Vegetables

Amazingly Easy Flowers & Veggies For Summer Goodness

As a little girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest suburbs of Seattle, Washington, our lilacs would usually be blooming around the time that May rolled in.

I have fond memories of picking lilacs and blue bells, and making May Day baskets to leave as surprises on my grandmothers’ porches.

Alas, in Michigan the lilacs don’t bloom quite as early, but their purple beauty has started to form and soon we will be blessed with an abundance of color and fragrance.

Michigan’s last, average frost date is May 15th. That is the day that it is generally recognized as safe to plant warmer weather loving plants outside. So now is the perfect time to start thinking about what you might want to consider growing.

If you’ve been longing to try your hand at a few things, but don’t know where to start, here are a few amazingly easy options:

Flowers

Zinnias

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These flowers may be last alphabetically, but they are first in a brilliant array of colors.

Planting a package of zinnia will ensure you lots of blooms that hold up well in the summer heat and humidity.

They, generally, have long sturdy stems and last a long time in arrangements once picked.

They will also continue to grow more blooms after cutting until the season’s first frost.

I recommend a variety called Benary’s Giant in a mix. That way you get lots of colors.

Follow the planting instructions on the seed packet and in about 2 1/2 months you’ll have blooms.

Sunflowers

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Sunflowers are some of the quickest summer flowers to grow and you have a myriad of types to choose from.

For the big, tall, single blooms we all love, try a Procut Orange and for a little variation try the lighter, more pale yellow, of Procut Lemon. These beauties grow in about 50 - 60 days, but only grow one flower each.

If you like a shorter, branching type of sunflower with lots of blooms, try Sonja for standard flowers or Strawberry Blonde for a red tint. Branching sunflowers grow anywhere from 55 to 85 days depending on the variety. Branching varieties will bloom multiple times each season.

If you don’t have a space for taller varieties of sunflowers, consider a dwarf version. These are perfect for containers. My absolute favorite is the Teddy Bear! It is as cute as its name; looking like a fluffy version of its bigger relatives. (Grows in about 70 days, producing one flower per plant.)

Sunflowers will survive some frost can be grown into fall.

Cosmos

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While not as well know as some other flowers, these lovelies will grow tall and proud in your garden. They range in color from white to pinks, and dark burgundy. A “double” variety will give you a more fuller flower in bloom, while single varieties look more daisy-like.

Cosmos will grow and bloom in about 2 1/2 months. Once picked, they last an amazingly long time in arrangements.

Plants will continue to produce more blooms. So come and cut again until the first frost.

Vegetables

Zucchini

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I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes about locking your doors during zucchini season so that you don’t get mysteriously gifted hoards of excess zucchini from well-meaning neighbors.

That is never a problem in my house because I use zukes for just about everything. My favorite is to substitute them in for pasta, in recipes.

I recommend only growing one or two plants for the home gardener as these babies really do produce and I don’t want you to have to be a secret squash ninja, dropping off produce on your neighbor’s steps.

I like to grow the long, straight Dunja variety.

Summer Squash

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Technically the long yellow squash I refer to as summer squash, and the zucchini, are both summer squashes.

I recommend growing both the traditional green zukes as well as it’s yellow cousin.

The tastes are similiar and they are interchangeable in recipes but using both in your dishes and recipes really makes a colorful pop!

Try the Yellowfin variety or the nuttier tasting Zephyr. But you only need a couple of plants because these produce just as much as traditional zucchini.

Both zucchini and summer squash grow in around 50 days and will keep producing until first frost.

You can also shred and freeze excess for use in the off season.

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Cucumbers

These is a must grow on our farm. Once you taste the sweetness of fresh-from-the-garden cucumber you will never want to go back to the bused in supermarket variety ever again.

Cucumbers take around 50 days from planting to develop.

I recommend the Olympian or Marketmore 76 varieties. Both produce well until the end of summer.

Put up any extra produce as pickles for the off-season.

Sources

My go-to source for all my seeds is Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Great prices, service, and quality as well as a wide variety of seed quantity options for different garden sizes and needs. Many professional growers use their seed, and their catalog and websites are full of growing information.

Other great sources include:

  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

  • Botanical Interest Seed Catalog

  • Territorial Seed

  • Floret Flowers

  • Gardener’s Workshop

Don’t forget that we grow all these and more, here at Fox & Glove Farmstead as well, and we’d love to be your farm!

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions about cultivation (planting, growing, harvesting). We love to share our knowledge with you.

Also don’t forget to sign up for our email list. You get a great free gift and lots of other great gardening, herbal and wellness tips, stories and recipes in your mailbox twice a month. You can sign up below in the footer section of this page.

Have an awesome month of May!

Bloom & Grow,

Cyndi

Get Great Value, Little Risk With A Mini-CSA!

If you’re a lover of farm fresh food you’ve probably heard of CSA’s (Community Sustained Agriculture).

With a full CSA you and your farmer contract a “share” of the products the farm produces in season. There is a set amount of weeks the agreement is good for and you generally pay the full amount up front or in installments. Then weekly or bi-weekly you go to the farm and pick up your share.

For some people that can be a bit of a monetary stretch and leave you with food waste, if you don’t like a particular item in your weekly share.

But what about a mini-CSA?

A mini-CSA only offers one product and shorter length of commitment. This can make them a more affordable option for many people and a great way to lower the risk of trying out a new farmer or new product.

Have I piqued your interest?

5 Reasons To Invest In A Mini-CSA

  1. Your product is reserved. No getting to the farm and finding the product you wanted is already sold out.

  2. You save money by only getting the product you want.

  3. Increased eating of seasonal, farm fresh food but at a volume you can manage.

  4. Weekly visits to the farm and one on one time with your farmer.

  5. Support of your community and local farmer.

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Still a little uncertain about what a mini-CSA entails?

Let me give you an example:

Fox & Glove Farmstead’s Mini Microgreen CSA

If you are local to the Dorr, Michigan area you can sign up for our mini microgreen CSA. We will have a limited number of shares to offer.

Once a week, on Saturdays, from April 13 to May 4 you will pick up, on farm, a 10 oz bag of microgreens (roughly 10 servings) containing Farmer John’s proprietary mix of radish, sunflower and pea microgreens.

Cost is $60 for the month-long, mini-CSA. Payable in full, online HERE.

We are only offering these greens through our CSA currently, but if we sold them at the farmstand they would cost $17 per bag. (We discount the price for our CSA to give you more value.)

At the end of the term you will have a chance to offer feedback and thoughts on the mini-CSA so we, the farmer, can know the best way to meet your needs in the future.

It’s a win-win for both you the consumer and us the farmer.

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Want to know more about microgreens? You can read about them here.

To sign up for our Mini-Microgreen CSA, click here.

And as always, if you have comments or questions please leave them below in the comment section or contact me personally at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com .

It’s always my pleasure to help you bloom and grow!

Cyndi


Starting a garden is as easy as A, B, Seed!

It’s February and, depending on where you live, winter may be loosening it’s grip or (like here in Michigan) it may be still going strong.

If you’re like me, you might just be getting a little bit antsy to get your fingers back in the dirt and get things growing.

Good news…

It’s Not Too Early To Start!

The biggest mistake most gardeners make is thinking everything goes into the ground at one time, about the time the weather gets nice. But that technique will leave you disappointed.

Both vegetables and flowers have cool season growers and warm season growers. A plant that thrives in the cool temps of spring will wither or bolt during a hot summer. Reverse that for a warm season plant: put it in the cold ground of spring and you will be watching nothing grow.

So now is the perfect time to start thinking about your cool spring garden and while the ground outside may not be workable there are flowers and veggies that will thrive if you plant them now, indoors as seeds.

5 Flowers To Start Indoors From Seed Now:

  • Snapdragons

  • Delphinium

  • Sweet Peas

  • Pansy

  • Black-eyed Susan

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6 Vegetables To Start Indoors From Seed Now:

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Tomatoes

  • Peppers

  • Peas

  • Eggplant

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Supplies Needed:

  • Seeds

  • Small pots: I like to use plastic cells and plastic starter pots. I reuse them as much as possible. Make sure they are dirt free and sterilized with a water/bleach solution before using. (One gallon water to 1 or 2 Tbsp. bleach.)

  • Trays: Hold water to allow the plants to suck it up from the bottom.

  • Lids (optional): Help hold heat and humidity in.

  • Seed starting mix: From your local garden center.

  • Large plastic container: to hold wet seed starting soil mix.

  • Small gardening shovel

  • Garden gloves (optional)

  • Plant markers: Craft popsicle sticks work well as do old plastic blinds.

  • Sharpie: To label your plant markers

  • Spray bottle: Make sure it can spray with a fine mist..

  • Water: Non-chlorinated, non-salted. When in doubt purchase distilled water from the grocery store.

  • Grow lights (really helpful)

  • Heat mats (optional)

Techniques:

I’m clearly no Joanna Gaines or Ree Drummond on camera but watch the video demonstration below for a short tutorial. We shot this in one take so I’d like to clarify that when I said most plants have to start when we have snow still on the ground, I meant cool season plants and plants with long growing times. Don’t start pumpkins now! LOL!

To help you know more about start dates I have put together a handy guide for both indoor seed starting and outdoor seed starting. Email me at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead and ask for A… B… Seed! I’ll be happy to send you the FREE guide.

To see our seed starting setup with grow lights, and other information watch this video.

Other Tips and Tricks:

Plants that have been started in the comfort of your cozy house will need to be “hardened off” before you move them to their outside home. This means exposing them to the great outdoors, a little bit at a time, gradually lengthing their exposure so they can build up hardiness to the outdoors.

To know when your plants should go in the ground, make sure to email me (cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead) to get your free growing calendar and seed starting guide.

Reference & Sources:

  • Seeds: Territorial Seed Company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

  • Supplies: Family Farm and Home, Lowes, Ace Hardware

  • Books: Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler, Better Homes and Gardens Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Gardening, Floret Flowers- Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein

Happy Growing:

Are you convinced to give seed starting a try this year? I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

You can drop me a comment here on the blog, on facebook, on instagram or shoot me an email at cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com

And don’t forget to email me for your free guide and calendar to seed starting… cyndi@foxandglovefarmstead.com

Bloom and grow!

Cyndi

If You Eat Tomatoes You'll Want To Know This!

My first experience with tomatoes was less than grand. My momma had one tomato plant in her tiny garden space when I was very little. On this plant was one lowly, green tomato waiting to ripen.

My mom was very excited for this little fruit to turn red so she could pick it and have fresh tomato. She told me green tomatoes were bad so that I would wait for it to turn red.

One day my mom went out to check on her tomato and it was gone. Very unhappy, she interrogated each of my four older brothers. Who would dare to pick her precious tomato?

All my brothers looked baffled. "We didn't do it," they said. This made her even angrier. Surely someone was not telling the truth.

Then I took her hand and led her to the garbage can outside. I lifted the lid. There, at the bottom, was Mom's green tomato. "Green, bad!" I told her.

Poor Mom. She had told me that green was bad, but failed to say we needed to wait for it to turn red.

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Don't worry... My mistake was graciously overlooked and, in her lifetime, Mom had many more home grown, ripe tomatoes.

Now, I'm a firm believer in letting food be my medicine and it turns out that those little jewels my mom waited for to ripen each subsequent year are actually a powerhouse super food packed with health.

Eating fresh tomatoes is doing yourself a favor!

Don't like tomatoes? You might change your mind after reading these ten tomato tidbits: (Disclaimer: I'm a farmer/health nut not a doctor or nutritionist. I just know how real food makes me feel.)

  • 1. Tomatoes are an incredible cancer fighter; reducing your risk of cancer because of the phyto chemicals called carotenoids contained in the skin. The deeper the color of the skin, the deeper the amount of carotenoids. Lutein, Alpha and Beta Carotenes, and Lycopene (carotenoids) contain antioxidants that protect cells from damage. To get the most benefit, eat your tomatoes cooked.
  • 2. Tomatoes also fight imflammation. They rank #12 on the list of anti-inflammatory foods. The fruits contain flavonoids called Quercentin and Kaempferol that are natural antihistamines. The carotenoid Lycopene also helps with inflammation.
  • 3. Tomatoes can lessen depression. The Folate (a type of Vitamin B) in tomatoes helps to facilitate your body's production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; all mood boosting chemicals. I'm all about that!
  • 4. The alpha-lopoic acid in tomatoes can help stabilize blood sugar. Tomatoes have a glycemic index of 30. Anything under 55 is considered low and means that sugars are released throughout the body in a slow and steady rate instead of a large spike.
  • 5. Tomatoes fight heart disease and can help keep blood pressure under control. Also related, they can reduce your risk of stroke and provide muscle relaxant properties. This is due, in part, to the potassium and Vitamin C, that tomatoes contain, and the jelly around tomato seeds that contain salicytates, anti-clotting agents. So to get the best heart benefits, eat those seeds!
  • 6. Eating tomatoes give your hair, skin and teeth a healthy boost from the Vitamin A and collagen they contain. One cup of chopped tomatoes equals over 50% the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for women.
  • 7. Pregnant or trying to get pregnant: The Folate in tomatoes helps tissue and cell growth. Folate is responsible for helping produce DNA, help cells divide and is important for proper fetal development.
  • 8. Tomatoes strengthen your bones! The Vitamins K and A as well as Lycopene reduce the specific inflammation that leads to the breakdown of bones.
  • 9. Want to keep your eyes in tiptop shape? Tomato carotenoids and Viamin A reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • 10 Finally, if you suffer from exercise induced asthma, an Australian study has come out that suggest that Vitamin A and Lycopene can help reduce attacks.

I mean, Wow! All that from a tomato! Who knew?!

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Now, for the best news of all! Tomato season has just started. You can stop by your local farm stand or farmer's market and take advantage of all the fresh off the vine fruit. Pick up a few for eating now and a bunch for preserving for later.

Here is a fresh tomato salsa recipe to get you started:

2 ripe tomatoes, cored and diced

1 clove peeled, chopped garlic

1/2 onion, diced

6 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp. lime juice

Salt

Mix together, let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to co-mingle, add more lime juice and salt to taste.

Happy, healthy eating!

So whadda ya think?

Are you affected by one of those health issues above or maybe one that isn't mentioned?

I'd love for you to scroll down to the comment section below and tell me your biggest health issue and if you think food can heal your body. Let's get a conversation started. I'd really like to hear from you!

For now, Bloom and Grow,

Cyndi

Ten Timely Tips You Need For Tomato Season!

The season of the fresh tomato is just about to hit in Michigan. 

I don't know about you, but I wait all year long for this.

There is just no comparing a bland grocery store tomato with fresh, local varieties plucked straight off the vine.

Here is a bit of tomato 101 for you...

There are both hybrid varities and open-pollinated/heirloom varieties.

Hybrids are bred in nurseries and will not reproduce true from seed the next year (Don't waste time seed-saving. You don't know what will grow.) while open-pollinated/heirloom varieties will reproduce true from seed. (You can save the seeds, plant them and they should grow into exactly the type of tomato you got them from.)

Heirloom tomatoes are old-fashioned, open-pollinated varieties that have been around for generations.

Heirlooms are generally regarded as the tastiest type of tomato available.

They are also fragile and hard to transport long distances making them undesirable for commercial farmers to grow. Because of this they are rarer and command a higher price.

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Now if you, like me, have been anticipating these beauties showing up at farmstands and farmer's markets all over the area, I've got some helpful tips to guide you to your version of tomato heaven!

1. The size of the tomato doesn't dictate it's flavor, texture or quality. Choose a size that works for your intented use! That being said...

2. Decide what you want to use your tomatoes for and choose accordingly.

  • Grape and cherry tomatoes are small and sweet. Because of their size they are best used to garnish salads, fill appitizer trays and top hors d'oeuvres.
  • Roma, paste or plum tomatoes are perfect for making sauces, soups and mixing with meat dishes. They are smaller and firm. They have thick, meaty flesh and are less juicy and seeded then other varieties making it easier to cook them down faster.
  • Beefsteaks- the big boys of the tomato world- are what you want for sandwiches, burgers, making into salsa and for stuffing. Are you getting hungry yet? I am!

3. Don't squeeze a potential purchase. Instead pick it up and rest it in your palm. Does it feel heavy for it's size? It should.

4. Smell the tomato. A fresh tomato should have an earthy, slightly sweetish smell. The stonger the tomato smells, the more tasty it will be.

5. Inspect the tomato. Make sure it is free of bruises, or deep cracks. Heirlooms are fragile and are not bred to be uniformly shaped but bruises, deep cracks or holes indicate a tomato that isn't any good.

6.. Purchase tomatoes as you need them. Plan on using them with in a couple days of purchase as tomatoes continue to ripen off the vine.

7. Store tomatoes at room temperature on a plate. Do not put them in a plastic bag or in the refrigerator.

8. When cutting into tomatoes use a knife with a serrated edge. Use a light-handed, sawing motion. This will prevent the downward pressure of force from squishing the tomato.

9. For the best health benefits don't peel that tomato! Tomato skin holds a high concentration of caretenoids (fat-soluble pigments of yellow, orange or red) and flavonols (another type of plant pigmentation). In plain speak... They're good for you!

10. You don't have to seed tomatoes. Some recipes call for this, but it is really up to you. All seeds affect is texture. They do not affect taste.

There you have it! These tips should take the mystery out of choosing, storing, and prepping tomatoes for an abundance of incredible uses.

Leave me a comment. I'd to know what your favorite tomato is!

And...

Be sure to look for next week's blog... #2 in my 4 part tomato series! We'll dive into ten reasons to love tomatoes, even if you don't like them!

Bloom and Grow,

Cyndi