The year is flying by, and what was anticipated to be a busy spring with the 30 X 72 hoophouse build has gotten even busier. I admit feeling a bit daunted by the current state of the garden with the unassembled greenhouse parts, but the snow will eventually melt, the ground will defrost, and the day will come when the frozen ground cloth fabric can be lifted from the surface. The hope and plan, God willing, is to have the construction completed before May 1 rolls around.
Between now and then, I will continue to grow and care for the potted tabletop gardens for our customers and Town and Country Foods, start seeds, prep for spring, tweak the garden plan, and do life.
Perennial Seed Starts
Seed starting activities so far have focused on perennials, including these:
One of the ways I am able start this many seedlings in limited space is through the use of soil blocks. On the bottom two shelves in the picture below there are 800 seedlings on the colorful trays, and the shelves are not even full. Each colorful tray (purchased at The Dollar Tree last year) has 80 3/4” soil blocks on it, so potentially 80 seedlings.They are covered with plastic wrap to keep in moisture during germination, otherwise they would dry out rather quickly. As soon as germination is detected, I remove the plastic.
I have had my small soil blocker for years, using it with varying degrees of success. I tried it again last year and bombed. I attributed it to the (disfunctional) soil used, and determined to try it again. This time I followed the soil blocking recipe found at The Gardeners Workshop. So far, I am pleased with the results— I started all the basil, pansies, and dusty miller using soil blocks this year, and so far all are doing very well. As these newly seeded perennials grow, I will bump them up in to 50 cell trays. I might also purchase a larger soil blocker, the 1.5” or the 2”, and go that route. For more info on soil blocking, The Gardeners Workshop had lots of info and supplies, as does Johnny’s Seeds. (These are just referrals because I like the products and process- I do not get referral credits or bonuses for these links.)
The last items sowed today before the weekend are the sweet peas. They are now in the garage where they should germinate over the next few weeks. I am growing one new variety, “Enchante”, and the rest are repeats for a total of 6 varieties. There are some other colors I wanted to grow, but with everything else going on this year, I opted to keep it to the saved seed and just one new purchase.
the onion family
The next seeds on the sowing schedule are all in the onion family.
In addition to the greenhouse build in April, we had another oppportunity come in to us for that same month. It so exciting we could not turn it down, even with the need to get the greenhouse completed. I will share more on that next month because this newsletter is more than long enough.
Until next time-
The winter activities at Overflow Farm include reviewing last year's successes and failures, continuing education, and planning out the upcoming season. As I looked through the numbers for total sales in 2022, I was encouraged to see that they increased 165% over 2021. It is something to celebrate.
I also looked at how many of each product we produced last year -for planning purposes this year- and how those products can be improved. One thing I believe the farm was short on in 2022 was a consistant flow of great focal flowers, so I just ordered 200 lily bulbs (25 each of 8 varieties) to help fill that need. I am so excited! Not sure where I will plant them, but I will figure it out. All of them are zone 3, so if I don't kill them, they should come back year after year, slowly multiplying. Hopefully.
I have the layout for the beds inside the greenhouse pretty much figured out- we will grow 272 dahlia tubers/plants in two beds, and in the other beds there will be 9 types of zinnias, 5 kinds of celosia, 5 kinds of basil, plus tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and a few melon plants. The rest of the garden planning is still in process. Because the greenhouse- 30' X 72'- is a new structure we are constructing this spring and finishing by April 30 (God willing), it changes the entire garden layout. Planning it out is all new in that respect.
Part of the 2023 business plan brings a new product line: floral note cards/greeting cards. I am excited about designing and producing these over the next few months. Additionally, Overflow Farm has 1-2 (potential) collaborations in the works with two other Dillon businesses- details to follow in the next blog post.
We are currently growing more herb pots and combo planters since they were such a big success last year, selling out at Town and Country (except for the parsley, so do not expect parsley this year as a single herb pot). Pansy pots and planters were another big hit, so a new crop of those is in the works, including new colors. Can you say Mulberry?
That sums up some of this January's activity so far. The days are getting longer and spring will be here before we know it.
2022 was another year in the gardening learning curve, full of successes and failures, and a big note-to-self for one major thing NOT to repeat in 2023.
This past fall, I participated in a Bible study of the book of James. It is hard to read that book without having serious introspective moments. While it is necessary to make plans in one's life, and certainly when one has a farm that requires detailed planning for crop selection, seed sowing, seedling planting, and harvest schedule, etc., as I reflect on the past year and contemplate the upcoming one, I will keep the following in mind because none of us really knows what tomorrow will bring.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 [g]Yet you do not know [h]what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 [i]Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
In 2022, we continued to supply the Dillon Town and Country Foods with fresh cut flowers. During the winter months, we also supplied some amaryllis, followed by tabletop herb garden planters, and some pansy/dusty miller planters. Overall, our flowers and planters went well, and sales were significantly more than 2021. Growing under lights right now are 3 kinds of basil (lemon, thai, and amethyst), 3 kinds of pansies, and I just sowed cilantro and dusty miller seeds today.
In addition to the Dillon Farmer's Market, we attended the Sheridan Market on Thursday evenings, and the Ennis Farmers Market when the season in Dillon was over. Ideally, we will do all three markets this year (Lord willing). Hopefully the logistical parts of that will work be worked out. Even though there is always room for improvement, I would consider all three markets part of our 2022 success. The other market we moved into this year was supplying flowers to other florists, including FreeRangeFlorals, a local florist who does weddings and events, and Wildwood Floral and Gifts, one of the local florists right here in Dillon. It was a fun working relationship with the Rebecca, the florist/owner, however, she is in the process of selling the business and I do not yet know if our relationship will continue with the new owner. We will find out in 2023!
We had many crop successes to varying degrees. One thing I tried this past year in response to what was observed in 2021 was to grow more variety and colors of crops with smaller quantities of each. I believe this was a good move considering the size of our growing area and our current volume of sales. The dahlias bloomed well into September- much better than last year- and the snapdragons were wonderful. New sunflower varieties were delightful and will be grown again. I have changed up some of the zinnias for next year- am super excited about new colors and sizes, plus I will be bringing back the favorites from 2022. I grew Catherdral Bell vines for the first time in 2022, and while I completely loved them and they did well, I will not grow them this next season because of the short length of our growing season. They were started in February and even then didn't bloom until late August. Plus if the clematis vines make it through the winter, they will be taking over that area of vertical garden. Of course, I may bring them back in 2024 once our hoophouse is established....again, we shall see.
The final success of the season was being able to put together dried floral bouquets and wreaths that I was happy with. Those were shown at 3 markets plus an open house event here in Dillon. Most of what I made sold out, so I am pleased to have dried enough flowers and foliage that I can make more at a relaxed pace during these next few months. Dried floral wreaths store well and last for years. They are a beautiful way to enjoy the pleasure flowers bring us year round, plus they can be hung on a wall like a painting.
Stock. I grew stock for the first time and it was a total flop. I think I may try it one more time, but maybe wait and plant it out in the fall in the hoop house. It may have just been planted out too late in the season and it was too hot for it. I don't have enough experience with it yet to know. Red Spike Amaranth was also a total flop, but I planted it too late. The Emerald Tassels and Coral Fountain Amaranth both did great. I was trying to stagger the crops, but it is hard to get the timing on that with a 90 day growing season. Many of my sweet peas were also a total failure. Some of that I attribute to the kind of potting soil I used (which is a mistake I won't make again in 2023, but not the BIG mistake mentioned in the first paragraph). I had bought about 6 new-to-me seed varieties, and all but one died. The root systems were too weak when I set the plants out, and that was the fault of the potting soil. And with the exception of the rudbeckia triloba (which I love!) the other rudbeckia were pretty much toast. I have a few nice blooms, but they were no where as productive as the zinnias or dahlias....so I am not going to bother with them this year.
The amaryllis bulbs I just ordered for Valentines came in completely frozen and are currently in a 5 gallon bucket rotting while I am waiting for my supplier to be back in the office next week so I can either get a refund or get them reshipped. Since the bulbs I ordered last year at this time also froze, I think it might just be a losing battle to try and get bulbs shipped to MT this time of year, triple winter packed or not. I had been hopeful the amarylls would be in bloom for Valentines Day, but it is now even more uncertain. I will not share pics of the dead Amaryllis bulbs here----just too sad.
There were definitely more failures...I just don't have time to list anymore right now.
THe big mistake
The big mistake was allowing myself to get seduced by the warm October weather we had this past fall. Instead of cleaning up the beds and prepping for winter and the big hoophouse build (it is 30' X 72'), I continued cutting flowers from the garden for customers thinking I would be able to do all that prep in November. WRONG. The weather flipped from a warm fall to a freezing winter with snow, seemingly overnight. Pulling up landscape fabric with a foot of snow on top of it is no small feat. That is why the landscape fabric is still in the garden to this day. While I have managed to cut down most of the foliage/dead flowers/stalks, and pull out the T-posts and caterpillar tunnel supports, I have to wait for it to warm up to be able to pull up the fabric with all those landscape staples in it that are frozen in the ground. Maybe we will have a January thaw? And maybe we won't. I know eventually we will be able to finish the 2022 clean up, lay out the greenhouse perimeter, get an auger in there to dig the 38 2 ft deep holes to set the cemented posts in the ground that will keep the hoophouse from getting blown away in the wind...it just isn't going to be this year which ends tomorrow night.
In the meantime, my seeds have been ordered and I am starting to plan out 2023. It will be a completely different year than last because we have the hoophouse construction project which should be a game changer. My entire fenced garden will need to be reoriented with the addition of the hoophouse, and while it will give me 2160 sq ft of enclosed and protected growing space, I will ultimately lose available square footage because of how it needs to be laid out. Because we can't even start building it until I get the fabric up and the holes dug, my plans will be close estimates, and everything will be subject to change.
That's all for 2022.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Overflow Farm has a new email.
Yesterday morning when I checked my email I discovered that Google had disabled my firstname.lastname@example.org account. They claimed the account violated their policies, but did not list which policies were violated. I read through their policies, and it was not apparent to me either. Unfortunately, I have zero access to the documents and spread sheets that were stored on that google drive. I also lost all saved email receipts (including the recent seed orders for 2023 from Johnnys Seeds, Fedco, and Baker Creek) and communications with customers. I then spent the rest of yesterday setting up new email addresses and changing all my accounts over to the new ones. I figure if Google can and will randomly and without cause disable one account, what is to stop them from doing it to any of the other accounts?
It will most likely work out for the best -other than the inconvenience of the whole thing. I just wanted people to know that they contacted me via email recently at the gmail account, there is no way I can answer you, so please try again at the new address, or use the contact form on our contact page.
A few months back I mentioned I would be updating my website and including Bulk Blooms in the offerings. This offering will be available for local pickup and only during our growing season. An ideal option for the DIY bride or DIY special event planner, bulk blooms include as many buckets full of seasonal blooms as a person orders for their event. With each bucket, one will receive an assortment of seasonal flowers and foliage to create their own arrangements. One bucket should fill 5-7 quart-sized jars/vases. And if you have questions, please contact me.
We also still have an assortment of dried floral wreaths, available for either local pickup or shipment. Supplies really are limitied- and they make excellent gifts.
And finally, we made a listing for 2023 Fresh Cut Flower Subscriptions. Pick up / delivery will be Tuesday afternoons in 2023. One nice thing about reserving your flowers via subscription now is that you will have locked your pricing in at $25 per large bouquet (I hope to keep the prices at $25 for the 2023 season, but many things are out of my control that could force the prices to go up). Subscriptions also make great gifts, and each one lasts 4 weeks (although they may not be consecutive, depending on what it happening at the farm). If you opt to gift a subscription to someone, you will receive a beautiful gift card to give as a subscription placeholder until it is fresh cut flower season again. Choose from Spring, Summer, or Fall. Again, if you have questions, please email me.
After 20 years of cultivating crops in upstate NY, I am wrapping up the first growing season here in Dillon, Montana. What started out as a great unknown, filled with concerns that the growing conditions and my lack of experience in this geographical region would produce only weeds or stumpy crops, has resulted in one of the best gardens I have ever had. While still in the process of putting everything to bed for the winter, we have managed to get over 300 cloves of garlic and approximately 1000 narcissus bulbs in the ground. I am at the edge of my seat with eager anticipation to see them bloom in spring. Hopefully, all goes well and fragrant specialty narcissus will be our first flower crop of 2022.
The once intimidating blank slate of a yard is now landscaped with an assortment of zone 3 and 4 hardy bushes, trees, shrubs, and perennials which will be used in floral design work. Included are a 50 foot row of Boyne raspberries, 3 different types of zone 3 pears, 1 Cortland apple, 1 Dolgo crabapple, 1 Red Baron Crabapple, and 1 Stanley plum planted in the production garden. The rest of the yard has about 18 lilacs (15 different varieties), 2 Saskatoon serviceberries, 2 Isanti dogwood, 3 mock orange bushes, 2 forsythia bushes, 2 dwarf red leaf sand cherries, 2 snowberries, 2 Renaissance spirea, a North Pole arborvitae, a heritage birch, and a Rocky Mountain Juniper. It will take a few years for them to get well established (as long as they survive), but just getting them in the ground has been a victory. The perennials include lupine, columbine, astilbe, Crane geranium, lemon balm, echinacea, lemon mint monarda, assorted sedum, yarrow, phlox, valerian, and oregano and more. More will be added in 2022.
In addition to varying degrees of success with the many cut flower crops planted, we celebrated a bumper crops of onions, shallots, and assorted brassica. Starting in July, we had a booth at the Dillon Farmer's Market each Saturday where our flower bunches and mixed bouquets were well received along with the veggies. Town and Country Foods started carrying our flowers in their floral cooler in the produce section in July. We look forward to having our flowers in both of these outlets next year, God willing.
We sold assorted dried flower bouquets and hat trims (and onions and shallots) at the Dillon Garden Club's Fall Arts and Crafts show last Saturday and plan to be at the December 4 Crafts Fair sponsored by the Elks Club.
In the meantime, we are accepting orders/reservations for 2022 flower subscriptions.
A Flower Subscription is a program where you pay an upfront cost at the beginning of the growing season for a bouquet of flowers grown at our farm that you pick up each week. This provides your home / office with the freshest flowers from our field. Signing up for one of our Flower Subscriptions is one of the best ways to support your small local farm and enjoy fresh flowers.
We are also accepting orders/reservations for 2022 vegetable CSA boxes. A Vegetable CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a program where you pay an upfront cost at the beginning of the growing season for a box of assorted vegetables grown at our farm that you pick up each week. This provides your home with the freshest produce from our field. Signing up for one of our Veggie Boxes is one of the best ways to support your small local farm and enjoy fresh produce.
We are offering a limited number of Vegetable CSA shares ( Community Supported Agriculture) for the 2022 season. Each box will include 7-10 crops plus seasonal herbs. All memberships will be prepaid before the season starts. Details are in the process of being finalized. More information is available here.
Before seeds get started in late February, there will be many hours of thoughtful garden/farm planning. Crop varieties, quantities, and placement of those crops will all be decided before most seeds are even ordered. Many adjustments will be made from the 2021 season to accommodate additional flower and vegetable crops. We are also hoping to be able to add a large hoop house in early spring to extend the growing season for dahlias, zinnias , and other crops that can benefit from more protection.
Thank you for your support in 2021. I look forward to seeing what grows in 2022.
Today’s CSA Share Box: Week 21, October 31, 2018.
Hooray!! We made it!!
Butternut Squash- 1
Onions- 2 white
Garlic- 1 bulb
Shallots- 1 bulb
Kale- 1 bunch
Garnet Giant Asian Green- 1 bunch: The stems did not seem as tender as in past weeks when I was cutting…possibly due to the hard frost last night and the fact that my row cover fabric had blown off. Still looked beautiful when I cut it, then wilted when brought inside.
BONUS: Treat or Trick, depending on if you like it !
Pak Dong- 1 pint. This is a Thai version of Sauerkraut I made earlier in the year, with most, if not all, the vegetable crops coming from the garden. It is both sweet and a bit spicy hot. Let me know how you like it. It is great as a side, with eggs, or with sandwiches. It is fermented, not canned, and needs to be refrigerated.
Thanks again for your participation in a wonderfully blessed growing season.
I can hardly believe that the end of the First CSA season for Overflow Farm is nearly here. Next week is the last pick up for 2018. For more than a few years, I have wondered if I could pull something like this off. Having just about completed it, there is a sense of satisfaction that comes from doing one's job to the best of their ability within life's current parameters.
I appreciate each person/family who signed up to share this adventure with me. I appreciate that you believed in me and my ability to fulfill the CSA agreement even though I had no experience with a CSA before. My commitment was to provide 8 food crops each week, plus herbs and flowers when available. As I look back at the actual CSA Share lists that were created each and every week, I can see that I did this and more. There were many weeks when shares included 10 crops. It makes me smile when I think on that, especially since it was a late, cold spring, and the vole invasion over the summer/fall--the likes of which I have never known--took about 80-90% of the carrots, beets, and pepper crops. They even chewed on squash! Add to that the rain that rotted some of the leeks and blighted some of the other crops, filling those boxes every week was a significant accomplishment. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding with all of this.
Today’s CSA Share Box: Week 20, October 24, 2018
Butternut Squash- 1
Onions- 2 white, 1 red
Garlic- 1 bulb
Asst. hot peppers
Maruba Santoh- 1 bunch, great for stir fry (The loose round vibrant chartreuse leaves provide a mild piquant mustardy flavor while the flat white stems impart a juicy crisp pac choy taste.) From Fedco Website
Leeks- 1, Such long shanks on these beauties, enjoy with stir fry or squash soup!
Radishes (French Breakfast and Plum Purple)- 1 little combo bunch- last of the season
Today’s CSA Share Box: Week 19, October 17, 2018
Tomatoes- 10+ oz.
Butternut Squash- 1
Onions- 2 white
Garlic- 1 bulb
Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers – 2 or 3
Radishes (French Breakfast and Plum Purple)- 1 combo bunch
Mini Purple Winter Radish- 1 (or 2 small) “All sizes, from small 3" up to the 9" bombs, have excellent crunchy tender raw texture and mildly spicy flavor. When cooked, Mini becomes firm and oh-so-sweet and savory with tangy hints of rutabaga.”
Misato Rose Radish- 1 “…fine tasting and good looking, with plenty of spiciness, a rich sweet vegetable undertone and no harsh sharpness”
Chard- 1 bunch.
Kale- 1 bunch
Dill- 1 bunch
Today’s CSA Share Box: Week 18, October 10, 2018
Tomatoes- 2 lb!! (Consider this a bonus week!! What a bounty from small plum paste tomato ‘Juliet’ this year!)
Trombochino Squash- 1 (slice and saute/stir fry)
Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers – 5 (These are yummy and hot- great sautéed with the tromochino.)
1 Combo Bunch of these:
Joi Choi Pac Choy- 1
Leeks- 1 bunch
Radishes (French Breakfast and Plum Purple)- 1 combo bunch
Green Meat Radish: 1 “Fine-grained, crisp and sweet… it has a “distinct green-apple flavor.” Used in Asia for salads, cooking and pickling… suggests trying a slice on homemade bread slathered with butter.”
Sage- 1 bunch
Thai Basil- 1 bunch
Parsley- 1 bunch
Zinnias- 1 bouquet
Today’s CSA Share Box: Week 17, October 3, 2018
Tomatoes- 1 lb (this might be the last week for tomatoes- so pleased they have held out this long with all the rain! Grateful I planted “Juliet”- they are so resilient and productive.)
Chard -1 bunch (this may also be the last week for chard…)
Kale- 1 bunch
Onions: 1 red, 1 white
Garlic: 1 bulb
Butternut Squash- 1
Arugula- 1 bag
Misato Rose Radish- 1 (when you cut these open you will probably say “Wow!”)- “Also known as Chinese Red Heart radish, described in its native land as xin li mei, meaning ‘in one’s heart beautiful.’ A unique selection from a hybrid with two variations so about half have light greenish-tan outer skins and light green stems and leaf veins, the remainder medium-rose outer skins, rose stems and leaf veins. The roots of both types have the characteristic rose flesh, the ones with the darker skins having darker and more pungent hearts. Both are fine tasting and good looking, with plenty of spiciness, a rich sweet vegetable undertone and no harsh sharpness. Will grow as large as a big beet if given sufficient space.” From Fedco seed website.
Parsley- 1 bunch
Zinnias- 1 bouquet