Deer in the garden

Produce at Halcyon Acres in Roanoke Virginia

It’s been a challenging year on the growing front. A winter that wouldn’t let go followed by stifling heat and then rain, rain and more rain. I’ve never been a believer in the saying “rain, rain, go away,” but I might change my tune if my house floats away by the time we get through the next stretch of weather with rain forecast every day in the foreseeable future. We’ve been hit hard here with flooding. While the interior of my office became a pond, curiously, the garden area drained quickly and plants survived (for the most part – lost a couple of the artichokes I’m testing to see if they survive in this climate).

That said, it’s becoming impossible to predict what will be ready when. Items that need a lot of sun and heat seem to be ahead of schedule and those I expected early are late. What we have now and what’s been planted for later.

We currently have a lot of fresh herbs available including:

  • Cilantro (soon to be coriander)
  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Chives

If you like fresh herbs and think that’s what you get at the supermarket, you’re wrong and in for a treat with the taste truly fresh picked brings to your meals. Give us a call at (540) 400-7106 and we’ll introduce you to new flavors you’ll relish. We can do quantities on your favorite items or create a sample pack. Soon we’ll have parsley, basil and garlic scapes (if you’ve never tasted one of these, you must). Oregano and thyme are great in salads and eggs if you’re looking to cut calories on dressing and cheese and still get a burst of taste that excites your palate.

The purple and green asparagus was delightful this year, but short-lived. The purple variety is tender, not stringy and meant to be eaten raw. You can even do that with the green that’s fresh picked here. If you want to get on the list for limited quantities of this item, call now to get on the short list for next year.

Deer in the garden
Yep – these critters – they ate most of your strawberries this year. Note the solar light on the tree – works great at night – not so much during the day.

I’ve given up on strawberries. Perhaps I’ll come up with a better way to keep the deer from devouring the leaves before fruit even bears next year on the plants that survive, but I’m not buying any more. On the few that did make it to producing berries, the ground hogs stole them before they were picked. This is a new challenge for me. When I had the farm, I had Gatsby, my delightfully talented mutt with no nose (thank goodness because in my New York town, DEC officers were authorized to shoot dogs, even when they’re yours on your own property, if caught running deer), who guarded the two-acre vegetable garden plot. Groundhogs annoyed me as they took a single bit of every ripe strawberry, but I had enough land to grow more than they could eat and ultimately, Gatsby hunted them all down.

New fruits available this year includes:

  • Blackberries
  • Elderberries
  • Blueberries
  • Artichokes (maybe – and yes, technically they’re a flower)

With vegetables, we’ve moved away from planting the standard fare and are focusing on items that have been extremely popular in the past two years with mostly unavailable items locally that have tastes unequaled elsewhere. We’ve also switched from a standard fare package to specific item and quantity orders. We’ll have a page on the website soon indicating what’s available with prices soon that’s updated regularly. While we’re also happy to try to grow something on special request, our current selections this year include:

  • Garlic (hard neck, softneck, elephant – new this year)
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Adirondack blue & Pontiac red potatoes (never had fresh dug potatoes – you’ll never go back to old, starchy supermarket crap once you do)
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Leeks
  • Heirloom tomatoes (a variety of sizes and colors)
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Water melon
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Banana peppers
  • Many lettuces including head and loose leaf mixes
  • and probably more I’m forgetting at the moment

We’re also going to give sunflower seeds a go this year (no idea how that will turn out). We’ll be offering these flowers and a number of others for bouquets deliver to our regular customers.

Unusual iris flower
Look at this lovely – not selling iris’s because they’re too short lived, but wish I could remember where I found this unusual species.

Thanks to those of you who have already called to get on the list for delivery this year – and for your patience as we deal with weather surprises that have crops behaving weirdly. We’ll keep you all posted as soon as crops emerge with hopes this growing season moves into some kind of normality soon.

 

 

 

 

 

nlevin

Growing chemical-free produce can be a spiritual experience. Join me as I discover and share the secrets to making it work on a tiny plot of suburban land in Roanoke as I try to adapt what I learned during 20 years on over 100 acres rural in New York.

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Too anxious for spring vegetables

This isn’t a new thing. I tend to anticipate spring too early when I’ve had enough of cold temperatures and the weather teases sunny, warm days. About three weeks ago, I packed most of my winter clothes in the attic and set out to the garden to get cool loving crops planted outside. We hit a record high of 84 degrees and I figured if I didn’t act quick I’d lose the joy of harvesting cool-loving vegetables (again). Big mistake.

My first year in Roanoke (2016), I lost most of my favorite crops to bolt after planting from seed into the ground too late. Same thing happened in 2017. Fool me twice – OK, maybe it’s once but I’m a slow learner.

While it’s a seemingly slower pace in Roanoke, Virginia than my Rochester, New York most recent roots, it’s not when it comes to the “don’t blink” spring that happens in what I now recognize is “the south”.

I miss the New York weather that sustains lettuces, broccoli, peas and other staples long past early June and again into the fall. In fact, I’d plant leaf lettuce every three weeks all summer long for delicious continuous greens. I didn’t realize Roanoke can go from 40s to 80s overnight and once that heat hits, those crops that thrive in Finger Lakes climates are gone to bitter bolting because those cooler nights don’t come.

Roanoke outdoor vegetable plantings so far

This year, I was determined to ensure I didn’t miss that short window between freezing temperatures and stifling heat. Looks like the freezing temperatures are back for a few more weeks. Yesterday showed the first signs of peas emerging, so I’m thinking those spring crops will survive, but it will be a while before they thrive.

Outside seed starts so far include a wide range of carrots, romaine lettuce, several varieties of peas, broccoli, spinach, turnips and red cabbage. I’m also trying anew a strawberry crop this year (the deer have been devastating in the prior two years) with 25 plants put in last week plus five more purple asparagus root plantings.

I assembled, then tore down, an outdoor walk-in greenhouse once the 60 mph winds forecast hit. All my container seed starts are now living indoors for the next couple of weeks anyway, with grow lights in small greenhouses and the warmth of electric heat.

Indoor seed starts

Trying different types of lights on each shelf to see what works best for container seed starts.

I’m trying some new things with the seed starts. This includes artichokes (a total experiment likely to fail – the seeds were cheap enough to give it a go) and sunflowers (the deer have annihilated direct to ground starts in prior years) with hopes more mature transplants will survive in the field of tall yellow sunbursts I’ve always dreamed of. Of course, that would have been a lot more doable when I had 117 acres than this tiny lot, but won’t it be amazing if I can make it work here?

I’m giving my last go to some standards – curious and unusual heirloom tomato and pepper varieties, leeks and cauliflower.

What grew well in my little town of Potter, New York, doesn’t tend to thrive here. The soil is great (a lucky find in this town, I realize) and the sun exposure is decent enough even though I’m in a valley of mountains, but I’m still learning about the seasons and the critters that delight in taking my harvest before it’s done producing.

New and old this year for chemical-free produce offerings

This year, I’m focused on doing more of what’s worked in the past with hard-to-find crops that have thrived here.

This includes a lot of root harvests that survive the critters, the weather and the occasional neglect. Garlic is a big one with more than six pounds planted of half a dozen varieties. Carrots, turnips, beets and curious potatoes are back.

Asparagus will be a staple for many years to come. I’ve planted both purple and green but am focusing on the former for the future. It’s thriving here and last years’ harvest was delicious on a crop that usually takes three years to mature.

This is the last year I’ll try strawberries. I’ve moved the beds and plan on deterring the deer with Irish Spring soap (the best repellant I’ve found among many tried) and bird netting. If the deer win this year, I’m crying uncle on that crop.

Spaghetti squash has been a big hit and productive crop, so I’ll continue with this one. Summer squash and zucchini are out. I’ll try acorn squash for one last time this year. Fails in past years here have left me frustrated.

We’ll be continuing with our fresh herb crops – currently at about a dozen varieties. Sadly, my big rosemary producers died this winter, but I have more than a couple dozen seed starts to repopulate. Might need to keep them indoors for a year or more before they’re strong enough to go into the ground with whatever is killing them off (my guess is it’s the black walnut trees on the property).

Lots of new fun stuff I’m trying too – but will have to wait and see if these crops flourish here.

Stay tuned for updates on what’s working, what’s not and the chemical-free produce available to you in the Roanoke area coming soon from Halcyon Acres.

nlevin

Growing chemical-free produce can be a spiritual experience. Join me as I discover and share the secrets to making it work on a tiny plot of suburban land in Roanoke as I try to adapt what I learned during 20 years on over 100 acres rural in New York.

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Get custom herb planters delivered free to you in Roanoke at http://HalcyonAcres.com

Halcyon Acres offers chemical-free planted herb deliveries in Roanoke

It’s early in the season but growing vegetables and herbs is so much more fun in a climate where frost concerns don’t extend until the end of May. We’re already harvesting planted outdoor crops, including lettuce, spinach, radishes, strawberries and herbs. It looks like we’ll have some baby carrots soon too.

Eager to jump into the growing season early, we’ve experimented on what works, and what doesn’t. We now have herbs in planters and decorative indoor herb wall hangings healthy and available. Want to customize what’s inside the containers? We can now offer this year-round on the herb planters and decorative units (although it may take a month or so have your selection healthy and ready for delivery).

Have a favorite group of herbs? We custom plant your selection from seed. Flowers able to mature short and handle small spaces for roots are available as an alternative or component of an herb mix during summer months.

These containers are designed with the black thumb in mind.

The planters provide drainage ample enough to ensure your herbs stay healthy even when left out in the pouring rain. It’s almost impossible to overwater (the biggest reason most kill potted plants). Outdoor hearty is important too. We won’t deliver after seed starts they’re comfortable to live indoors or out, with sufficient size and exposure to adjust to your challenging conditions (think American Tourister).

Indoor herb decorate units at http://HalcyonAcres.comThe decorative wall units are ideal as a gift for the passionate cooker seeking to eat healthier (it’s great as a present for yourself too). Fresh herbs offer such flavor (plus the smells are heavenly) that sauces, dressings and processed junk gets easy to leave behind with better ingredients at your fingertips.

These are also designed for those not yet claiming a green thumb. Soil and plants are separated from the decorative rocks below with a cardboard divider. You’ll quickly see if overwatering is an issue as rocks get submerged in liquid. If you want to try the DIY route, there’s a two-part post on Roanoke Revealed that provides a shopping list and, on the following Friday (DIY is Friday’s theme – much of this features projects to feed the plant-lovers soul), assembly instructions.

These custom herb planters and decorative units are delivered free to residents in Roanoke. Give a friend, relative, business associate or yourself a present that brings smiles daily for some time to come. You’ll be remembered for your unique and thoughtful gift.

Call (540) 400-7106 or e-mail Nanette at HorseSenseAndCents.com to learn more or to place your order.

nlevin

Growing chemical-free produce can be a spiritual experience. Join me as I discover and share the secrets to making it work on a tiny plot of suburban land in Roanoke as I try to adapt what I learned during 20 years on over 100 acres rural in New York.

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Halcyon Acres chemical-free produce in Roanoke

Halcyon Acres is now in Roanoke Virginia

Looking for local chemical-free produce delivered to your (business or home location) door? We’re now filling slots for the 2016 season. Eight spots remain.

Weekly deliveries include a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and some fruits. Each week we can discuss what you like, what you don’t and what you want more of for customized deliveries all season. No upfront subscription costs, but I hope you’ll honor our handshake on the season as once I’m full, others are declined.

Halcyon Acres chemical-free produce in RoanokeIt’s like Christmas every week – a great value for you in discovering what’s contained in the bountiful packages (including recipes to help you combine in-season freshness) and a smile for me as we unpack and discuss the goodies.

Custom requests are encouraged, both in crops planted and delivery items.

E-mail Nanette@HorseSenseAndCents.com or call (540) 400-7106 if you want to secure your spot as a 2016 client. We’re offering an early bird special (just pay for your first week) of $45 weekly until March 30th. After that, the price will be $55/week.

You’ll save tons at the grocery store buying organic (mostly from Mexico), needing meat to add flavor to your meals (wait until you taste picked today) and get great ideas for cooking healthier with vegetable combinations, herb additions and creative recipes (provided as part of your package) for new, fun ideas for preparing foods that come to you just picked on your delivery day.

nlevin

Growing chemical-free produce can be a spiritual experience. Join me as I discover and share the secrets to making it work on a tiny plot of suburban land in Roanoke as I try to adapt what I learned during 20 years on over 100 acres rural in New York.

More Posts