a fellow rat in a trap on the way to the food bar they learn what not to step on, no matter how tempting. Control without poisons is usually a lot of work for a limited amount of control, but there are some things you can do to at least make it harder for them to live in close proximity with us humans. Rat control, of course, presents a problem when using poison; we want to kill the rats but not the animals that feed upon them. One dose of poison in my garage and I found seven dead half grown rats – all inside and all disposed of properly. I didn’t however find any adults ones. Last week a reader wrote me about using a “Rat Zapper”; I think  I’ll try one of these in the henhouse; they come with lots of good recommendations.

All feed and grain gets stored in metal trash cans. I’ve had rats chew through plastic ones to get at the feed but never metal ones. I like to feed out exactly what the birds will eat before night fall, so the rats don’t have free range all night. Of course if the birds are made to clean up their feed before nightfall there will be considerably less waste anyways. Having the birdfeeders out away from the house exposes feeder visitors to predators. I’ve seen bobcats and owls hanging out around our feeders looking for a tasty meal. Peg and I watched an owl one afternoon. He didn’t take a second look at the birds, but when a mouse came calling; well, you know the rest of the story. Mice, rats and squirrels seem to be on the favorite foods lists of many predators. 

The storage area for winter root vegetables in a root cellar or cold storage should be designed so critters can’t gain entrance. We store our squash in an unheated room in the house and I’ve seen tooth marks in the skins already. Our two cats are marginally effective. They don’t actively hunt them but rather catch the half grown and relatively stupid ones; mice that is. Cats generally won’t attack rats, especially full grown rats. 

Here at Johnny’s, we make the greenhouses as inhospitable as possible. We roll up the sides for the winter and let the cold air in. We clean up any crop wastes and seeds that were spilled or dropped during the harvest season. We empty all compost bins and store the bins well away from the buildings. Anything that remains in the greenhouses is stored up on pallets so there’s no room under anything to build a nest and stay the winter. Our compost area is at least 400 yards from any buildings so what critters do live down there won’t venture this far to gain entry and are controlled by natural predators.
In summary, take away their food supply and deny them a place to overwinter where it’s warm, or at least near the food supply and you’ve gone a long way to reducing their numbers and discouraging them from taking up residence in your house, greenhouse or barn.

Until next week, Brian

Friday, December 3, 2010

Product Spotlights - December 2010

Miss Butterfly

'Miss Butterfly', Buddleia davidii, is a beautiful plant for landscapes, butterfly gardens, and cutting gardens. In Zones 6-10, it is a perennial that grows as tall as 8'. In colder winters, it may reach only 4-5' and it can be grown as an annual. 'Miss Butterfly' produces 5-10" spikes of lilac to pale violet flowers from July until frost. The blooms are sweetly fragrant and the foliage is a pretty silvery blue. It's attractive to butterflies and makes an attractive ornamental in a sunny border. For cut flowers, the blooms should be harvested early in the morning when the first flowers have just started to open. Put the cut stems into water immediately. When properly hydrated, Buddleia can last a week to 10 days in the vase. But if they are not cut as soon as the first flowers open, vase life can drop to only 2-3 days.

Ruby Parfait

'Ruby Parfait' is a new plume celosia with an intense rose color that blends well with the bright colors of other summer annuals such as zinnias and rudbeckias. Perfect as a cut flower, the arrow-shaped plumes are 2-3" long, rising on multiple stems that provide more visual punch in a bouquet or arrangement. Ruby Parfait also makes a great accent plant for a flower bed, retaining its color through the hottest days of summer. The plants are 24-26" tall.

If you grow plants to sell at a nursery, farmers market or farm stand, you will not want to overlook the exciting new 'Zahara' zinnias. This interspecific zinnia is one of the most sought after new bedding plants on the market. 'Double Zahara Cherry' and 'Double Zahara Fire' are both All-America Selection winners for 2010. They are resistant to leaf spot and mildew diseases, and have handsome, symmetrical dark green plants. They bloom in 8-10 weeks from sowing and the intense colors and fully double, 2" flowers make them irresistible in bloom. Grown in full sun, they will reach 12" tall by 12" wide. They're also suitable for mixed containers. Zahara zinnias should be grown in 4" or larger pots. Try them in our biodegradable CowPots™ or DOT Pots™.

Tools and supplies
If you're tired of the expense and waste of starting seeds in plastic containers, it's time to look at a soil block system. Johnny's complete line of soil blocking products will get you up and running in no time. We have soil blockers in a range of sizes to accommodate different size seeds and transplants. We have soil mix that is just the right consistency for soil blocks. And we have reusable mesh trays that hold the soil blocks firmly and provide air pruning for their roots as they grow.


Here at Johnny's research farm, we have been working for years to develop a slicing tomato with great taste and resistance to late blight. After many crops were devastated by late blight in 2009, the quest became urgent. We are happy to report that our newest Johnny's-bred tomato, 'Defiant PhR', has high resistance to late blight, intermediate resistance to early blight, plus good looks, taste, and texture. The plants are determinate and the fruits are 6-8 oz. 70 days to maturity. We highly recommend trialing Defiant PhR alongside similar tomatoes to compare yield and vigor on your farm.

Artichokes can be grown as annuals in any climate, and Johnny's has two annual varieties from which to choose. Tempo is a purple artichoke that produces 3-4 big buds followed by 10-15 secondary, smaller buds. The striking purple color makes it a good ornamental, too, especially if allowed to bloom. 100 days to maturity. Imperial Star is a green artichoke, now available as organic seed. Specifically bred for annual production, Imperial Star produces 6-8 mature buds per plant. 85 days to maturity.

Beyond the bell pepper, there are many pepper varieties suitable for fresh eating. Johnny's has a great lineup; here are three worthy of your consideration:
'Cheyenne' is a new variety, a sweet and hot cayenne pepper for fresh use. The plants are medium sized and high yielding. The fruits average 8-9" long and are slightly wrinkled. They have moderately thick walls. Excellent for frying and in salsas. 65 days green, 85 days red ripe.
Mellow Star

'Mellow Star' is a new shishito-type pepper popular in Japan, where it is used in tempura and stir fries. The 3-4" heavily wrinkled fruits are thin walled and have no heat. The fruits are used green in Asia, but they can be allowed to turn red for a sweeter flavor. Large, upright plants yield well over an extended period. 60 days green, 80 days red ripe.

'Carmen' is a 2006 All-America Selections winner and a Johnny's-bred variety of the Italian bull's horn (corno di toro) type. Tapered fruits average 6" long by 21/2" wide and ripen from green to deep carmine red. The sweet flavor is good raw or roasted. Plants are upright and medium sized. 60 days green, 80 days red ripe.

JSS Advantage -- December 2010

Johnny's introduces over 200 new products for the 2011 season. Some have been in the works for years, being developed in our breeding program; some provide the grower with additional organic alternatives; some are new discoveries that make your job easier.

Bred by Johnny's

The breeding program at Johnny's research farm is led by our founder Rob Johnston. Johnny's-bred varieties are the result of traditional plant breeding techniques based on careful observation, selection, and patience. We do not breed genetically-engineered seeds.

This year the team is most proud of our tomato, 'Defiant PhR' which was bred for both disease resistance and taste. This mid-size slicer has high resistance to late blight and intermediate resistance to early blight combined with great taste. The 6-8 oz., globe-shaped fruit are smooth and medium-firm with good texture. Deep red internal and external color. High-yielding, medium-sized plants are widely adaptable. Defiant was traditionally bred to inherit the Ph-2 and Ph-3 major genes for late blight (Phytophthora) resistance. Our thanks to North Carolina State University for their cooperation. Determinate. 70 days to maturity.

Another new Johnny's-bred tomato is 'Five Star Grape'. It has excellent, sweet flavor and firm, meaty texture with few seeds and little juice. A healthy, indeterminate that bears high yields of bright red, 15-20 gm, crack-resistant grape tomatoes; 62 days to maturity.

Pumpkins continue to be among our top breeding interests, and this year we are introducing two new varieties:

'Rival PMR' is a round, medium-sized jack-o'-lantern type with intermediate resistance to powdery mildew (IR-PMR). Medium length vines produce deep orange pumpkins weighing an average 15-20 lb. Early maturity compared with other medium-sized PMR pumpkins. Similar to Racer Plus PMR but somewhat larger. Avg. yield: 2 fruits/plant; 90 days to maturity.

'Polar Bear' retains its color after maturity in the field, at market, and in decorative displays. Long, vigorous vines produce fruit typically weighing 30-65 lbs. Avg. yield: 1 fruit/plant; 100 days to maturity.

We have increased our organic offerings in JSS bred varieties and organically produced:

 'Yankee Bell', organic, which we developed especially for Northern growers. The green-to-red peppers are blocky, with three to four lobes. Plants are strongly branched with good cover. Plants make fewer peppers in the initial crown set, resulting in a higher percentage of smooth, thick-walled fruit that holds well into the sweet red stage; 60 days to green, 80 to red ripe.

'Blue Ballet' winter squash is also now available as organic seed. This scaled-down version of Blue Hubbard squash has a broad range of appeal due to it's convenient size and has the same sweet, bright orange flesh; 95 days to maturity.

Over 325 Organic Products

Johnny's is committed to providing organic seeds and products to meet your needs.  This year, we have added 81 new products that are approved for use on certified-organic farms. Look for the OG symbol after the product name throughout the catalog and website. For seeds, OG means the seeds were harvested from organically-grown plants, according to National Organic Program (NOP) standards. For supplies, OG means the products are approved for use in organic crop production.

Among new organic seed offerings:

'Corvair' smooth-leaf spinach is a good crop for early spring. This is our most attractive organic variety, very dark green, with uniform oval leaves. Plus, it's slow to bolt.

'Rhazes' is a little gem-type red romaine lettuce. It's perfect grown as a mini-head and keeps its dark red color into summer. Combine it with the new organic variety 'Bambi', a green little gem-type, for a presentation as pretty as a bouquet.

'Zohar', an organic sunflower, is a tall, single-stem variety with golden orange petals and a black disk.

Johnny's now offers easy-to-grow, organic onion plants. Get a jump on weeds and an earlier harvest with these high-quality plants; available in seven different varieties.

Many of our most popular varieties are available for the first time as organic seed, they include:

Check our new organic listing; some of your favorites may now be available.

Among new organic product offerings:

'Azaguard®' is a broad spectrum insecticidal control effective on over 300 insect species. It can be used effectively in the greenhouse or field, and may be applied with sprayers or foggers. OMRI approved.

'GreenCure®' and 'MilStop®' are potassium bicarbonate foliar fungicides proven to cure and prevent powdery mildew, downy mildew, late blight, and others. Both are OMRI approved.

New, to make your job easier

We believe that season extension as a growing practice will continue to be an integral part of our customers' success. We have developed and sought products that will help you grow more efficiently over a longer season. This year, we've added shade cloth for summer production as well as row cover and greenhouse film for spring and fall use.

Following up on last year's successful launch of the Quick Hoops™ Low Tunnel Bender, we are introducing a Quick Hoops™ High Tunnel Bender. This new bender allows you to make smooth, even hoops out of locally available 1 3/8" chain link fence top rail. This bender is especially useful for making a walk-in structure known as a "caterpillar tunnel." Named for its segmented appearance, a caterpillar tunnel consists of metal hoops pushed into the soil and covered with greenhouse poly that is held on by ropes. While the bender can be used for other types of tunnels, we have found that many growers are looking for a low-cost way of getting started with season extension and the caterpillar tunnel offers it. We have built several of these at Johnny's research farm at a cost of about $1,200 for a 12' x 100' tunnel.

Caterpillar tunnels are useful for getting an extra-early start on the season; as soon as you pull the poly over the hoops, the soil thaws and dries out, allowing you to get a jump-start on the season. Caterpillars can be covered with shade cloth for summer production of lettuce, cut flowers, and fall crops. And they can be used again in fall for season extension. Caterpillars are not recommended for winter production; instead, you can leave the hoops in the ground and pull the poly over to one side and lash it tight so that snow can't accumulate on the structure.

We have all the accessories you need to build your own caterpillar, including greenhouse poly, shade cloth, clamps, and cross-connectors. Other supplies you can buy locally at a hardware store include the chain link top rail, fence posts, bolts, nuts, anchors, and lacing rope.

To learn more about caterpillar tunnels, we recommend these resources:
Plan, Shop, and Grow with Johnny's; select from over 1,800 products

Use our comprehensive catalog which is filled with a wealth of growing information.
• Order from the catalog, using the order form provided, and mail or fax it to us.

Our dynamic website is packed with products, growing information and resources, and available when you need it – even if it's 3 a.m.
• Visit, where you can browse and purchase our entire line of products. Visit regularly to find new products and sale items. You'll also find how-to videos, free manuals and tech sheets, back issues of the JSS Advantage newsletter, seed and planning calculators, and other helpful features.

Call us and speak with our knowledgeable customer service team.
• Phone us toll-free at 1-877-564-6697.
• For commercial quantities and prices not listed in the catalog or on our website, contact your regional sales rep. If you don't know your sales rep, you can find his or her contact information by calling the number above, or by visiting our "Meet your rep" page.

Stop by our retail store, located at 955 Benton Ave, Winslow, ME, for personalized service.
• Call 1-207-861-3999 or email for information about hours and in-store specials.

Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and this blog allow you to explore topics that are of interest to you through online networking. With several people participating in the same discussion at the same time, you gain instant feedback from experts in the field, as well as people just like you.

Connect with the Community of Growers with Johnny's.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What's new at the Farm? Back from vacation

The calendar says December, but if this is winter, we'll take it. It's currently 44 degrees and cloudy and it's looking like a rain event for today and tomorrow. The leaves and the birds are gone but many crops are still green so it's more like fall than the early throes of winter. Outside my office window finds late season spinach still green and edible along with all the colors of fall lettuce and fall greens. The field of pumpkins looks much like it did in September, but I know they're pretty much frozen solid.

The last column I wrote was in mid November, just before I went on vacation. I had listed a lot of things I had hoped to accomplish, but I didn't seem to accomplish all of the tasks I had hoped. I also wrote about multi-colored rats; I did manage to dispose of three of them; all half grown and brown and white. I'm reluctant to poison them, but must resort to some type of control before they settle in for the winter. By the smell of my workshop, I'd say there's a few that didn't make it outside before they died.

Thanksgiving week is an odd week to take off. Johnny's pays us for Thursday and Friday so we only have to take three days of vacation time to get nine days in a row off. Late November isn't prime vacation time; the weather was cold and much of the time the wind was blowing. November is the month between the woodstove and the boiler -- too cold or too hot -- that's the choice for the month. Jeff and I went to Greenville and surrounding areas on the 24th looking for partridge and rabbits, but found nothing except cold and snow and ice! What a difference a couple of hours north makes.

The end of November signals the end of hunting season, at least for deer. Hunting season is winding down and ice fishing hasn't started yet. I spent much time putting things away for winter and making mental notes of things to do for next spring. I may have this finally figured out. I'll make a list this winter, order the supplies I need and plan on getting my projects done before May comes around. This year May found me at work most of the time and little time to do anything else, at least until planting was done in June.

For next spring I'll try to have everything done before the weather warms up.  We do the same thing here on the farm; we attempt to have all the equipment ready to go, all the supplies will be ordered and stocked for the upcoming season, and any projects we want to do, we'll complete before May rolls around. There is no such thing as a fool-proof farming season, so we'll take all the precautions we can to ensure a smooth start to the growing season.

Now we're busy making our winter lists, prioritizing them as we realize that when you start working on a fleet of equipment the winter isn't really as long as it used to be. The best way to get time to pass is to be busy and I don't see things slowing down much for quite some time. It never really slows down much anyways, it just changes a bit.
Until next week, Brian.