Thursday, June 28, 2007

Preparing The Soil

Thursday, June 28, 2007

An even 70 degrees here today after two days in the low nineties. There were a few rain drops last night after a noisy thunderstorm that brought much fanfare but little rain. The air is heavy now and the feeling of rain is obvious.

Work at the Route 2 site is finally progressing. Michelle is able to be here and help Gail more and I am able to get away every night. The new tractor is excellent and I am so happy that I listened to my instinct, not my landscape friends, and bought the size I did. A 30 hp engine is fine for what I need and I am getting an hour and a half of work time per gallon of diesel. I don't know if this is good or not but running the PTO at high speeds has to affect the cost and I'm ok with it .
I have mowed the entire five acres twice and will go for number three this weekend. I have all the calcium sulphate spread and have tilled 12-50 foot sections three times each. I have 20 sections to go plus the 200 foot display garden section in the front. Progress is slow but obvious and just seeing where I have come makes me smile.

Today I am here on the hill. Michelle and Winnie will be helping me as Gail is in Burlington all day at an autism conference. Alex will have a friend over for the day so I have a number of directions to go in. We received a very nice daylily order yesterday from Northern Grown Perennials in Wisconsin and Michelle will get going on those shortly. They'll be potted for now and then transplanted to the new site in a month.

The shipment of deer fence arrives tomorrow and 2200 feet of fence will take a while to get up. I have yet to decide on the posts but think I'll go with a mix of 4X4X10's and some 10 foot T-bar heavy duty posts. That decision has to be made today.

The last thing to move this fall will be the peonies. We have a nice collection in excess of 135-50 types and have over 200 plants which will be moved. My intent is to have display gardens around the entire 5 acre perimeter with a walking trail parallel to the fence. This is an ambitious undertaking and will take years to bring along but it will be worth every minute of prep time.

If you enjoy peonies, get here to Vermont Flower Farm this weekend as the heavy rains and hot days are cutting the bloom time. We have peonies scattered about but if you do come, don't forget to walk through the lower hosta garden and into the field to see the peony display down there. P. 'White Wings', one of my favorites, are in bloom now. The yellow peony pictured directly above is a tree peony and that's a story for another day. If you can't get out to see us at Vermont Flower Farm, go to our website and stroll through the garden pictures we offer on the various Virtual Garden Tours. Chances are you will find something that you will want to add to your own garden.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the low pressures of the morning have slowed man, bird and beast to a significant quietness. This weekend is Hosta Days so stop by for some of Gail's world famous blueberry coffee cake and tour with us. Come early as when the cake is, gone, it's gone for the day.

Great gardening wishes,

George Africa

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Iris Bloom in Vermont

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I was out the door and onto the tractor by 4:20 this morning, heading for a day of work at our new site. The morning was a chilly 42 degrees and I layered two coats and a sweatshirt before embarking on the five mile ride. Last night's rain must have encouraged the critters to sleep in this morning as I didn't see anything on the ride down. It's downhill most of the way but still takes more than half an hour. I leave early so I can avoid traffic and just after I pulled off Route 2 this morning, a stream of tractor trailers headed west.

Gail picked me up at 6:40 after I had mowed the first quarter of the property. This is the second mowing and I think by the third it will begin to look like lawn instead of hayfield. There will be a ten foot by 200 foot display garden at the entrance and then 32 plots 50 feet long for the daylilies. I don't know how things will work out today because there is so much to do. It will take about 5 hours to mow the rest of the field as there is one piece I have never done before and it's thick with grass. Then I break out the new Wood's 5 foot power tiller and drive around in circles for a couple more hours. There there's more lime and manure to spread before tilling everything all over again. We have a group coming at 9 for a tour and then I have to pack the truck and head back for the balance of the day. Tomorrow will be shorter still as I have a project with the Friends of the Winooski River going on.

As I drove in circles this morning I remembered what I forgot and that was to tell people to go visit Phil Cook at Poker Hill Gardens in Underhill. Phil has a masterful collection of plants and he is espcially fond of all varieties of iris. He has dwarfs and tall bearded and Japanese and Siberians and of course species. He also has quite a collection of epimediums and an interesting assortment of perennials you might not find elsewhere. This weekend would not be a great time to visit as he has the American Iris Society there but other times are fine and he is a very knowledgeable gardener and a great person. He also can make one heck of a chicken pot pie which I heard followed his mother's farm days recipe. E-mail Phil at and arrange a good time.

It's not warming up too much here but I have to get going anyway. Alex is leaving for the day and night and we will have lots of customers here by 9. Michelle will be with us all day to help with customers and I expect hosta sales will be very good. If you haven't beeen by 256 Peacham Pond Road, Marshfield, you better stop by and see one of Vermont's nicest hosta collections! I'm biased but have to say it does look fine this year.

Have to go!
Good gardening wishes;
George Africa

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Planning Continues

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It was a busy weekend both at Vermont Flower Farm and at the future VFF. Despite all the activities that people are involved in at the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, visitors were many and sales were good. The show of flowers has started and the display will continue on into September. With every blooming flower, I ask myself if I have worked it into the plan for our new gardens on Route 2. More often than not I find myself reaching for my notebook to scribble some more reminders about height and color and bloom time. Recreating gardens that have been here on Peacham Pond Road since 1989 will take some thought.

Yesterday I drove the new tractor the five miles to the new property. A well planned business would have incorporated a trailer in the purchase to make this easier but I knew we could only spend certain allocations once so I postponed the trailer purchase until fall. Riding the tractor on the highway at 4:30-5 in the morning is a different experience. Riding it back home today was a slightly longer experience as it is all uphill. The sight of a mature cow moose half way up the big hill broke up the chug, chug, chug of the diesel engine and added to the tale at the end of the trip.

I had already tried to find a farmer who was interested in cutting the five acres of hay but to no avail. The cost of fuel has discouraged farmers from traveling as far as they used to. I received thank yous from those I asked and they wanted to be sure to impress me that it was an economics thing. They knew the hay crop was recently seeded and over the past couple years the timothy and mixed clovers had grown well. Just the same, fuel is expensive and five acres is a small parcel to a farmer.

I slid the new tractor into low range and reved up the power take off to the prescribed speed. The mower worked like a charm and only needed to be raised a bit when covering expanses of rushes along the wet areas by the road. 7 hours later, interupted by one trip home and a sandwich for lunch and the acreage was mowed. I happy with the tractor and it performed better than I expected. If the rototiller works equally as well, I will know without reservation that I made a sound purchase.

If you drive by our new Route 2 location and see me out working, stop by if you have a minute and I'll point out what we have planned. I applied gypsum, a calcium sulphate mix, to the garden plots today and took measurements for the fencing and entry gates. There is a lot to do before we start planting because I want to be sure we have good control of the land, both from critters and curious visitors with two legs. I was asked the other day what new crops we'll plant. I replied that we will stick with exactly those flowers which have made Vermont Flower Farm what it is today. If time permits and interest prevails, we might expand our line but until we have made the move and tested what has worked here, only the location will change next year.

One thing that has not changed is time--there's just not enough of it. If you check this blog or The Vermont Gardener and I haven't written in a few days, bear with me. Summer is short in Vermont and a new business requires extra hours and lots of work. The end result will surely be something you'll remember.

Evening wishes from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a barred owl hoots it's evening call and its only answer is apparently the response that hoots through my mind.

George Africa