April Rains bring May Harvest

The lighting was just perfect last night for pictures and the garden is so beautiful this year!

If you are considering signing up for a CSA share – here are some of the veggies you can look forward to.    Many others (hot weather crops mostly) are just being planted.  Sign up soon or send me an email with your questions.  Deliveries start May 3!!

 

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We have LOTS of fresh salad greens available through the Farm Store now!  

Order online, we harvest fresh for you the next morning.  Pick up at Athens Organic Supply or at Dana’s Health Store in Athens after 1:00 the next day.    Eat fresh,  pesticide free and LOCAL!

Gopher Knoll is a private garden and not open to the public, but if you would like to visit, just send me a note at gopherknoll@gmail.com or text to (903) 279-9732.   We’d love to share the joy!

Really Busy Bees

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We’ve had a lot of bee excitement this week.

Back in 2010, when we had our first real garden, I was pretty nervous around bees.  Even the ones that were just working the vegetable flowers and such.  Back then, I would actually leave the garden if bees were working nearby.

I finally noticed that even when there were a lot of bees working by me, I was never stung.  And I began to consider (quietly) one day having a hive of our own.

It took a few years.

I talked to the garden bees a lot.

And, as with people you finally get to know better, they eventually became friends.

Saturday,  I drove all the way back from Navasota with some 25,000 bees in the car with me.  They were very polite and mostly stayed in their boxes until we arrived at the garden.

Hiving the bees

Yes, I’m doing the whole spaceman bee suit thing.  It keeps me calm, which means I can be more gentle and patient when the bees and I are having close conversations.

Today we have two new hives.  Happy, Happy!!

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT:   The first spring greens are available this week!   We have the wonderful, crunchy Bloomsdale spinach – SO good in a fresh salad!  Baby scarlet and blue kale mix – picked tender for fresh or cooked recipes.  Baby Tuscan cabbage (dinosaur kale), and spicy Arugula.  You order from the Farm Store page (there is a link at the top of the website, too), we’ll harvest just for you the next morning and take it to a local pick-up site by 1:00 pm next day.

Remember – we don’t try to keep a store stocked all the time.  That kind of marketing system wastes too much great food and leaves you with potentially older, less nutritious produce.  We harvest just for you on the same morning you pick it up!  Give it a try!  Click HERE.

REMINDER:  Payment is due for CSA memberships by April 15.   First Pickup Day will be May 3!   Don’t miss out!

If you haven’t signed up yet – we still have a few FRIDAY pickups available from Gopher Knoll and a few TUESDAY pickups available through the multi-farm Deep Roots CSA.   Send me a note and I’ll make sure  you are connected to the right one!

EDIT:  Check the Farm Store frequently and early in the week.  Spinach and Kale sold out within a few hours this week!  But they’ll be back soon!

Just 7″ of rain in 3 days…..

walking in the garden 10

Yes, that’s what it’s like to walk in the garden today.

I know many of you have collected even more inches than that.  You have our condolences.  It’s been a challenge – and for many farmers will mean starting over with new spring starts.

We feel fortunate for the lay of our land on a sandy hillside.  While we are thoroughly soaked, we are not actually under water as many others are.

After the rains of last spring, however, we also made the decision to use some plastic mulch over the growing rows (yes, that’s allowable in an organic program… Feel free to ask about  how it’s done and why we chose to use it).   Among other benefits, it also helps to prevent damage from erosion during the growing season.   So despite the rain, we still have a garden!

It’s  worth taking a look, because while we do have some gullies created by water  washing down middles and walkways, the veggies we set out earlier are safe and have done that rain-thing plants do.  Rain is always so much more invigorating than plain old water!  All the small starts are showing new growth and looking ready for spring!

 

We hope you are drying out and didn’t have too many problems from the weather this week!

You know what they say about East Texas weather….. “if you don’t like it….just wait a minute.  It will change.”

 

March Garden Visit

How about a look through the garden as it is in the process of becoming?

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The veggies are small now – some still just seedlings in the greenhouse – but they are becoming.  In just a few short weeks we’ll be harvesting the first spring greens and setting out tomatoes!

We were able to get a new tractor implement to help with making some beautiful wide rows for planting.  Wider rows almost double the amount of productive space within the garden and make it much easier to mix in herbs and do more companion planting.    Some of the rows are covered with plastic mulch to conserve water from the drip irrigation and keep down weeds.     Cutting down on hand weeding means more time and energy for harvesting!

As the garden comes together, it appears we’ll be able to support a few more members in the CSA.   If you haven’t signed up yet, now’s the time!   It looks like we’ll have a beautiful spring!

Speaking of which…. want to talk ‘garden’?  This coming Tuesday,  I’ll be out at Athens Organic Supply (Hwy 31 E of Athens) for coffee hour from about 9:00 AM – 10:00 or so.  Drop by and share a cup!  We can talk about companion planting and avoiding conflicts in the garden.  Or, whatever else you’d like to visit about!

Hope to see you there!

P.S.  My apologies if you cannot watch the slide show in the email attachment.  It requires a “Flash” app which is not available to many mobile devices.   If you visit the website directly at:  http://gardenfreshveggies.com/   you’ll most likely be able to see it all.     We’re working on a new website we hope will resolve some problems.

 

Spring CSA

Our seed potatoes came in today!   Even though we’ve been starting veggie seeds in the greenhouse for almost two months, for some reason I never feel like spring planting time is really here until the potatoes come in.

potatoes

We order our unique potato varieties each year from the Potato Garden in Colorado.   It’s not easy to find organically grown, certified seed and we pay a little extra for them, but like our other heirloom vegetables, the exceptional flavor, texture and color are worth it!

The first new potatoes should be in our CSA boxes toward the end of May.

Speaking of which – it’s time to sign up if you’d like to join for this summer!

Gopher Knoll will still offer our own heirloom CSA subscription just as we have done the past two years.  Click THIS LINK for the details.   All the veggies in our boxes are grown in our own garden here in Athens and reflect the best of the varieties we have offered in the past along with new varieties specially chosen each year.    In addition to searching out traditional heirlooms from Texas and around the United States, we also make a point of introducing new foods that will bring us healthy and delicious meals from other world cuisines. And, as always, we will concentrate on bringing you fresh and fun leafy greens throughout the season.

At publication, we still have about six openings for the summer season.

If you enjoy creating healthy gourmet-quality meals with ingredients that spark a little extra excitement, our heirloom garden may be just the thing!  Feel free to browse through our box contents for the last two years by clicking on “The Weekly Share”  here or in the side column to see what we’ve offered in the past.   This year our specials will include mexican gherkins, our multi-color carrots, a sweeter-than-average parsnip, beautiful red celery, Japanese spinach and edible hibiscus.   Truly a CSA for the adventurous spirit!

If you like what you see, click HERE to join! Or send questions in an email to:  gopherknoll@gmail.com

Our success at Gopher Knoll has also helped to inspire another CSA for our area.  Called “Deep Roots CSA” because the farmers all have deep roots in our community and are excited to develop a strong support system among local farmers as well as between farmers and community members.    Three local farms are contributing right now to this new CSA.   Gopher Knoll will be growing some extra vegetables to contribute to this CSA as well.   The offerings will be vegetables that are more traditional to our area and are likely to be those you are familiar with.    All farmers involved are local to our area and all use natural, pesticide-free methods to grow their food.    Check out the new CSA at http://www.deeprootscsa.net/ .

We hope you are looking forward to spring as much as we are!  It’s shaping up to be a great one!

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

We haven’t talked to you here in quite a while and you might be thinking we were washed away with the record rains of 2015.  We actually measured a little over 86″ of rain at the garden last year.

 

Farm pic

So yes, it’s pretty wet out there.   Still, lots of good work is going on to make this spring the best garden yet.

For example,  when the summer crops died off, we removed most of the leftovers to add to the compost pile and then planted a cover crop of Elbon rye.     As it grows, it binds nitrogen (aka natural fertilizer) which will be returned to the soil when it is mowed and/or tilled later. The cover crop also prevents germination of weed seeds that might be looking for a start,  prevents erosion from all our rain, and when it is tilled in later, the decomposition will help to eliminate the harmful root knot nematodes that infest many of the vegetable crops in East Texas – so it’s also a natural pesticide.     That’s a lot of good to come from a little grass, no?

Garlic and shallots are already planted.  Onions will be out soon.   Carrots, peas and spinach are being planted in the garden right now (under floating row cover).  And it is already time to start sets for many of the spring veggies.   Right now (or last month, whichever comes first)  is time to start seeds indoors for cabbages, kales, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuces,celery, herbs and spring greens.

Starts 1_9_16

We won’t be starting our seeds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other summer crops for a couple more weeks.  Some cannot be safely set out until after our average ‘last frost’ date of March 15.   (Many will require frost protection even then.)  We don’t want the starts to become root-bound or grow too large in their pots before transplanting, so we’ll wait a couple of weeks still to start those.

We expect to start regular CSA deliveries the first of May, but hopefully the earliest spring greens will be available by March.  Sure hope so!  We’re getting hungry for that fresh spinach!

Welcome to 2016!  It’s going to be such a great year!!

Summer Leftovers

We’ve had a great summer break here on the knoll (that’s a ‘hill’ to most Texans).   Now. just as the weather begins to cool a bit, it’s time to get back out to the garden and take care of fall chores.

Even though our summer CSA ended at the end of July, the garden has continued to produce on a smaller scale.   The heat-loving crops that were so very slow to start last spring finally got going.  Better late than never, right?

Melons and okra were both particularly slow getting started across East Texas.  Everyone was a little disappointed not to find their favorite summer treats ready for the 4th of July picnics, but I have to say you are missing a treat if you don’t take advantage of these fall bonanzas!   Get yourself down to the Farmer’s Market and find some on Saturday!

I pickle some of the okra (the littlest ones) and dry others for chips.

What’s that?  You haven’t tried okra chips, you say?  Maybe we will bring some for sharing to the Fall Festival at Athens Organic.  That’s October 24, so you might want to pencil that in to your calendar.  <hint> <hint>.

Herbs, of course, love summer!

Hidden among the weeds are some nice stands just perfect for harvest; basil, mints, sage, oregano, lemon grass, ginger, and lemon balm,   Not to mention some of the natives like blackberry (root) and Sassafras leaves (gumbo file).   We’ll make some of the basil and mint into pesto.  Whatever survives fresh eating will be frozen in ice-cube trays to use later.  Other herbs will be dried to use as spices and teas.

Ginger is one of the best to keep around.  It’s one of the healthiest herbs out there!    We add fresh ginger juice to a hot lemonade/raw honey/ginger tea to soothe (or prevent) colds and flu. (Disclaimer:  I’m a gardener, not a doc.  Just sayin’.)

Of course, since we work hard at finding and developing heirloom varieties that grow well in our sandy East Texas soil, we also save a lot of seed for next year’s garden. It assures us of a good source of seed and contributes to preserving this genetic resource for the future.

Seed saving isn’t the most picturesque of our chores.  Plants gone to seed blend in well with the weeds that got away from us somewhere along the way.

summer weeds

How to resolve this?   Most of the area (except for the smaller winter garden area) will be mowed, tilled and planted in a winter cover crop of elbon rye (prevents erosion, helps control root-knot nematodes and provides for lots of nice organic nitrogen in the spring.)

Then we’ll get busy on our winter projects.  A new composting area, planting of fruit and pecan trees, removal of invasive trees, fencing….    I’ll keep you up to date on those as they come about.

In the meantime, would you like to have coffee and talk garden?   I’ll be at the Athens Organic coffee shop (Hwy 31 E of Athens) about 9:00 AM for the next few Tuesday mornings.   We could plan winter gardens or seed-starting schedules for spring.  You bring your seed catalogs and I’ll bring mine.