Monday, September 28, 2009

When customers as us "can I grow this in a container?" we often say yes, because we read somewhere that it was possible or other customers have told us they grew it in a pot. This year, we turned a significant portion of our deck into a container garden. We planted tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, beans (in a bean planter with string trellis not show in this photo), herbs of all types, radishes, lettuce, eggplant, arugula and cilantro. Let me tell you, this was very hard work. Much harder than the house garden where we usually grow these plants. The good news is, we got a lot more peppers and eggplant because it was very hot. The bad news is we spent twice, maybe three times as much water and the time involved in keeping the plants well watered. We used big - 3 - 5 gallon - plastic containers for the tomatoes, squash, and Manzano peppers, and 3 gallon EcoForm pots for most of the other peppers, eggplants and herbs. I understand a lot more about what patio gardeners go through in keeping their plants healthy. Next year, we will only grow peppers and eggplant on the deck and keep the others in the garden, where they can survive one, two, sometimes three or four days without watering if there is fog. Good experiment, though.

Working the Market

It's been a while since I've actually worked a farmers' market by myself out of the big van. I've been doing a few markets out of our little Honda Element, but that is way too easy. The van carries hundreds of plants, heavy trays of well watered 5" herbs, six big tables, five small tables, a canopy, and an umbrella. In order to get ready for the Campbell Market, I get up at 4:30 AM. (Imagine that, those of you who knew me in a previous life.) I do a few chores are around here - feed the dogs, the cats, the chickens, release the geese, in the dark, and hope the dogs will keep any predators away during those dangerous pre-dawn hours. In the van and off to Campbell, enjoying NPR and the sunrise. I pull into my space on the corner of Central and Campbell Avenue at 7 sharp. Many vendors are already there and most all of the artisans because their spaces are first come, first served. The certified vegetable, fruit, plant, and flower folks have reserved spaces. It took me a full two hours to set up. I had forgotten the moves, the order, the outline of our space. I didn't really know what plants were even on the van, so I wasn't sure what went where. I was set up and ready to go at 9 AM, when the market opened, but by that time, I felt like I had been there for hours. Actually, I had. It was an OK market, a little slow for us, but typical for this time of year. Saw many, many old friends and that was good, and lots of people inquired about Shaun, where was he, the wonderful young man who had done that market for us all summer. That, too, was good. By noon, the temperature was rising and I was busy. Or maybe there were just a lot of people who wanted to stand inside the canopy, out of the sun. At 1 PM, when the market ended, I was totally exhausted and thanking my lucky stars for Gary (pictured) who sells newspapers on my corner and helps me load up. It's hot - 92 degrees, I am very tired, and Gary's help loading tables is greatly appreciated. A couple of people tried to purchase plants after they were loaded back into the truck. Sometimes that is possible, sometimes not. This week, not. Too hot and I was too tired. I am sorry about the lady who wanted dill, I thought I was being polite when she asked if we could unload the plants for her and I asked her to check back with us next week, but she said I wasn't polite and she would wait til that nice young man who was there last week returned. Oh, well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ours are not really greenhouses. They are hoop houses; covered in plastic with earthen floors. We don't grow anything in the ground, all of our plants are sitting up on tables. A weed or two shows up underneath the tables, but mostly we throw Sweet Alyssum seed to attract beneficial insects, especially hoverflies to the greenhouse. It IS a sweet smelling little flower, and totally drought tolerant so we don't have to think about watering it. One less thing to water.

These covered spaces, we call them 'rooms', are special indeed. Especially at dawn. No sound at all; no helpers, no hoses pumping water, no dogs racing through, nothing. Well, maybe a cat wishing for a hummingbird, but those guys stay very high as do the phoebes, who flip through to catch flies now and then. We often forget to close the doors at night, and wonder why the deer, who pass by so closely, choose not to enter the enclosed space where all the tasty items are. But they do not, knock wood.

So we celebrated Labor Day by laboring little. A little watering, of course. I actually spent a few hours getting plants gathered for the weekly tasks; assembled the Tea Herbs on one table, the Mediterranean Herbs on another, the Women's Health Herbs on another - ready for a presentation next weekend. The plants look good and seem to have enjoyed this extra round of heat that was put upon them last week. It was almost too much for us; the greenhouse thermometers ran to 105, 108, and then we left. Stepping outside did wonders. Turning on the fans did wonders as well, but we don't like them. Too noisy.

The frogs are happy, too. The heat and the moisture from a stepped-up watering schedule makes these little guys feel downright tropical. They love it and I can only hope that it boosts their appetite for aphids and spider mites, and whiteflies and the few other insect problems that we have. And we have very few. Insect problems. Perhaps its because we are good people? Or because the plants live in one place for a short time? Or because we don't use any pesticides so we never kill the good guys? I don't know; but other than a brief problem with powdery mildew under a too too dark shade cloth over the mint, and an awful yucky problem with onion maggots in chives that lasted for about a week, we have been blessed, and I say again, blessed with healthy happy plants that fend for themselves.
Every year we talk about installing a few lights in the greenhouses so we can visit after dark, work after dark, find things after dark. It doesn't happen. It could happen. But - on moonlit nights - it's blazing bright in there, so who needs it. Moonlit nights we need, and you couldn't find a better place to spend an hour on a night of the full moon, than a greenhouse filled with healthy, vigorous plants. Does photosynthesis take place after dark?