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Hardy Vegetables – Plant Them Now!

Sarah West

by Anne Berblinger, Gales Meadow Farm

A few of the starts you'll find this Sunday

Many vegetables, the “hardy” varieties, do well in early spring. They can even stand a frost. This year, they should do better than usual, since the soil has already warmed up some and it looks like our extra warm weather will continue.

Gales Meadow Farm will have many hardy vegetable varieties at the market this weekend: kale, lettuce, collards, broccoli, peas, onions, beets, and more. And of course, we have many varieties of most of these and some pots of mixed varieties. Any of them can be planted right now or as soon as your garden is ready.

These veggies need good soil and a spot that gets sun for at least 6-8 hours a day. Most of them will do well in pots on a sunny deck or parking strip. so you can have fresh homegrown vegetables even if you don’t have a sunny garden. For hardy spring veggies, a light dressing of complete organic fertilizer mixed into the top 2-3 inches of the bed should be good for the whole season. If the soil is clay or sandy, a generous dose of compost applied before planting and mixed into the soil will help.

It's good to do your transplanting in the evening or on a cloudy day. Water the pots before you remove the vegetables, and as soon as you have finished planting, water the newly transplanted vegetables well to settle them into the ground and establish good contact between the soil and the roots.

Our pots of veggie starts have more plants than garden store six-packs. The pots may look crowded, but the plants don’t mind. You need to be gentle as you separate them, but they are not terribly delicate. Gently take the whole block of potting soil out of the pot. Plant each one as you peel it from the soil; don’t let the roots have a chance to get dry.

Make sure your garden or pot does not dry out. (We usually don’t have to worry about this in the spring, but this year is different.)

You can start picking lettuce, collards, chard, and kale leaves and beet greens in a few weeks; the peas will be ready before long; the onions can be harvested young or left to mature in August.

Gales Meadow Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Gales Meadow FarmNestled between wooded hillside and a bend in the meandering Gales Creek, Anne and Rene’ Berblinger’s Gales Meadow Farm feels like a place hewn from the pastoral imagination: nine smooth acres fan out in a rough triangle from the back of the property, bordered cozily by tall trees, onto a vista of the slender Gales Creek valley and its well-muscled foothills that begin galloping into the coast range a handful of miles west of the farm. It is a vista I know well from spending two summers as a part-time farmhand there in 2010 and 2011, enjoying a morning coffee, planting, harvesting and pulling weeds in that glorious backdrop.

Anne and Rene’ began hobby-farming the site in 1999, coming from non-farm careers and a simple desire to work outdoors and grow beautiful food. Their operation soon expanded to include one, then many employees, some who live on-site, most of whom are young people interested in learning more about organic vegetable production. The farm earned organic certification from Oregon Tilth in 2001, and has remained strictly organic since then. They sell summer vegetables at the Hollywood and Cannon Beach farmers’ markets, and spring plant starts here at Hillsdale.

Their plant list boasts an astonishing 300 varieties, an accomplished collection for a farm of this scope. And Gales Meadow is all about collections: tomato varieties number in the forties, pepper and garlic varieties in the twenties, many of which are perpetuated using seed collected onsite. This is a boon both for the farm and the home gardeners who purchase vegetable starts from GMF, as the plants are well adapted to the climatic and soil conditions of our region.
“Sometimes I say that we had to be farmers, since we never had room to grow all the varieties we wanted to try in a garden,” Anne said of her transition from gardener to farmer fifteen years ago.

A quick look at their tomato variety list makes it clear that the Berblingers do not perpetuate the usual suspects. A healthy handful of the varieties they grow are sourced not from seed catalogs but from fellow farmers and customers who pass on their own favorites. The result is a gallery of unique tomatoes, well-tested in both garden and kitchen, many of which are exclusive to Gales Meadow Farm.

Nostrano, a round, red variety that comes from the seeds of a tomato purchased at a market in Turino, Italy are Anne’s favorite slicing tomato for summer sandwiches or just eating out of hand. Italian Heart, a creamy-pink beauty of a sauce tomato with large-shouldered fruits that taper to a point (reminiscent of a heart) quickly cook down to a light, aromatic sauce. Piccolo San Marzano, a miniature version of the classic Italian sauce tomato, makes an excellent portable snack, and is featured in homemade catsup at farm meals.

Gales Meadow Farm is one of this year’s Edible Portland Local Food Hero nominees, an honor they’ve received in part for their farming and nursery work, as well as their dedication to educating gardeners and young farmers about organic agriculture. Anne and Rene’ farm with a gardener’s mentality, valuing beauty, flavor and narrative over high productivity or vegetables with a long shelf life, and many of the lessons they’ve learned in their fifteen-year farm journey translate well to a garden of any size. Anne and Rene’ have reaped delicious rewards from experimenting with seed saving, and encourage all gardeners to try their hand at it.

“Use open-pollinated varieties and save seeds of your favorites,” Anne advises, “especially self-pollinating vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and beans.”

And, at the farm or garden scale, success with organic growing comes from seeing the garden as an ecosystem, a great balancing act.

“Love your pollinators,” encourages Anne, “provide ten months of bloom in your garden, a pesticide free environment, and places for their babies to grow.”

And as for those pesky weeds and tenacious pests, focus on management, “don’t even try to eliminate them.”

The relaxed and patient approach to agriculture I learned at Gales Meadow Farm still informs my own gardening practices, and many of the exceptional varieties I was introduced to there have earned a permanent place in my own seed collection. Hillsdale Farmers’ Market and the local food community are fortunate to have these local food heroes in our midst.

Gales Meadow Farm is only at Hillsdale through May, so don’t delay in choosing one of their alluring tomato or pepper varieties for your garden this year!

In between the Rain Showers, Dig up a Patch in your Garden

Sarah West

Gales Meadow Farm will be back at the Hillsdale Market on March 4th. We will bring starts of many kinds of hardy vegetables plants – sugar snap peas, shelling peas, lettuce, kale, broccoli, beets, and others. Even if the temperature were to fall to 22ºF, these little veggies will survive and thrive. They will do even better with a light covering of floating row cover (Reemay or Agribon, available at garden supply shops and online through seed companies).

These early vegetables do need protection from slugs. We have two methods which do not involve poison and which really make a difference:

  • Save your eggshells and crush them up into a fine powder. Sprinkle the eggshell powder around your plants. Slugs just hate the way the eggshells get stuck on their slimy skin and they will not cross egg shell powder.
  • Mix water and flour to the consistency of cream. Add a pinch of sugar and a package of yeast to a half gallon of this mix. Put an inch or two of this liquid in deli or yogurt containers, sink them in the ground here and there among your vegetable plants, and watch the slugs crawl in and die. This is better than the old beer technique because the alcohol, which is what attracts the nasty little creatures, is continuously renewed for up to a week, rather than dissipating within a few hours. About once a week, dispose of the contents in your compost, and do it again.

We use both these anti-slug defenses at Gales Meadow Farm, and we have another one as well: ducks. Our 14 ducks and Sgt. Queenie the goose range around the farm all day. They nibble on some of the winter greens, but their main diet is slugs, grubs, and other pesky things. A wonderful by-product of this slug control technique is duck eggs. We will have rich and delicious duck eggs for sale at the market.

We will also have some winter greens, arugula, and other produce. The amounts will be limited, so come early.