Suburban Greens

Farming in Tri-Cities neighborhoods, local produce grown organically

Fall Lettuce

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Aging farmer

According to the 2014 USDA census the average age of farmers in the US is 57. The latest census data is not yet out but that number is expected to increase which is a serious concern. This past season I have felt age more than ever due to unexpected health issues. I have not said much about it on social media. After a seven year hiatus I had a series of cardiac issues beginning last October. In March I had to go back to the hospital which put me about a month behind in my gardens. Then on Memorial Day weekend it became apparent I needed once again to visit the hospital. I spent ten days there enjoying the hospitality of some wonderful doctors, nurses, and staff. I eventually had bypass surgery and the surgeon told me I won’t be able to get back into the swing of things until the end of July, perhaps early August.

My family has helped tremendously in the gardens, harvesting, irrigating, weeding and doing some planting. Two gardens are in good shape. The third, and largest we could not keep up with except for the tomatoes.

But the tomatoes look good. My kids have trellised and pruned and done a great job. Although the tomatoes were planted late we soon expect an abundance of three types of cherry, two types of slicing, and one paste tomato.

We’ve even done some planting. Today Laura planted two heirlooms: California Wonder peppers and Amish Paste tomatoes for some late season crops (yes, that is bolted lettuce to the right of the landscape cloth. Laura called them Christmas Trees today). My crops are limited this year, though as best as we can we have supplied Bloom Cafe and Listening Room with garlic scapes, microgreens, spinach, broccoli, and lettuce. I hope to start hitting it hard for the fall to provide even more.

There is much to do. Garlic above is past cutting scapes and needs to be dug. Asparagus and and onions desperately needs weeding. Lettuce needs to be cut and harvested. Carrots, cucumbers and second planting of squash needs to be planted. Not everything will be done. It’s okay. My plan is maintain what we can and then hit it hard for fall and winter crops.


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Garden Plant Sale

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I am busy getting ready for a garden plant sale at Bloom Cafe and Listening Room on Saturday, April 28th.  So far preparation involves a lot of sowing and watering.  This weekend I will start transplanting up to larger “six-pack” cells and getting a hoophouse prepped so I can settle plants outside.  If all goes well I will have heirloom and hybrid tomatoes (no GMO’s), romaine lettuce, basil, parsley, cilantro, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, collards, bok-choi, yellow squash, zucchini, and cucumbers.   All in all, I should have about 2,500 plants for sale growing in “six-packs.”

Stop by Bloom Cafe any time.  But be sure to visit Saturday morning on April 29th to get ready for the upcoming gardening season.


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Lettuce seedlings

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I planted four hundred lettuce seedlings yesterday.  They were started in trays four weeks ago and quite ready to go.  Every time I do this I think, these will never survive.  The seedlings are so fragile, and seemingly near deaths door.  But they have an amazing capacity to live.  And live they do, even in late winter.  I have a lot more to plant but this is a nice start.  I will be planting the next few weekends, eight hundred more lettuce and four hundred spinach seedlings.  And then on to broccoli, onions, and bok choi.  At the same time I am planting seeds in trays after work for the weekends ahead.  Tonight it will be romaine and some tomato.  The season is on!


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Saturday

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As usual the new year starts with seeding.  I used half compost- half potting mix to fill these 200 cell trays.  I filled 11 trays:  lettuce and spinach for the hoophouse to be transplanted mid February, and onions to go in the ground early March.

It warmed up into the upper forties so I spent most of my Saturday at one of my gardens.  I started cleaning up, removing plant debris, and laying landscape cloth in places where I have trouble with weeds.  I also harvested about three pounds of lettuce mixed with a little spinach.  After washing old Stan was curious to look but he’s not big salad fan.

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Replacing Tiller Tines

After three years the tines on the tiller for my Grillo walking tractor were beyond worn.  The photo above shows the new tines on the left and the worn out tines on the right.  I am halfway done replacing them.


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Cold day, warm hoops

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The weekend started out cold with a inch or so of snow.  I brushed off the snow Saturday from the hoophouse to avoid any icy issues as the weather was supposed to turn colder.  Despite cool temperatures Sunday the sun came out and warmed the hoophouse nicely.  Before harvesting spinach I sat inside enjoying a hot cup of coffee from Bloom Cafe. The air was humid and warm with the earthy smells of compost and leafy greens.  I wish I could have stayed longer.  But….

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….spinach was ready to harvest.