video tutorials, tried-and-true tips + our latest learnings to surround you with abundance all season long
I wrote this piece for Edible Finger Lakes' Notes from the Field column, published November 2019. And if you're looking for northern-hardy organic peanut seeds, look no further!
My childhood experience of growing peanuts once --- and harvesting seven peanuts --- convinced me for two decades that growing peanuts in the Finger Lakes was extravagantly futile.
Yet seeds, again and again, remind me that our imagination is the limit, that regional adaptation is the language of resilience, that we can grow so much more than we think possible.
When we started Fruition Seeds in 2012, we were gifted a small bag of Northern Hardy Valencia peanuts from a family on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who had selected them for over two decades.
Skeptical as I was, they thrived against many odds, including cold, close spacing and a family of groundhogs. We were astonished as we dug our peanuts that fall, finding over 20 gorgeously plump peanuts per plant. In the hottest, driest...
Microgreens save us each winter, making it easy to get through the darkest months with luscious greens. Often harvested ten days after they're sown, microgreens may be the closest thing to instant gratification in our gardens.
I'd love to share my free
webinar as well as our free microgreens ebook here!
We've learned a lot about how to grow microgreens indoors across the years and I'm delighted to share the keys with you :)
Oh, the possibilities!
Anything delicious that sprouts quick is a great choice for microgreens. More colors = more nutrients, so lean into rainbow-colored radish, purple basil, crimson amaranth and everything in between :)
Here are our favorites:
Imagine millions of monarchs migrating south, hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet above the trees, flashing black and bright copper as they make their way from the Northeast to Mexico.
Monarch butterflies have made an incredible comeback in the last five years, in no small part thanks to gardeners saving, spreading and sharing seeds widely across our continent. If you've been growing milkweed --- or at least not pulling it as weeds --- I love you and thank you! Never doubt that your actions, like seeds, are deceptively small :)
Though adult monarch butterflies feed on many other flowers, like our Queen Sophia marigolds, the monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed.
Harvesting milkweed seeds brings memories of my childhood, leaves crunching underfoot and thick wool sweaters with hundreds of burrs as polka dots. The leaves are crimson, gold and umber. Grapes are ripe on the vine, but barely.
I remember reaching my hand carefully into each pod, each of us about to...
It's true: I used to drag my feet every year before forcing myself to get a soil test.
Over the years, we've come to love soil testing as an incredible tool to build our soil, decrease our susceptibility to pest insects and disease as well as increase our yields.
Here's the way I think about it:
If you're partying on a pontoon boat above the Great Barrier Reef, you're missing the party.
Grab your snorkel!
And get your soil tested.
Only then will an immensely beautiful and infinitely complex world begin to take shape around you. Your world-view --- and your garden --- will never be the same.
We're sending in our soil samples now!
And Friends, if you've got 20 minutes and $20, I suspect you'll find too that soil testing is both easy and endlessly illuminating. It's one of the simplest ways to ensure you'll be surrounded by beauty and abundance all season long, for many seasons to come.
I'll share how, when and why we test our soils, but first:
One of the most challenging aspects of saving sunflower seed is this: You must not harvest the most spectacular heads for bouquets! Expect seed about 6 weeks after flower. This is our Lemon Queen, by the way :)
First, wait for the birds to confirm the seed is fully ripe.
Though many flower seeds are released with ease once ripe, sunflowers tend to hold them in their heads, making it more challenging to know exactly when they're ripe. Many flower heads also indicate their seeds are ripe once the stalk beneath is brown and dry, though with sunflowers, that is generally way too late and you'll rarely find a single seed left.
So yes --- this is playing with fire --- but if you...
Saving tomato seed is deceptively simple, Friends.
Yes, you can simply separate each seed from the fruit, rinsing and drying them before tucking them in an envelope to sow next season.
But here's the thing: That clear membrane surrounding each seed is full of anti-germination compounds. Unless that membrane is removed, only about 30% or so of your seeds will germinate. Which isn't the worst, but it's far from the best.
For thousands of years our ancestors have fermented tomato seeds, effectively neutralizing those anti-germination compounds as well as removing some seed-borne diseases. It's a gloriously simple process.
Once tomatoes are fully ripe, the seeds inside are fully mature.
Saving fruit from your best plants is essential. The healthiest plant, the most productive, most disease-resistant, most delicious: This is the plant you want to feed --- and by fed by --- for generations to come. You're selecting seed as well as saving...
Many people will proclaim, "Stink Bug!" when they see Gray Squash Bugs ambling about on their zucchini. Indeed, they are 'true' bugs and the stink is real when they're crushed. Gray Squash Bugs are close relatives of the resident 'stink bugs' in your home.
A little knowledge goes a long way, so here is the biology you need to know plus the organic management keys to keep in mind.
First, Gray Squash bug eggs are gorgeously shiny metallic bronze in clusters of about twenty eggs laid underneath squash leaves, often tucked along a vein. Cucumber beetle eggs are astonishingly similar, though there is more space between eggs (see below). Either way, if you see them, squish them!
An adult squash bug laying her eggs. Photo credit to insectimages.org.
Gray Squash beetle eggs are laid a dense cluster (right) compared to Cucumber beetle eggs (left) which have more space between eggs. Both are most often on the underside of cucurbit leaves.
Eggs hatch in late summer...
First, if you want to see me shudder in disgust, don't miss minute 4:05 in the video tutorial :)
And Friends, perhaps you’ve seen these gorgeous moths frolicking in your garden, though I hope you haven't.
The Squash Vine Borer (Melitta curcurbitae) is a great moth to become familiar with because yes, they're beautiful. Also, they're one of the most devastating insects in your garden.
The gorgeous and devastating adult moth of the Squash Vine Borer.
Squash Vine Borers make their home in the base of your squash plants, devouring their soft marrow before killing their host. They're particularly fond of any Cucurbita pepo plant, which includes all manner of zucchini, summer and pattypan squash in addition to pumpkins, acorn, spaghetti, delicata squash and more.
Thankfully they are not attracted to cucumbers and melons, but most squash, winter squash, and pumpkins can be dramatically affected. I’ve heard and seen horror...
Fertility is the foundation of soil health and plant health, which all very abstract, but it's as simple as this: Abundance begets abundance, so don't skimp and don't be shy!
There are many ways to increase the fertility of your gardens, Friends.
Always, there is compost. Glorious, glorious compost. Soon I'll share more about this, one of my favorite facts of life :)
In the meantime, like two sides of a coin, our fish emulsion and granular fertilizer are easy to use and immensely effective across soil types. Of the many other approaches we use, cover cropping is a passion of ours and I look forward to sharing more with you about its art and science in the coming seasons.
Our granular fertilizer is Matthew's special blend of finely ground vegetables, animals and minerals, building soil as it feeds our crops with over one hundred micro- and macro-nutrients. We apply it in spring when we turn over our soil, allowing its...
Don't judge a book by its cover...
...or a carrot, either :)
Friends, Fruition has just released a new carrot variety, Dulcinea, though I must warn you: She is orange, long and tapered. At first glance, she is simply a carrot. But she's so much more. And if we've done our work well, Dulcinea will outlast us by countless generations.
Some fruits and vegetables we know by name: Granny Smith apple, Sugar Snap pea, Sungold Tomato, Cafe au Lait dahlia.
But most varieties are anonymous in our gardens and at the grocery store, the nameless commodity that fits our quintessential assumption of what is romaine lettuce, what is an onion. This is basil, this is butternut squash. There are hundreds of varieties any carrot could be, but many of us simply recognize it as a carrot. Nonetheless, every carrot has a name.
You may not have heard of 'Bolero' carrot before, but you've most likely eaten it many times. Bolero is classic...
For years we’ve been asked to demystify seed starting and here it is: Rise & Shine shares everything you need to start seeds successfully at home in 40 beautiful pages with easy-to-follow instructions and insightful tips for the novice and experienced grower alike.