Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quotable Sunday 01-29-2012

Busily planting hundreds of seeds now and in the weeks to come.

                                  Tiny little seedlings grow in to big beautiful snapdragons.

                   " The seed is hope; the flower is joy."
                          Author Unknown 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Days are Getting Longer!

Last November we wrote a post called "Going to the Dark Side of the Moon", where we told how our flowers are going in to the part of the season of no growth and darkness.  
               Here the flowers were in November, ready to spend their time under the blankets.

 Last Sunday 1-15-21, here the flowers were under two blankets in the hoop house in the snow.

 We said they would reemerge around Jan. 23rd, when the hours of daylight would begin to increase beyond 9 1/2 hours.

So Houston we have gone around the dark side of the moon and have radio contact again. The flowers have survived the dark period and have even grown.  We had some damage by voles but the flowers are looking good.  We even spied a couple of buds in JANUARY, can you imagine.  Here's proof


The other bed of flowers is doing pretty well considering the voles have been very busy this early season.  Snap traps, bubble gum and Callie the flower dog are working hard to eliminate the

   We started some anemones in crates for the first time and they are looking pretty good and should start blooming in a couple of weeks if the weather is nice.

So here is hoping that there will be no more snow, much less rain and light breezes instead of gale force winds;  an early spring and a very pleasant summer for this growing season.  The last two years have been very hard to be a flower grower, we think we have earned a break this year.  Mother Nature are you listening?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quotable Sunday 1-22-2012

Stolen Time

"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. "
-  John Boswell 

        Tony's reading selections are on the left,  Denise's reading selections are on the right.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quotable Sunday  1-15-2012


"Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them."
-  Vincent A. Simeone  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Little Winter Project....

Building an Inexpensive  Capillary Mat Table

As part of lowering the inputs the Farm has been purchasing, we have made a conscious effort to eventually move all our seedlings and transplants into the soil block system instead of plastic plug trays.  Soil blocks have many long term advantages (I'll post on this at a later time) but one of the issues always bugging us was the use of overhead watering and the effect on the block from dripping water before the plants reached a size that block integrity wasn't impacted by overhead watering.  

So we decided to build a  Capillary Mat Table.  Our propagation house is a small and unheated hoop house with  two 4'X16' tables inside.  We decided to take one of these existing tables and convert it to a Capillary Mat Table to grow the soil blocks on for 2-3 weeks before moving them to another area with overhead watering to finish them off before field transplant.

 The picture to the left shows the basic table. Real basic..hog wire panel, posts & blocks for support.  Each table also has a drip mister setup for automatic overhead watering. we also use a black 3/4" polypipe set of hoops to suspend our frost protective Agribon.

To create a flat insulating and somewhat water resistant base to the capillary mat, we chose to use 1 5/8"Styrofoam insulation board.  This is sold in 4X8 panels at most hardware or home center stores and goes for about $17-18 per panel.  For this table we purchased two panels.  We cut the panels into 4X4 size mostly for ease of transport and table installation.
From this view we have laid down approximately half the base of the table. Each panel is adjusted with a cut out for the drip misters and the hoops to suspend Agribon fabric cloth for frost protection.  For extra stability we put some thin wood stripping under the panels on top of the hog wire base.
This shot shows the the base of the table down and the hoop and mister cutouts completed.  The next step is attaching a wicking water source to feed the Capillary Mat.

What we decided on was to use an inexpensive vinyl gutter.  We purchased this 10' gutter and ends for about $12.50.  The bottom of the gutter is supported by four  2X4 braces with the top of the gutter attached directly to side of the table using basic dry wall bugle type screws.  The gutter is centered so that only 3' of the table at each end does not have gutter next to it.  Note the roll of Capillary Mat in the background.  The cheapest I found was at Farmtek 4'X100' roll was the smallest size, delivered cost was $116 or about $.29 per sq ft.   
The mat was rolled out to a 16' length then cut from the roll and folded in half on the table.  The next step was to cut holes in the mat for the misters and for the Agribon hoops on the edges.  

The next step was to cut the mat which wicks from the water source to the table mat.  I cut three 2' lengths from the 4' roll of mat. One of the pieces I re-cut into a 2X2 piece.  The three pieces in total now will fit the length of the 10' gutter.   We then laid one end of each piece about a foot and half under the table's mat, with the gutter end covering the bottom of the gutter.  Note the mat cut outs for the hoops.

 The table is now complete and ready for loading! The total cost of this table was $39 for the insulation board, $12.50 for the gutter & $25.50 (cost of mat used on table only) or about $77 total, $1.20 per sq ft.  If you include the cost of the total roll of capillary mat then total out of pocket cost for this is $167.50.
So let's fire this Bad-Boy up! 

We add water to the wicking tray and we manually apply water to the top of the mat on the table to get it good and moist.  The wicking action depends on the moisture in the mat being drawn into the soil blocks.  This pressure draw allows the wicking water in the gutter to be "pulled" through the mat to the plants on a continuous basis.  We then started putting the trays down on the mat. Its important that the trays lay as flat as possible on the mat giving maximum contact between the blocks and the mat.

So that is it! It took about 2 hours max. to get this table up and  rolling(depending interruptions.)  Now we can get even watering of our plants for those critical early stages of growth and transplant.  As part of our philosophy of keeping what we do transparent to all who follow us or buy from our sustainable farm I'm glad to answer any question. You can contact me at

Tony Gaetz

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Quotable Sunday  1/8/2012


Every January there are certain chores that have to be done to start the new year.  Chores that are not exciting, rather tedious and boring and some that you just want to avoid.  Below are the jobs that have to be done:  

Indoor Chores:

 Seeds need to be ordered, inventoried, dated and numbered.  They are then stored in boxes to be ready to plant.  Schedules of planting are then made via the computer.

 Christmas decorations have to be rounded up and
boxed back up.  More fun putting out the stuff than
 picking it up.

Everything needs a good cleaning.  Carpet mowing, dusting, scrubbing and dust bunny chasing have to be done so we can move to outdoor work.  Wouldn't it be nice if it stayed clean till next January.

Outdoor Chores:

Cleaning and brooming out the propagation house.

Cleaning off the boxes, so we can plant more anemones and other flowers next month.

And finally the most crummiest job of all besides the endless weeding is...........

     Plug tray washing...... yuck.......  Don't get me wrong I wash hundreds of trays and plugs during the season but at the end of the season when I am pooped, they just don't seem to be a priority any more and so they sit......and wait..... till I need them for the new season,  which is NOW!  So it is back to the greenhouse, soapy water up to my elbows and washing out trays and lining the shelves like dishes drying on a rack.  Flower farming, the mundane aspect of it.

So the quote is to inspire!

The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them. Even the most tedious chore will become endurable as you parade through each day convinced that every task, no matter how menial or boring, brings you closer to achieving your dreams.”
Og Mandino

 My initial response is..... ya right, what a load of .....    but on second thought he is spot on.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quotable Sunday

New Beginnings

       "The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that 
                 you are not going to stay where you are"   
                                - John Pierpont Morgan-

Brand new anemones break ground for the start of the new year.
Happy New Year!
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