Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Customer photos: Amaranth, Zinnias in Snohomish, Washington

Dale Kolbe, of the Snohomish County (WA) Parks and Recreation Department, sent us a beautiful shot of a flower garden planted with Johnny's seeds at the county fairgrounds.

"The Emerald Tassels and Love-Lies-Bleeding Amaranth seeds we purchased from you have generated a lot of interest this year," Dale said. "We have them planted at our Main Gate in a 3-tier culvert planter with Zowie!™ and Queen Red Lime zinnias, also from Johnny’s!! Thanks!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Customer photos: Sunflowers in Maine

Rob Anderson, of Yarmouth, Maine, sent us some photos of his sunflower crop. Rob used Johnny's sunflower seeds to plant a 60-foot bed along the fence on the side of his yard. Beautiful!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tips to Limit Hurricane Irene's Damage to Greenhouses, Hoophouses

Hurricane Irene, predicted to make landfall somewhere in the northeast this weekend, could wreak havoc on your crops, greenhouses, hoophouses, or any other gardening structures you may have on your property.

If you're located in the northeast, here are some hurricane tips forwarded to us by the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and Vern Grubinger of University of Vermont. Grubinger picked them up from the University of Massachusetts Extension. See below:

In case Hurricane Irene makes it way into Vermont, here is some advice on how prevent damage to your tunnels and greenhouses:

From UMass Extension web site  by John Bartok

Although you have no control over the force or direction of severe winds, here are a few tips to help minimize storm damage:

  • Check the area for loose objects. Anything that can be picked up and hurled through the glazing should be secured or moved indoors. Metal chimney (stove pipe) sections should be secured with sheet metal screws.
  • Inspect for dry or weak tree limbs that could fall on the greenhouse.
  • Close all openings including vents, louvers and doors. The effective force of the wind is doubled when it is allowed inside the building. The wind on the outside puts a pressure or lifting force on the structure. The wind inside tries to force the walls and roof off.
  • On air inflated greenhouses, increase the inflation pressure slightly by opening the blower's intake valve. This will reduce the rippling effect. Check to see that the plastic is attached securely and that any holes are taped.
  • Disconnect the arm to the motor on all ventilation - intake shutters and tape the shutters closed. Then turn on enough exhaust fans to create a vacuum in the greenhouse. This will suck the plastic tight against the frame.
  • Windbreaks can reduce the wind speed and deflect it over the greenhouse. Conifer trees (hemlock, spruce, pine, etc.) in a double row located at least 50' upwind from the greenhouse can reduce the damaging effects of the wind. Wood or plastic storm fencing can be used as a temporary measure.

From Skip Paul, farmer on RI coast with a lot of hurricane experience:

Check all your connections and structural members. Like a weak link in a
chain, if a nut vibrates off a critical connection you will start a cascade of other failures. Clean the bugs out of your inflation fans. Keeping the two sheets of plastic a bit over-inflated during a storm is a good thing. This requires patching the small holes and nicks. We just open up the inflation fan air intake (all the way) and get that plastic extra tight. Don't forget to readjust the inflation fan intake slide vent after the storm you don't want to over-stretch your plastic. It will shorten its life over time.

Clean up junk around the farm that can get going in the wind and rip a hole in the plastic. If we know we will loose power, we will duct tape the intake shutters to keep the air out. Keep your large doors securely closed by putting something in front of them.

Most greenhouses don't have good door latches for their doors; if they vibrate loose or fail the wind will get in. An important decision is whether to cut or take off the plastic. If we know we are getting 100+ mph winds then we take the plastic off; the structural damage to the greenhouse doesn't warrant trying to make it through the storm. Plus you probably will lose your power and there is another reason you will be glad you took the plastic off. Uninflated greenhouses especially are like a large sail and can be dangerous and just beat on the structure. If you do take the plastic off; try to do it in two separate pieces and put it away somewhere dry. If you let it slump off the greenhouse and fill with water between the sheets it will be impossible to recover the house till they are separated and dry.

People with Haygroves (that includes us): don't even think about trying to make it through winds over 65 mph. Your manual will tell you it isn't made for that kind of wind. Especially, since their solution to lower wind speeds is to open the structure up! That can work up to 55 mph but above 65 it will act like a wing on an airplane and you will be sorry. Our Haygrove had one end crushed in a sudden wind gust last season; it can happen.

Those with Rimol moveable houses (or greenhouses on skids a la Elliot Coleman) you should heed the same warning: small pipes driven in here and there will do you no good when the wind gets over 75 mph. It's better to take the plastic off than to see your greenhouse rolling over your neighbors hayfield. Probably the most important thing is respect the peak of the storm. Don't switch plans and try to do any of this in the midst of the storm; the wind is dangerous and adding heavy rain to that can be catastrophic. I once saw a sailor flipped 30 feet into the air while trying to hold a spinnaker line that got loose. Be careful with this storm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Farm Profile: Six River Farm

Gabrielle Gosselin and Nate Drummond have roots in New England and wanted to return there to start their own farm in 2007. They brought not only their youthful enthusiasm for growing healthy food to the project, but also solid field experience and practical agricultural education. Through Maine FarmLink, they found 11 acres of land available to lease at George Christopher's 1,000-acre "Incubator Farm", on the shores of Merrymeeting Bay in Bowdoinham, Maine. It is unusual land for Maine with flat, fertile fields, and few rocks.
Six River Farm proprietor Nate Drummond loads turnips destined for a local farmer's market.

Gabrielle worked at the Greenmarkets in New York City. She and Nate then went on to apprentice at Paul and Sandy Arnold's Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, New York. They credit that experience with giving them the confidence to start their own certified-organic vegetable farm. They paid close attention to all facets of the Arnolds' diverse market vegetable operation, including the financials and bookkeeping.

Armed with this education, the couple planned Six River Farm to be a model of efficiency and profitability from day one. Their initial goal was to make a living from 5 to 10 acres of mixed vegetables. They began with the cultivation of just 2 acres, but quickly ramped up their production to include flowers and blueberries.

Their lease on the "Incubator Farm" includes the use of pre-existing barns, coolers, and a unique equipment-sharing arrangement with the other tenant farmers.

"We can invest in equipment we know we need, but our neighbors don't have, and that way we all can share," says Nate. They have increased their farm size by leasing an additional 10 acres from other landowners in Bowdoinham and have purchased a house with 7 additional acres of fields that they will be bringing into production over the next several years.

They currently use three types of tunnels for growing, including five caterpillar tunnels and two Rolling Thunder™ moveable tunnels. The caterpillar tunnels enable them to grow early greens followed by peppers and eggplants. The Rolling Thunder™ tunnels will cover other solanaceous crops and fall greens.

Gabrielle and Nate feel fortunate to have vital farmer's markets nearby. Eighty percent of their income comes from these markets. They sell at three markets a week as well as at several restaurants and natural food stores. They are passionate about their work and about using sustainable farming practices for the health of the land and of their community, and so they personally attend these markets in order to get to know their customers better.

"We enjoy engaging with our customers," Gabrielle said. "We like to learn their names, hear their stories, and take the time to talk about things beyond the lettuce they are buying. They can expect us to be there."

Photo Slideshow of Six River Farm, Bowdoinham, Maine

Product spotlights

August Product Spotlights

From cutting to carrying to cleansing, let us help you with your harvest.


Spinach will flourish in the cooler days of autumn and will withstand some freezing weather in the field. In a hoophouse, it can be kept growing all winter if it's protected with row cover held above it on hoops. It's also a great crop to seed in fall and overwinter under Quick Hoops™ for early spring harvest.

#3835 Python (F1) is a bunching Asian leaf spinach for fall harvest. Its smooth, dark green leaves are arrowhead shaped.

#646G Tyee (F1) (OG) is considered the standard of savoyed spinach for bolt resistance and vigorous growth. Sow Tyee in fall for overwintering.

Ginseng and Goldenseal

#900 American Ginseng is used to make a bittersweet energy tonic. Johnny's ships stratified seeds in September for fall planting. The roots are harvested in the fall of 5th or 6th year.

#899 Goldenseal (OG)is a medicinal Native American root used for its astringent, cleansing qualities. Two-year-old roots are shipped in September and are organically grown.

Harvest Tools

Make harvesting easier and safer with Johnny's harvest tools.

Harvest Knives for every application from lettuce to broccoli.

#9634 Victorinox Serrated Harvest Knife

#9177 Lettuce Field Knife

#9098 Serrated Greens Knife - 6" Blade

#9153 Original Lightweight Field Knife

#9157 Modesto Heavy-Duty Field Knife

#9671 Stainless Harvest Machete - 8" Blade

#9767 Curved Grape and Tomato Shears

#9763 Stainless Harvest Machete - 14" Blade

Tubtrugs are ultra-flexible, lightweight food-grade polyethylene tubs great for harvesting. Tubtrugs are available in three convenient sizes: 3 1/2, 7, and 11 gal., and three easy-to-spot colors: Red, Blue, and Pistachio.

Sanidate products are safe, effective sanitizers for hard surfaces, produce, and post harvest equipment.

#9109 SaniDate® Hard Surface Sanitizer - 32 Oz. RTU

#9216 SaniDate® Fruit & Vegetable Wash - 16 Oz. RTU

#9112 SaniDate® 5.0 Liquid Sanitizer (OG) - 2-1/2 Gal.

Monday, August 22, 2011

JSS Advantage Newsletter -- August 2011

August 2011 JSS Advantage Newsletter


August can be a busy month. Summer crops are at their peak and fall crops need attention. It's time to look ahead to fall and winter markets. Yet, it may still be so hot you just don't want to do anything! In this issue of the JSS Advantage, we'll suggest some practical ideas and, we hope, provide some encouragement to keep you going.

Grow Some Quick Fall Crops for Winter Markets

Bright Lights Swiss ChardIn most of the United States, mid-summer is the time to schedule fall crops, including those you will harvest this fall and winter and those you will plant in fall for early spring harvest.
Looking at the calendar, you may realize there's not much time left until your first frost. But if you act fast, you can still get a good harvest of field crops in the next 30-60 days. You will need to pay extra attention to seeds and seedlings to prevent them from perishing in the heat, but once you get them established, they will thrive as the weather cools off.
Johnny's Fall Planting Calculator is a great tool to determine the dates crops need to be planted outside without season extension products. If you are going to grow in hoophouses, Quick Hoops or even under row cover, your planting dates can be later than the calculator advises. High and low tunnels constructed with our Quick Hoops™ Benders allow you to extend the growing season for cold-hardy crops with a very late season harvest or overwintering for early spring harvest. Best of all, they are on sale this month!

Recommended fall crop varieties

Basil: For authentic basil flavor in a more compact plant, try Genovese Compact, Improved (#2922). It is a preferred variety for greenhouses. Aroma 2 (#2946G) with its fusarium resistance is a good choice for the greenhouse as well. For something different, try our smallest basil, Pistou (#2742). This fine leaf or Greek basil takes just 30 days to reach maturity.

Beets: All varieties are good for fall planting, maturing in 45-55 days (longer in fall because of decreasing day length). Beet greens are delicious, though somewhat acidic, additions to a salad, so save the thinnings and use the tops after harvest.

Broccoli Raab: Sessantina Grossa (#135) is ready in just 35 days.

Broccoli: Arcadia (#139) and Marathon (#151) have good cold resistance and will sweeten up after a frost.
Cabbage: Farao (#2110G) is a delicious, early cabbage maturing in 64 days. Gonzales (#2907), a round mini cabbage, was the earliest to mature (66 days) in our close-spacing trials. For mini cabbage, space the plants 8-12" in row, 12-18" between rows. Alcosa Savoy (#2985) is cold-tolerant and matures in 72 days, making it a good choice for hoophouses.

Carrots: Napoli is the best variety for fall and winter harvest. Organic seed (#209G), organic seed with pelleting approved for organic production (#209GP), raw seed (#209), and raw seed with conventional pelleting (#209P) are all available.

Cilantro: At just 55 days to maturity, this cool-loving herb can be cut well into fall with some frost protection. Calypso (#3803) has full, bulky plants that provide a high leaf yield.

Endive, Escarole, and Radicchio: All can be grown for fall crops.

Greens: Vit (#419) mache is an ideal winter salad item, maturing in 50 days. It is a versatile, vigorous, mildew-resistant variety. Claytonia (#388) is one of the hardiest of the winter salad greens. It can tolerate moderate frost and can be grown all winter in mild regions or in cold greenhouses. Matures in 40 days.

Kale and Collards: All are cold-tolerant and will survive light frosts.

Lettuce: For baby lettuce and salad mix, most any variety will produce in fall. Five Star Greenhouse Lettuce Mix (#192), a blend of downy mildew resistant varieties, is especially good for fall when the DM pressure is greatest. For full size heads, choose cold-tolerant varieties such as Black Seeded Simpson and Winter Density.

Onions: Grow the bunching/scallion types. In severe winter areas, grow Evergreen Hardy White (#502) for winter harvest and overwintering.

Radishes: Grow a variety of colors and shapes, and succession plant every week until 45 days before hard frost.

Spinach: Tyee is the professional growers' favorite for fall crops and overwintering. Organic seed (#646G), non-organic seed (#646), and organic seed with Natural II Treatment (#646BG) are all available.

Swiss Chard: Quick to grow for baby bunches and salad mix; be ready to protect from frost for full-size bunches.

Maine Farms for the Future Program Seeks Applications for Business Plan Development

A request for a proposal announcement from the state of Maine:

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, Division of Agricultural Resource Development, is requesting farmer’s applications to Round 11 of the Maine Farms for the Future Program (FFF), Phase 1 - Business Plan Development Program.

To be eligible an applicant must own and operate a Farm Business that has been producing agricultural products commercially in the State of Maine for at least two (2) years at the time of application. The applicant must own their farmland. If having recently purchased their farmland, the applicant must have at least two years experience operating a Farm Business elsewhere in Maine.  As defined in Title 7, Chapter 36, Rules Governing the Maine Farms for the Future Program, “Farm Business means that the agricultural products grown or produced on the farm are being sold commercially and the farm has documentation of gross and net farm income, expenses, net worth and farm debt.”  Successful applicants will have from December 1, 2011 to April 30, 2013 (17 months) to complete Phase 1. 

Paper and electronic copies of the Request for Proposals (RFP) packet and APPLICATION are available from:
Kimbalie Lawrence, DAFRR- ARD
28 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0041
Telephone: (207) 287-3491

Enclose six (6) copies of the signed APPLICATION and one (1) copy each of  the 2009 and 2010 IRS Schedule F Tax forms, into one (1) large sealed envelope, clearly marked with your return address and labeled: "Proposal: Round 11 - Maine Farms for the Future Business Plan Development Program" should be mailed or hand-delivered to the Division of Purchases, Burton M. Cross Building, 4th Floor, 111 Sewall Street, 9 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0009, no later than 2:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, at which time and place the packets will be opened and the name of the applicant will be publicly noted and read aloud.

Stephanie R. Gilbert
Farm Viability & Farmland Protection Specialist
Maine Department of Agriculture, Food & Rural Resources
28 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0028
Phone:  207.287.7520  
Mobile:  207.557.2036
Fax:     207.287.5576

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Video: Morning Crop Walk, Beet Trials

Every other week or so, Johnny's employee owners are invited to our Research Farm in Albion, Maine for a morning "crop walk". These informational sessions are conducted by our product technicians team. This week we looked at the beets product line, among other crops.

Watch video below for some of the highlights.

Speaking of beets, it's not too late to think about a fall crop of this versatile, fast growing, and highly nutritious vegetable. Cool fall weather helps bring out the best taste and flesh color in many beets. We carry 15 varieties, including seven organics. Shop for beets.

Beets included in the video:  Red Ace, Touchstone Gold, Cylindra, Merlin, Early Wonder Tall Top, and the beautiful heirloom, Chioggia Guardsmark.

National Watermelon Day: Celebrate with a Cool Slice

Today is National Watermelon Day.

At Johnny's, we carry more than a dozen varieties. View our selection here.

Read story about Watermelon Day in the Bangor Daily News.