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Last weekend brought the end of our Spring Open Farm Days and our Farm Stand Plant Sale. The farm is now back to being strictly wholesale only. Thank you to every single farm visitor that came this spring!!! We so enjoyed having you at the farm and I hope you had a really good time. Perhaps you were able to find some great potted plants to purchase and plant in your gardens while you were here. Thank you for all your support and making it possible for this small family farm to support us and our farm crew and the work we do here. It really means a lot to Chris and I! We hope you will visit us again next spring for 2019 Open Farm Days and our Plant Sale.

There are other things happening this summer that might be of interest. This coming Saturday, June 16, 2018 from noon to 1pm, I will be speaking at Tagawa Garden Center’s Herb Fest celebration in Centennial, Colorado. They have a number of really excellent workshops planned and you should see the amazing selection of plants, especially herbs, they have available. I’ll be giving a presentation on “Herbs to Attract & Deter Wildlife” with a booksigning immediately after my class. If you don’t yet have my books, this would be a wonderful opportunity for you to purchase them. They will have all three of my titles available…Homegrown Herbs, The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener, and Cattail Moonshine & Milkweed Medicine. If you go to the “Classes & Events” page of this blog, you can get the contact information for this event.

Another fantastic herbal festival will be happening June 22-24, 2018 in Lafayette, Colorado. It is called Botanica; A Festival of Plants and I know it is going to be amazing! Sadly, I will not be able to speak at this event as planned, so if you are going and were thinking of coming to my class, please plan to attend one of the other amazing classes instead. If you go to the “Classes & Events” page of this blog, you will find the link for Botanica so that you can get more information and can register to attend.

It has been very hot and dry so far this summer, but the forecasters are saying that the upcoming and soon coming monsoon season should be very strong and good with a shift for the positive in the moisture patterns. Yahoo! We are hoping those rains start happening very soon. In the meantime, though, we have had a wildfire not very far from the farm on Cooper Mountain’s BLM land. We’ve been keeping an eye on this and can easily see the smoke from the flower field. We hike in this area and it has been exceptionally dry – perfect conditions with all the afternoon wind we have been having for wildfires. If you are out in wild lands, please use great care that you don’t accidentally start a fire somehow. It is especially important not to have campfires right now (it’s too hot for a campfire anyway ;-}). It’s just not worth the chance that the winds will catch an ember and carry it off where it might catch dry grass or other plants on fire.

Speaking of wild lands, Chris took the field crew for a botanizing trip this week. This is Sarah, our summer field intern, and she and Susan, Chris and Shrek really enjoyed their morning looking at and identifying wildflowers.

We have been having a field intern help us in the summer seed crop season for the past couple of years, and so this year Sarah has joined us in that capacity. As part of our intern program here, we offer a weekly lesson on some topic relevant to plants and/or farming. This week it was wild plant id. Last week we talked about beneficial insects as part of our pest management program in our greenhouses, and the week before that we discussed how we co-exist here with all types of wildlife welcome (the benefits and the challenges wildlife can bring to our farm). We also had an herbal lesson on medicinal herbs and tincture-making today, so you can see that we talk about all sorts of things with our farm crew and these events are not just for the intern, but the whole crew gets involved and we all enjoy the sharing time very much.

Chris and Sarah have gotten the desert garden weeded and Chris will be putting in some new plants in this garden soon. The flower seed crop field is mostly planted with all the new young seed crops, and I’m headed out shortly as the temps start to cool off a little bit to start planting my food garden…woohoo!

Because it is extra warm, we are having to work extra hard to keep the water in our irrigation pond clean of algae. We do a few different things to help with this situation. We have a windmill that pumps air bubbles into the pond as a way to aerate the water and we put bales of barley straw in the water to help clean the water. Barley is antimicrobial and also acts as a natural anti-algae agent, so this makes a big difference. About 19 years ago, we introduced 5 grass carp to the pond as baby fish and now they are easily as long and big around as my leg. There are still five of them and they travel around in the pond eating algae and other plant material. They are vegetarians and infertile, so we started with 5 baby fish and now 19 years later we have 5 big fish. We fondly call them “the sharks”, but they are gentle creatures and very welcome here doing good work for this farm.

The fairy garden is looking good, as are the fruit trees. We will have a few apples and plums in our young orchard this year and the mature cherry and peach trees also have fruit. I’m very excited to have a tree fruit harvest this summer.

I’ll close for now. The gardens are beckoning and I must heed their call.

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Today the Farm Stand store is quiet, as we are closed on Fridays, and my attention is going to other tasks that need to be done, but this Saturday and Sunday we hope the farm will be filled with visitors for our last weekend of Open Farm Days and our Farm Stand store Plant Sale.

We still have a really nice selection of plants in the Farm Stand and we think you’ll find some great plants for your garden. There are lots of vegetables, small berry plants of different sorts, a great many herbs of all kinds, native and wildlife-friendly perennials and some flowers just because they make you feel happy. Come and see if  there are still a few plants that you might need for your gardens before we close Sunday at 4pm.

Last weekend, Ro was here to give an herbal foot soak workshop and I think everyone in the workshop had a grand time. Certainly their feet were happy after the class! Ro had been wishing to win a fairy garden for a long time and last Saturday her raffle ticket was drawn for this fairy garden.

Thank you to all of you who purchased raffle tickets for a chance to win a fairy garden this spring. The raffle ticket money totaled $77.00, which is great, and we will soon be making a trip to a farm market with our raffle money to buy fresh produce to donate to our local food bank.

This Saturday we have two free workshops for you to attend if you would like. On Saturday at 10:00am I will be giving a talk about the medicinal uses of Hops. Then at 1:00pm, I will be sharing some insights about growing some favorite heirloom heritage tomatoes and peppers.  It is still a perfect time to be planting tomatoes, peppers and other veggies, so join us for this workshop if you are curious which ones might be great to grow.

On Sunday from 1:00-3:00pm we will be having a Farm Walk-About Tour and this will be a chance for visitors to learn more about how we started this farm, what we do here and why we do it organically and in a wildlife-friendly way. We’ll be walking in the gardens, the flower seed crop field and visiting inside our growing greenhouses. If you would like to join us for this farm tour walk-about, we’d love to have you come along, but remember that this is a working farm, so wear comfortable sturdy walking shoes, clothing that gives sun protection and bring a water bottle for something to drink. You might also want to bring your camera to take pictures and if you want to take any notes about the plants we will see, bring paper and pens.

Hope to see you for some of these end of the season free workshops this weekend.

Then after the Farm closes to the public Sunday at 4pm, we will return to being a wholesale grower only until next spring when we will open again for our 2019 Open Farm Days and Farm-Direct Plant Sale.

I will begin the my tasks of getting the gardens planted with the plants that has been waiting patiently on a greenhouse bench for me to have time to plant them in their garden homes.

All for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re still open for Open Farm Days and our Farm Stand Plant Store thru June 10th! We have plenty of plants to choose from and wonderful workshops happening on the weekends. Hope you can visit! We’re open every day, except closed on Fridays, from 9am to 4pm.

Perennial Seeds Grown at Desert Canyon Farm

One view of the flower seed crops production field

Organic farming, or any type of farming, means being willing to grow different crops as markets shift and change. We started this farm 22 years ago growing fresh-cut herbs for herbal extract companies across the U.S. and the U.K. That was a very good market and allowed us to earn an excellent living, but sometimes industries change and that happened. We had a request from Jelitto Perennial Seed Company in Germany to contract-grow seed crops for them. It was good timing…we started our 18 year relationship (continuing into the future) with Jelitto growing perennial seeds.

Chocolate Flower crop – flowers smell like hot chocolate chip cookies in the mornings

Growing seeds for Jelitto is unique from other seed companies and suits the way we farm. We grow plants well-suited for our climate. We grow 50-60 different varieties each year, and some seed crops have been here 15-16 years, while others are grown for a year or two and replaced. The plants are perennial (meaning will come back each year for many years), so we don’t replant them each year, and some of the plants in our field are quite old. The work is primarily done by hand, as each plant variety has its own requirements for growing and harvesting. The plants are grown in small planting of 1-3 beds of 4′ x 100′ in size. Some seed crops require picking the seed daily May thru November, while others need harvesting all at once. The seed is all hand-picked, except Helichrysum seed which is so light and small we use a vacuum to suck the seed every afternoon around 3pm. If we don’t harvest at that time, it would simply blow away in the breeze.

Chris is picking Denver Gold Columbine seed by hand

Here he is vacuuming the Helichrysum seed – he does this every afternoon from June thru October!

One bed of Penstemon superbus in bloom NOW.

Right now Penstemon superbus (Coral Penstemon) is blooming with bright pink flowers. Shangri-La Sage is gloriously in bloom with purple white flowers, attracting the largest of bumblebees. Another crop called Bear’s Britches, is only pollinated by the very largest of bumble bees and was chosen for us to grow because that bumblebee lives in our region and not in many other places. We are the only production farm growing Bear’s Britches in the world because we have that bumblebee here! In fact, many of our seed crops are here because other farms can’t successfully grow them. We grow Muhley Grass, so beautiful blooming in fall and Turkish Sage because we have dry winters and a long growing season, so the seed has time to fully ripen before winter arrives. Other growers aren’t successful in getting ripe seed. Some of our crops are native plants like Zinnia grandiflora, Indian Paintbrush and White Prickly Poppy. We have a brand new Gaillardia and a white Mirabilis only Jelitto has and we are the only seed producer at this point. There’s an orange Gazania (African Daisy), quite popular with gardeners, but no one still grows seed. Jelitto sent us the remaining seed this year to start re-building the seed supply. There is a rare Clematis and a perennial Kale.

The sea kale is also blooming right now! Beautiful!!

We are successful growing perennial seeds in part because we care deeply about these plants and  the work interesting, but really it’s because we have so many different native pollinators and honeybees pollinating the flowers. We have a good climate for this kind of farming. Imagine…perennial flower and ornamental grass seed is grown in Canon City, harvested and sent to Germany each fall. They clean the seed, test germination rates, and then send the seed out to gardeners and growers all over the world. The Bear’s Britches we grow might end up being grown in Thailand, West Virginia or England, or maybe back in Colorado!

A walk down memory lane – nearly 10 years ago in the Farm Stand store.

Open Farm Days continue thru June 10th, every day, except closed Fridays, 9am to 4pm. Visit and take a stroll thru our seed production field. Enjoy those blooming Penstemons or check out the new Tibetan Mountain Onion. Enjoy our gardens, which are test growing areas for future seed crops, and may give you ideas for your gardens. Shop in our Farm Stand store, where many plants we grow as seed crops are available for sale as potted plants. We’re located at 1270 Field Ave in Canon City.

 

 

So much has been happening around this place that I hardly know where to begin. There has been a lot of field planting, we are going to have fantastic workshops happening this weekend, the tomatoes are tall and whiley, but that isn’t a problem, and so much more. Here are a few pictures to go with the tidbits of news…

Free Workshops Happening This Weekend at Desert Canyon Farm

We are going to have a fantastic weekend of workshops here during Open Farm Days.

On Saturday at 10am to 11am I will be taking people on a walking workshop to talk about useful weeds that can be used for food and to support your good health medicinally. At 1:00 to 2:00pm I will be sharing how to brew your tea for a delicious beverage or a therapeutic infusion or decoction. I’ll also share some plants that can be used to make tea for different uses.

Sunday brings 2 more great workshops. Chris will be giving a tour lecture of our desert garden, where native plants from the four-corner States of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico live and have created an amazing and beautiful garden. Many of these plants are still available in our Farm Stand store. This workshop begins at 1-2pm on Sunday. From 2:30-3:30pm on Sunday, I will be leading a walking workshop through our Farm Stand nursery to talk about different plants we have and their herbal and food uses, along with their growing needs.

All of the workshops this weekend are free and no need to pre-register. Please show up with appropriate clothing for the weather, comfortable walking shoes, pen and paper for taking notes and a camera if you would like to take pictures of the plants we talk about. Children are welcome too so long as they are with a supervising adult.

Hope to see you this weekend. Remember that we are open from 9am-4pm every day, except closed on Fridays, from now thru June 10th. We are located at 1270 Field Ave. in Canon City.

Huge tall and whiley tomatoes? That isn’t a problem, so don’t fret about it.

It is standard practice to plant tomatoes deep, which means find the halfway point up the stem no matter how tall or short the tomato plant is, and then plant it that deep in the ground. By doing this you will have increased your tomato plant’s ability to support a lot more weight in tomato fruits when they are ripening. The stem that was buried in the soil will root all along the stem and it will become a lot stronger, so it’s actually beneficial to have a tall tomato plant to begin with. It is important to break up the plants root ball a bit when you are planting it so that the roots will be encouraged to establish themselves out into the soil rather than staying in the same root pattern they have in the pot.

I also want to tell you that if your tomato plant is a determinate variety, it will not necessarily need to be supported by a tomato cage or staked. Determinate tomatoes are more busy than rambling. Determinate tomatoes will continue to produce tomato fruits all through the growing season. Indeterminate tomatoes are whiley rambling beasts that can get tall and unmanageable if they aren’t contained in a tomato cage or staked or something similar. They will also produce tomato fruit throughout the growing season.

So, go ahead and pick out tomatoes that you are excited to grow and EAT! If they are tall, floppy and whiley, remember that isn’t a problem as far as the tomato plant is concerned. Just break up the root ball a little bit, plant it deep in the soil up to halfway up the stem height, and stake or cage it if needed. Then expect to pick the best-tasting tomatoes you’ve ever eaten this summer! I’ll be doing the same here in my garden.

I had 15 minutes of personal gardening time this week, so I planted the re-purposed bird bath into a sweet little fairy garden. This bird bath has a crack in the bowl, so it doesn’t hold water anymore, but it makes a beautiful planter. Last year I planted it with succulents. This year it is a fairy garden with bunny tails grass, smokey hills skullcap, Diana’s fairy geranium, sea pinks and a couple of kinds of thyme.

If you are interested in planting your own fairy garden, look around and see what you might have lurking in the shed or garage or out in the garden that could be re-purposed into a fairy garden. Just make sure it has some way to drain when you water it.

Last weekend we raffled off our first fairy garden. The one with the little camper fairy house. Next weekend (on June 2nd) we will raffle off this sweet little fairy garden. We do this every year and the raffle money earned from selling tickets is used to buy fresh produce for our local food bank. If you are visiting the farm during Open Farm Days, I hope you will enjoy this sweet little garden until it finds a new owner on June 2nd.

Chris and Poppy, the tractor, have been working every evening, after he gets back from making our wholesale deliveries, preparing the beds for new seed crops. We have a lot of new seed crops this year to plant.

Susan and Sarah have been  planting each morning. A different plant variety each day.

These are orange horn poppy. I can’t wait to see how beautiful this row is when it starts to bloom!

The Shangrala Sage is already blooming like crazy. It’s gorgeous and the huge bumblebees are loving it!

The Penstemon superbus or Coral Penstemon is also in full bloom right now. This is one of my favorite penstemons! It’s tall and silvery foliage and the bright pink flowers are amazing. The pollinators are really happy about this seed crop too.

This is the goddess garden and it has always been a shade garden, but the pear tree that was there had to be cut down last week as it had become diseased. We are very sad about loosing this tree. There is a young peach tree in this garden that will replace the pear tree with time, but in the meantime, my shade-loving plants are in shock and not at all pleased about their new situation. I’m hoping that most of them will adjust, but time will tell.

Last fall I was gifted with a few young osha plants that friends of ours in New Mexico had grown from seed. They are experimenting with this plant on their tree farm, Tooley’s Trees, and are having wonderful success so far. I planted these youngster Osha plants in a shady area of my garden last October and they are coming up nicely this spring. I’m hoping they will like their new home here.

Many years ago, Chris made these trough gardens, but they have worn themselves out and needed to be freshly planted. Chris found a few treasure plants when he was delivering to our customer, Agua Fria, in New Mexico, and planted them in the trough gardens. Now these troughs look great again. I think Chris plans to freshen up the gravel mulch too, but he hasn’t had a moment of time to think about that yet.

All of our mother rosemary plants were evicted from the Basil greenhouse back in early April due to space shortages. They have been living at the edge of the White Rabbit garden since that time. They struggled at first because of the severe cold we had in April and I was covering them every night with frost blanket hoping they would survive. They made it through and now that it is warm and spring for sure, they are thriving. They will get to rest in the garden all summer and then in August they will be taken back to the Basil greenhouse to start propagating from them for next spring’s rosemary plant inventory. I guess you’d say they are on a retreat right now.

Have a wonderful Memorial Weekend. Come and visit us for Open Farm Days if you are near enough and have some extra time. If not, do something wonderful outdoors if you can. Soon May will be past and the summer will be starting.

We had a fantastic week and last weekend, Mother’s Day weekend, was really fun here at the farm. It’s been crazy busy, but nothing new about that. The crew, Chris and I are exhausted, but smiling, so life is pretty good.

One thing that makes life really good and pretty fun and hopefully a lot easier is the purchase of our new tractor. We’ve been wishing for a tractor for the entire 22 year history of this farm! This week the dream became a reality and Chris and I are the proud owners of this little kibota tractor, complete with a front end loader, a rototiller and a mowing deck. I’m thrilled!

I used to drive tractors and fork lifts when I worked as the propagator at Paulino Gardens in Denver, but that was 26 years ago. Since day one of our buying this farm we have wanted to get a tractor to make the work a bit easier. A tractor has never been in the budget, though, so we would talk about it a lot, but that never manifested into an actual tractor. Now we have one. We’re so excited.

My parents gifted us with a large john deer lawn tractor and it has been our saving grace all these years, but we’ve worn it out and three engines later it is time for us to retire that little green beast for something that can do a greater range of tasks. Now if I can just think of a good name for this orange creature!

We have the most amazing farm visitors and customers!! We love each one of them and at some point we start thinking of them as our extended farm family. These women were picking out peppers last weekend. We have 36 pepper varieties for them to choose from and I think they ended up choosing ones that will make them smile when it comes to the pepper harvest time.

Strawberries are another really popular plant in the Farm Stand store and we have two kinds of everbearing strawberries (Ft Lariame and Eversweet) to choose from, plus 2 kinds of Alpine Strawberries. We had wonderful weather last weekend and we all enjoyed being outdoors in the Farm Stand nursery.

This is tomato alley and it includes 62 kinds of heirloom and heritage varieties of tomatoes for our Farm Stand visitors to consider. There are Japanese Trifele Black, Moonglow Orange, Brandywine Pink, German Heirloom Pink, Siberian and so many more. We have paste-roma types, slicing types, salad types and cherry tomatoes. There are striped tomatoes, heart-shaped and pear-shaped tomatoes. We have something to please everyone I think…at least I hope so.

Most of the year we are a wholesale grower only. In the spring we do our Open Farm Days for folks to visit the farm and have some fun and do a bit of plant shopping in our Farm Stand store, which is farm-direct retail. For weeks and weeks we have been full to the point of no return in terms of the greenhouses with plants everywhere.

It became critical when we had to start putting plants outdoors on weed barrier cloth, along with growing plants on every available 5 shelf rack, in all the aisles and tables and even our carts where housing flats of plants. We couldn’t get much-needed planting done because there was no space to put any newly transplanted plants! Yikes….it’s a double-sided sword when that happens. We’re grateful for all the customers that require us to grow so many plants, but we also feel frantic trying to figure out how to get things planted and where to put them until they are ready to sell.

Anyway, we crossed over the line in the other direction after this past week. That’s what happens. We run out of space for weeks and weeks and then after two weeks of busy orders the plants move out and Chris delivers them to their new homes, our garden center customers, and our Farm visitors buy and take them home to plant in their gardens. We now have some space in the greenhouses again to get some more planting done and to move some of the plants that are outdoors on weed barrier back indoors where it is easier to water and care for them. This picture was Thursday in the Plant Barn, which is now completely full yet again. No spare bench space to be found after today, but that’s fine. We planted fresh crops of herbs and I moved an entire section of outdoor flats inside this greenhouse and the Woodstove Greenhouse. Yippee!!

This Saturday, tomorrow, at 1:00pm we will be raffling off one of our two fairy gardens. If you come to the Farm tomorrow consider buying a raffle ticket and perhaps you will be the winner of one of our fairy gardens. The tickets are $1.00 each and the money we earn from raffle ticket sales will be used in June to buy fresh produce for our local food bank. This is a Desert Canyon Farm tradition and it is loads of fun for all of us.

We also have great workshops happening this weekend. On Saturday, James will be giving a Plant/Flower Photography workshop and also hosting a Gardener’s Round-Table for all your gardening questions and thoughts. On Sunday, Lizz, who is the farm beekeeper in addition to being the assistant grower, will be giving two workshops on Bee-Keeping.

All for now. Time to hit the hay for an extra early get-up in morning. There is much to do before farm visitors arrive at 9am.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi

Scented Geraniums for our Mother’s Day Weekend Special

Mother’s Day has arrived and it’s always nice to treat our special moms with something beautiful, fragrant and useful!

For this Saturday and Sunday only we will have our 8″ clay pots of Scented Geraniums on sale as our Mother’s Day Weekend Special!

We still have 3 varieties to choose from…Nutmeg scented, Attar of Roses scented and Isadora scented.

These plants make great patio or houseplants. They are beautifully scented and can be used to make skin care products or sachets. The flowers and leaves are completely edible and if used when baking bread, cake or cookies, they will infuse the baked good with a subtle unique and delicious taste.

We have a good supply, but it isn’t unlimited, and on Monday they will return to their normal pricing. Priced at $8.00 each for this weekend only

In the past two weeks we have had much-needed wet snow and much-needed rain and the plants are responding in glory! It’s a beautiful spring at Desert Canyon Farm and Chris and I are pleased we live on this piece of land.

Above is a Winter Red Flesh Apple tree in our heirloom fruit orchard. This is a large crabapple that has bright pink flesh inside and purplish skin. It is the size of a small apple and not tiny like crabapples normally are. It is tart and delicious and I really really like this apple tree!

It’s been mostly quite warm over the past two weeks with daytime temps in the 70’s and up to 80 degrees. The nights have been well above freezing too. The greenhouses are getting hot now and things are growing faster than usual for this time in May, but they are happy and thriving. Something we noticed several years ago is that whenever the weather is shifting and will be cooler or moisture is arriving, the red wing black birds gather into big groups at the feeders. Just before the snow, they were all gathering at the feeders and in the honey locust tree. We knew there would be moisture when we saw them.

We have been enjoying great workshops here on the weekends. James has been giving talks about homesteading and chickens. Kris was talking about permaculture and Lizz spoke on how to dye fiber with plants. Monica gave an excellent workshop on butterflies.

This coming weekend we have new workshops planned and they will be great too. I will be talking on Saturday about the herbal uses of trees and shrubs and also on growing onions, garlic and such. On Sunday, Monica will be speaking about pollinators and growing a herb garden in our arid conditions. Join us if you can. Visit the “Classes & Events” page of this blog to get the starting times for these workshops.

We put out a small collection of hardy figs in the Farm Stand store and they were gone before the day was out. I hope everyone is enjoying them.

We have no shortage of plants to choose from, though,  like these beautiful white sage plants, and so many more. Stephanie and I put out many flats of new varieties today and I have more to put out tomorrow in time for the weekend.

If you visit, be sure to take a stroll around all our gardens. The claret cup cactus is blooming in the desert garden. The tiny trumpets honeysuckle is blooming and gloriously fragrant in the white rabbit garden. The pasque flowers are blooming and so is the cherry tree and so so much more. There will soon be iris flowers open in every possible color any day now. The yellow ones are already open.

It is truly spring…the season of birth and renewal in the nature world. It makes me very grateful that I can enjoy it in this place. I hope you are enjoying a lovely spring at your home too.

Oh, a woman came today and bought 8 catnip plants for her 3 cats. She talked to a man who was also shopping and he ended up buying catnip for his cats too. My cats have a taste for catnip also and if it happens to come with a big box to play in, well…that is a cat’s dream life I think.

With Green Thoughts, Tammi