Friday, February 28, 2014

Save Now on Seed Starting Supplies

Growing your own transplants from seed allows you to choose from your favorite varieties, determine the appropriate planting date, and the number of plants you want. Johnny's seed starting supplies will help you grow your own professional-quality seedlings economically.

Save up to 10% on Selected Seed-Starting Supplies. Now through March 2nd!

Friday, February 21, 2014

An Introduction to Flower Sprouts™

Kaleidoscope Mix (F1)

What are Flower Sprouts™?

Flower Sprouts™ are the result of a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. The resulting plants produce beautiful, open, florets that have a mild kale-like flavor which only improves with the colder days of the fall.  

When do you plant them?

You may ask why we are talking about a fall vegetable well before spring. Well, when growing Flower Sprouts™ patience is definitely a virtue. This crop requires at least 110 days to maturity from time of transplanting. So the total time to produce this crop from seed to edible floret is close to 22 weeks… that’s why we’re talking about Flower Sprouts™ in February!

What’s the best way to grow them?

In order to produce the sweet kale-like florets, attention to detail and, as previously stated, patience is required. Flower Sprouts™ are grown in a similar fashion as Brussels sprouts; provide a very fertile, well-drained soil, with a pH range of 6.0-7.5.

The seedlings should be started early enough to be ready to be set out in mid to late spring. Growers should provide sufficient irrigation throughout the growing season to help produce tall, strong plants. The sprouts should begin to form by early fall and be ready to harvest starting in mid to late fall.

Like other crops in the Brassica family, such as broccoli and cabbage, the flavor of Flower Sprouts™ will become sweeter and milder when the weather cools in the fall. Flower Sprouts™ are very cold hardy, similar to Brussels sprouts and kale. If you grow in a short-season area, be sure to top the plants about 4-5 weeks prior to the intended harvest season. The tops can be sold and used just like kale.

Red Russian Kale (OG)

How can they be prepared?

Flower Sprouts™ are suited to diverse cooking methods such as lightly steaming, sautéing, stir frying, and roasting. When lightly cooked they will hold their color. The tender, mildly flavored spouts have a taste and texture similar to Red Russian Kale.

When growing Flower Sprouts™ remember to be patient and enjoy! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Using Soil Block Makers (Video)

Get an early start to your growing season with Johnny's Soil Block Makers. You can easily make your own seed-starting blocks with our soil block making tools and a bag of germination soil mix.

Soil blocked seedlings reestablish themselves more quickly, with less transplant shock. Soil blocks also eliminate the expense, waste, and storage issues of plastic pots, so there's no negative impact on the environment.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All About Carrots: Flavor, Diversity, & Marketability

We often hear from fellow growers that carrots can be difficult to grow. However, we think everyone would agree, they’re worth it. At Farmer’s Markets and local produce stores, consumers expect to see carrots as a staple item among crop offerings. In this blog, we will cover some basic information about carrots, such as 1) why grow them, 2) how to provide a diverse selection to your customers, and lastly, 3) how to market them.


You may be wondering, if carrots can be problematic to grow, what is it that makes them worth the extra care they require?

Carrots are a household favorite for most families and are one of the most common vegetables found at Farmer’s Markets.

1.      By growing them locally, you’re able to offer your customers carrots that are diverse in flavor and color; attributes not typically found in carrots at large grocery stores.

2.      Bright orange roots are a great contrast in color for your market offering, especially when placed next to fresh green products such as lettuce, spinach, or kale. Carrot colors can range from white to yellow, red to purple, and of course orange.

3.      When grown correctly, a farmer’s market carrot will taste much better than a store-bought carrot. At Johnny’s we trial many new varieties each year and flavor is one of the most important criteria we evaluate. Each year there are many varieties that are rejected due to poor flavor. What we have selected for our carrot line are the best performing, and best tasting varieties available.

4.      Depending on your locale, small-scale farmers can entice customers with carrots ranging from mini Nantes to small, round Parisian Market types. Baby vegetables are in high demand right now.

5.      Carrots display extremely well at farm stands. There is something about a bunch of smooth orange roots, and fresh green tops that looks very tempting to customers.


At Johnny’s, we offer a number of different types of 
carrots, from Nantes to Imperators. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages to each type of carrot. We’ll also cover the key defining characteristics of each type. 
  1. Nantes. These carrots have cigar-shaped roots with blunt tips. Some varieties are more pointed and not as blunt-tipped as others. There are varieties galore within the Nante group, ranging in length and width. Some Nantes have slender, pencil-thick roots, while others have mini roots (3-4”) or large roots (7-8”), and all sizes in between. Nantes is very popular in Europe, as well as around the world.
  2. Chantenay. These carrots have wedge-shaped, tapered roots and are broad shouldered. They also typically have pointed to slightly-rounded tips. Chantenay types tend to have very strong tops and can typically perform well in heavy soils due to their shape. They’re popular in Europe, Asia, and South America.
  3. Kuroda. Similar in shape to the Chantenays, Kurodas differ by having more bulk or weight, typically, and being more rounded at the tip of the root. They are commonly grown in Asia.
  4. Imperator. With long slender roots that often reach lengths of 10” or more, Imperator carrots perform best in deep, light soils so their roots can grow straight and long without small obstructions distorting their shape. Very popular in the U.S. industrial segment, Imperator varieties are commonly sold as “baby” carrots by slicing and shaving them down to baby size.

There are many opportunities to market your carrot offerings to set yourself apart from other growers. One way to do this is to offer your customers a selection of baby carrots, as these crops are in high demand right now. Another marketing approach is to expand your offering of colored carrots.

True baby carrots differ from carrot that are harvested prematurely; true baby types are harvested at full maturity. They also differ from conventional grocery store “baby” carrots, which are actually full-sized carrots that have been sliced into smaller lengths and then shaved to achieve the desired size and shape.
The following are some major advantages to offering true baby carrots.

  • Because they’re grown to full maturity, their flavor will be fully developed.
  • They can be sold as bunches or with partial tops, which helps prevent the roots from drying out. And, if you market baby carrots with their tops attached, consumers can easily distinguish them from the packaged “baby”carrots.
  • Baby carrots have a range of market audiences. They appeal to children who eat them as value-added snacks, parents who purchase bunches for nutritious meals at home, and chefs for a variety of restaurant entrees.

Johnny’s offers several baby or mini carrots, in 3 different types and shapes.
  • Adelaide. A true baby Nantes (3-4”), Adelaide is small, with short tops, which allows for close spacing.
  • AtlasA Parisian Market type, Atlas is a small, golf-ball sized carrot with round roots. Atlas must have adequate soil moisture to maintain its round shape. Dry soil will force the roots to elongate more deeply into the soil in search of water.
  • Caracas. A baby Chantenay with approximately 4–4½” long, wedge-shaped roots, Caracas has strong, healthy tops.
Purple Haze
When considering ways to set your carrot display apart from your competitors, consider thinking outside of the orange carrot box. Incorporating colored carrots is a great way to add more color to your display. Colored carrots are edible raw (though more palatable when cooked), and with new healthy trends leaning towards not-your-typical vegetable colors, they’re becoming more and more popular.
Offering purple, white, yellow, and red carrots is a great way to draw people into your Farmer’s Market stand. Also, chefs are always looking for new ways to interest their customers and colored carrots might be just what they are looking for.

Leave a comment below, and let us know which carrot varieties you offer your customers and which ones are your favorites!