FCN Blog

Drip irrigation makes summer watering a snap

By Jesse Eastman

Drip_Irrigation_NLYou may know the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to gardening, preventing your plants from drying out is worth well more than a pound of veggies, flowers, and a beautiful landscape. Keeping plants watered throughout the summer can be expensive and challenging. Hand watering takes time and sprinklers can be wasteful. Drip irrigation is a great solution that delivers the right amount of water exactly where it needs to go. It can be run on a timer, allowing you to enjoy your summer without the stress of constantly worrying about your garden. Here’s a few tips to get you started:
• Know your plants
While some plants thrive in dry conditions, others can be quite thirsty. A drip system allows you to give each individual plant the right amount of water for its specific needs. If you’re unsure how much water your plants will need, ask your garden center professional for advice. Another important consideration is the soil. Sandy soil tends to drain water away more quickly than soil that is either heavy with clay or rich in organic material.
• Draw a plan
Sketch out each flower or garden bed, including the dimensions of the bed, how far it is from the nearest water source, and how many plants you need to water. This will allow you to purchase the correct supplies the first time. Rows of small plants, such as lettuce, radishes, and many annual flowers can be best served with soaker hose, while larger individual plants like tomatoes, squash, and many landscape perennials, shrubs, and trees are better served with individual emitters.
• Have a budget
Depending on the size of your garden and what you’re growing, you can spend as little as $20.00 on a 4’x8’ bed for something basic. Depending on how intricate you want your system to be, you can certainly spend more. Proper care and maintenance of your system, including winterizing it in the fall, can reduce upkeep costs in the long run. Whether you want to spend a lot or a little, the multitude of options available to use with drip irrigation makes it accessible for budgets of all sizes.

Benefits of Planting Early

By Jesse Eastman

SpringPlanting_NLWhile a savvy gardener can successfully plant virtually any time of the year, there are certain seasons that are particularly well-suited for planting, and paying attention to what and when you plant can greatly increase your success in the landscape. I’ve written before about the benefits of fall planting, especially for deciduous trees and shrubs (read more here). Another prime planting season is early spring. While some of the reasons for early spring planting are very similar to fall planting, getting plants into the ground in March and April has some unique benefits that can help your yard move from good to great!

  • Availability
    Generally speaking, early spring is the time of year when most nurseries and garden centers have received tons of new stock, but most customers aren’t shopping yet. If there’s a particular plant you’ve been having a hard time finding, now is the time to look. Even if you call and the plant you want isn’t ready yet (we start our perennial production in late February), you can often call to reserve rare plants. That way, they are available to you when everyone else is wishing they had gotten an earlier start. If you are looking for a plant that we don’t normally carry, the earlier you let us know, the more likely it is we can find it from our network of suppliers. Just like we run out of certain plants as the season progresses, our vendors’ supplies tend to dwindle as we move into the heart of spring.
  • Root Establishment
    The first step in most plants’ spring growth cycle is a push of new roots. This generally happens before any visible top growth or swelling of buds takes place. By planting before it is warm enough for top growth to occur, you can ensure that this root growth is taking place in the ground, where the plant will live, instead of in the pot, where those roots will get more bound up and dense the longer they grow.
  • Reduce Transplant Shock
    Planting early and letting your plants enjoy a jump-start on root growth also reducing the initial stress of transplant shock. Transplant shock is a general term for the stress that a plant experiences when it is moved, either from one location in your yard to another, or from a pot into the ground. The planting process can inadvertently damage the small hair-like roots on plants and exposes roots to potentially dry and damaging air. It also usually involves a transition into an unfamiliar soil, which takes time for the plant to adjust to. If the plant has time to overcome these stresses before it has produced foliage and other new growth, it can then focus more of its effort on healthy top growth instead of on surviving transplant shock.
  • Improve First-Year Performance
    Plants that have time to settle into their new home and overcome transplant shock are now ready to grow. Imagine you plant a perennial in late May that normally blooms in early June. It may still be suffering mild transplant shock by the time it is supposed to be blooming. This means you will likely see fewer, if any flowers in the first year it is in the ground. Compare that to the same perennial that is instead planted in mid-March. By the time it is ready to bloom in June, it has had three months to settle in, and its bloom will be much more satisfying!

Special Orders

February is the time of year when plant lovers get to dreaming, and if you’re dreaming of rare or hard-to-find plants or seeds, we can make your dreams come true! Whether you’ve been browsing seed catalogs and want to save some money on shipping, or you want a strange and unusual shrub or tree that you’ve never seen for sale, get in touch with us and we can poke around in the back alleys and remote corners of the plants world for you.

Seeds_NL Seeds

Get an early start on your garden by planting seeds this winter.  Seeds are less expensive than starter plants and come in hundreds of varieties not typically available as starts.  Perhaps more importantly, growing from seed gives us a sense of accomplishment and something to do over those long winter months!

Fort Collins Nursery has a huge selection of flower and vegetable seeds arriving throughout the month of January.  You’ll find all your favorite varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Botanical Interests, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. and Seed Savers Exchange in stock all winter long.

Looking for something different to plant this year?  Check out hundreds of interesting varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.  who specialize in rare, hard to find seeds from around the world.  Examples include Berkeley Tie-Dye Green Tomato, Scarlet Kale, Chinese Red Meat Radish, Blue Potatoes and Missouri Pipe Corn.

Looking to support a great cause by simply purchasing your seeds?  Check out the extensive catalog from Seed Savers Exchange, a non profit (501(c)(3) status) organization dedicated to saving and sharing seeds.  Seed Savers maintain a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb and plant varieties.

This month we are adding Johnny’s Selected Seeds to our inventory, giving you even more planting option for your home and garden.  Johnny’s is known for their high quality standards and were one of the original nine companies to sign the Safe Seed Pledge.  Among serious home gardeners and market farmers, Johnny’s is considered one of the most respected sources of seeds and growing information.  They have a vast catalog consisting of thousands of delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and beautiful flowers.

We are happy to special order any Baker Creek, Seed Savers or Johnny’s Selected Seeds that we do not already have in stock.

Plants

Send an email to scott@fortcollinsnursery.com with your special plant requests, and he will check the market from our myriad of vendors and growers to find what you are looking for.

 

The Hawthorn: Rich with Color

By Julie Carlson

Edited by Jesse Eastman

Originally published in Vol. 1, Issue 4 of Fort Collins Nursery’s TreeTalk Newsletter

5fedac36-6c05-4ad1-ab4b-2b6062764e1cThis past fall, many of you came to the nursery seeking plants that add fall color to your yards. You’d seen it all around town – from the flaming rose-red of Burning Bush or the orange heat of Tiger Eyes Sumac to the brilliant yellows of Ginkgo or Honeylocust. These shrubs and trees offer up dramatic leaf color, but another plant can add even more richness to the landscape than mere changing leaves.

The Hawthorn is traditionally known as a shrub – many an English 0a2ae966-d0e1-4c88-b227-34462fcae45f-photocredithedgerow is comprised of Hawthorns. The English Hawthorns are also easily cultivated as ornamental trees and work well at adding interest to a yard as single specimens. Crimson Cloud Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata ‘Crimson Cloud’) is one such Hawthorn that has miniature maple-shaped leaves of glossy dark green and flowers of striking white-eyed magenta pink clusters. A close relation to Crimson Cloud is Toba Hawthorn (C. mordenensis). It is pearled with double white fragrant flowers maturing to a medium pink. Also remarkable about the Toba is its unusual tree trunk that develops seams over time and eventually looks like four or five trunks fused together.

f96f0f06-9555-4a7f-b35b-d07f4cf3e8dcThese two varieties of English Hawthorn are most showy in the spring because of their flowers, but other Hawthorns have an even more splendid color display in late summer and autumn. The Hawthorn is aptly named forbaaa8ec1-cf29-4235-8b63-7add43a8e96d its haws, or red berries that develop in late summer, and on many Hawthorns hang on the bush or tree into winter. These small red fruits are a profusion of color. On Russian Hawthorn (C. ambigua) they dangle like a wealth of rubies offsetting its sparsely-leaved twisting branches. Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn (C. crusgalli inermis) accentuates its widespread branches of shining rounded leaves with half-inch coral gems.

The Hawthorn genus does not disappoint those who are set on intense leaf change either. Some, like Thornless Cockspur and Russian offer up yellows and gold fading to russet, while Washington Hawthorn (C. phaenopyrum) turns a scarlet orange bordering on red.

154779fb-127f-449f-9174-e675aea4ff85Of course the leaves eventually drop, leaving behind bare thorny branches. The thorns add texture and silhouette, and berries on some hawthorns persist – continued color as we welcomed winter and begin to think of snow-covered landscapes and bedecked trees. The Hawthorn is naturally ornamental throughout our harsh winters.

Hawthorns are a truly visual treasure of flowers, interesting leaves, fruit, and structure. They are also very hardy, many of them tolerating and even thriving in Colorado’s poor soil, cold winter temperatures, and dry climate. Most varieties are disease resistant as well and supply a low-maintenance shrub or tree for someone looking for a plant that is unique. For those who are planning for years of color, look no further than the impressive Hawthorn.

What is a plant really worth?

By Jesse Eastman

We have a small note hanging on the wall in our office. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s been here longer than I have. It’s one of those things that’s funny but also incredibly true, the kind of thing that makes you smile to yourself as you knowingly shake your head. It reads: 

Pay-The-Price_ImageIf folks only knew how many –

Hours of thinking

Days of digging

Weeks of sunshine

Months of coaxing

Years of experience

Oodles of headaches

Bushels of rich soil

Gallons of water

Hundreds of backaches

Thousands of heartaches

– It takes to produce a pretty plant – they would gladly pay the price.

DSCN3581All humor aside, it pretty much sums up the process of growing plants. We take a lot of pride in the process, and it allows us to grow the best plants available. But it ain’t easy.

Thinking: Each plant we grow and sell starts with thinking. What plants do our customers want? Will they survive in this climate? How many should we grow? Once we’ve thought ourselves into convulsions, we move on to step two.

Digging: We don’t actually do much true digging anymore – most of our plants are grown in containers, so our equivalent is the potting process. Still, it’s pretty rigorous. In 2015 we put a staggering number of plants on our benches that were grown right here onsite. This includes over 50,000 1-gallon perennials, over 5,000 trees and shrubs, and almost 6,000 vegetables and strawberries.

Sunshine: Colorado is a very sunny state, yet somehow rarely sunny when we really need it. For example, if we get a long stretch of cloudy cool days in May like we did in 2015, tomatoes quickly develop edema, where they get water-filled blisters along the stem. We like the sun. We need the sun.

Coaxing: It takes a lot of coaxing to grow plants. You hope for conditions to be perfect. You talk to them, encouraging them to be vigorous. You tinker with fertilizer, hoping to give them that extra little boost.

DSCN2886Experience: Thankfully, we have some very experienced people behind the wheel, and that experience is key to producing a plant that not only looks good, but is healthy and strong. We learn from past mistakes and amplify past success.

Headaches: Our experts gets the lion’s share of the headaches. The saying “ignorance is bliss” exists for a reason. The more we know about potential problems, the more sleep we lose worrying about them.

Soil: Good soil is a key component to our process. The potting soil we grow our plants in is mixed locally by Organix Supply, and it is formulated specifically to create the best possible growing conditions for our plants in conjunction with the fertilizers we use and the specific mineral contents of our well water. In one year, we use 240 cubic yards of soil. That’s 5207 bushels, in case you’re counting.

Water: To go along with all that soil is a lot of water. Plant in pots get thirsty – a lot thirstier than they’d be if they were growing in the ground. One of my worst dreams is for our water systems to fail and us not to notice. On a hot day in August, that could be the quick death of thousands and thousands of innocent plants!

Backaches: Caring for all of the plants is a physical job. We have to move them from here to there. We have to haul hoses all over the place. Our nursery is an 11-acre property, and we go darn near everywhere on foot.

Heartaches: The backaches are abundant, and when things don’t go right, they are accompanied by equally painful heartaches. When the floods of September 2013 struck, thousands of plants washed away. All of that time, that thought, that backache just swirled away in
a torrential mess.

And yet we continue. It doesn’t make us rich. It’s never easy. But it is a joyful work, and an important one. And if we keep our focus on the pleasure plants bring, it will always be worth it.

What to do with old Christmas trees

According to the National Christmas Tree Association,  between 25 million and 30 million real  Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year. If the average height of a Christmas tree is 7 feet, that means that in the next month, 37,000 miles of Christmas trees will be disposed of in one way or another. The Earth is only 24,900 miles around at the Equator. To put it lightly, that’s a lot of trees!

Most municipalities in the U.S. offer some kind of recycling program for dried out Christmas trees, and the variety of uses for those tired old trees is truly astonishing. Probably the most common way trees are recycled is via the wood chipper, producing mulch that is then distributed to residents or used in city projects (this is what the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County do). Here’s a few other neat ways that Christmas trees are reincarnated:

  • Take your tree out back and let it dry out. The needles make a great mulch, and can help acidify our alkaline Colorado soil. Use the wood in your fireplace. If you don’t have a fireplace, ask around. I bet you know someone who would be happy to have some free firewood.
  • Stake your tree upright in the yard and string it up with popcorn or other bird treats for a wonderful winter wildlife feeder.
  • On beaches where sand erosion is a serious environmental problem, old Christmas trees are used along with short sections of fence to create windbreaks, allowing the natural rebuilding of sand dunes, a vital ecosystem for many delicate species of plants and animals. This is especially useful in areas damaged by hurricanes, such as the Gulf Coast in Alabama following Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
  • Old Christmas trees are used in a number of different ways to create habitats for animals. They are  sunk in the shallow waters of lakes and ponds to provide nursery habitat for young fish. Under the guidance of the Division of Wildlife, they can be bundled together and placed in forest areas where they provide cover for small animals like birds, rabbits, ground squirrels, and the like.
  • Old Christmas trees are used for fuel in biomass heating systems and power generators.

There are probably many other creative ways to recycle Christmas trees. If you have a great idea, we’d love to hear about it! If you just want to drop your tree of somewhere and be done with it, The City of Fort Collins and Larimer County are offering free tree recycling until January 18, 2016. Here’s what to do:

  • Remove all decorations, including tinsel, lights, tree stand, nails, and plastic bags.
  • Take your tree to one of the following free drop-off locations:
    • Edora Park, 1420 E. Stuart St. (Tennis court parking lot)
    • Larimer County Landfill, 5887 S. Taft Hill Rd. (Monday – Saturday, 8a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
    • Rolland Moore Park, 2201 S. Shields St. (Parking lot, S.E. corner)
    • Streets Department, 625 Ninth Street (S.W. corner of Lemay Ave. and E. Vine Dr.)
    • Fossil Creek Park, 5821 S. Lemay Ave.
    • Wellington Recycling Drop-Off Site (corner of 6th Street and Grant Ave.)
  • All free tree recycling ends on January 18, 2016, so don’t wait. Besides, the longer you wait, the more dried needles you’ll have to dig out of your carpet.

Poinsettia Clearance Sale

  • Poinsettia_NL6.5″ poinsettias only $5.00 (Reg. Price $17.00)
  • 2″, 4″, 8″ and 10″ poinsettias 50% Off
It’s the season of giving so we are offering huge savings on all poinsettias through Dec. 24th!  These colorful winter bloomers will brighten your home for the holidays or make perfect gifts for family and friends. Click here to see our complete list of current Holiday Specials.

Christmas Ornaments 50% Off!

Ornaments_NLAll of our 2015 Christmas ornaments are 50% off through Dec. 18!  Click here to see a complete list of our current Holiday Specials.

“O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…”

You know Christmastime has truly arrived when the tree is up and you sit back in the warm glow cast by the lights, breathe in the beauty, and admire the ornaments you’ve collected over the years. To help create such a moment, we at Fort Collins Nursery can provide you with the ideal fresh-cut or living Christmas tree.

tree shoppers

Cut Trees

For a cut tree, you can choose from Colorado-grown Alpine Fir and Lodgepole Pine, or from Fraser Fir and Scotch Pine grown on tree farms in Minnesota.

 Native Trees

Alpine Fir and Lodgepole Pine are cut from the Rocky Mountains in an ecologically sensitive way, selectively thinned from thick tree stands. Small trees are never topped from larger trees. Because they are not grown on farms where trees are sheared, native trees are not always perfect, but they always have character. You may choose the graceful symmetry of our most popular tree, the silvery, short-needled Alpine Fir, or you may prefer the longer-needled Lodgepole Pine with needles that green up after the tree is brought indoors and placed in water. Both will fill your home with the evergreen freshness that characterizes Christmas.

 Farm-Grown Trees

Scotch Pine are one of the fastest growing varieties of Christmas tree available. Because they grow so quickly, they cost less than both wild-harvested trees and other farm grown trees and provide a great option budget-savvy tree shoppers. For folks who will settle for nothing less than the perfect Christmas tree, Fraser Fir is for you! It is the Mercedes of cut trees – the fullest that we carry – with thickly-clustered branches, deep green and silvery needles, and a sweet scent.

 All cut Christmas trees are fully guaranteed. If your tree drops needles prematurely, just bring it back with your receipt, and we will replace it or issue a store credit for the original price.

Cut Tree Care

When you purchase a Christmas tree from Fort Collins Nursery, we will remove ½” from the trunk base so that it is immediately ready to absorb water. If your tree will sit outside for a few days, you’ll need to saw it off before bringing it indoors. Place your tree in an area free from drafts or excessive heat.

tree preservativeCut trees must have a steady supply of water in order to stay fresh. Some folks swear by using preservatives in the water. You can make preservative yourself by mixing 1 cup corn syrup and 3 tablespoons chlorine bleach into 1 gallon of warm water. For those of you who do not want to fiddle with a preservative, just make sure your tree is placed in warm water, not cold, when you first set it up, as this helps soften the sap that otherwise can seal the cut end of the trunk, allowing a better uptake of water.

For trees that you want to keep up a long time or for trees in a warm or drafty spot, we also sell Wilt-Pruf, a preservative which you spray on the needles to preserve freshness. One warning, though: Wilt-Pruf can fade the bluish color on Fir and Spruce.

As for discarding your tree when the season is over, many cities provide tree recycling programs where trees that are taken to designated locations are shredded and used for mulch in public areas. Trees must be completely stripped of all ornaments, including tinsel. Check your city’s website for drop-off points and dates.

You can also extend the use of your tree by removing the branches and placing them over tender plants, or in windy exposed gardens where they serve as an extra layer of mulch throughout the winter. Just don’t forget to pick them up in the spring!

Living Trees

For those of you who want to enjoy your Christmas tree for longer than a single holiday season, consider a living Christmas tree. You can choose from a wide selection of fir, spruce, and pine varieties depending on what your landscape needs are. Fort Collins Nursery has a variety of sizes from small coffee-table trees to large landscape sized trees.

living xmas treeOnce you’ve chosen your living tree and taken it home, keep it outdoors in a cool shady location, protected from severe winds. Living trees are dormant, and must not be kept indoors for longer than 5 to 7 days; otherwise they may break dormancy prematurely and begin to grow, greatly reducing their chances for survival after planting. Once indoors, decorate with mini lights or LED lights, not large incandescent lights that produce lots of heat.

Plan to plant your living tree outdoors right after Christmas if you were able to pre-dig the planting hole and cover the backfill soil with burlap or plastic to prevent it from freezing. We’ll give you planting instructions when you purchase your tree. If the snow is too deep, or the backfill soil is frozen, place the tree, still in its container, in your pre-dug hole and cover the area around the base with a thick layer of mulch until it can be properly planted in spring. Or you can put the tree in an unheated building or a protected location outdoors, preferable with a nice pile of mulch around the container. You can then plant the tree when the soil has thawed in spring. In any of these situations, water the tree once a month if the soil in the root ball is not frozen.

Fort Collins Nursery guarantees hardy living Christmas trees for one year. If your tree does not live or grow to your satisfaction, we will replace the tree or issue credit for the original amount paid.

norfolk island pineAnother living Christmas tree that doubles as a houseplant is the Norfolk Island Pine. It can be decorated and kept inside indefinitely since it will not survive below-freezing weather. Come visit our warm greenhouse and see our selection of Norfolk Island Pine, and while you’re here, find the perfect poinsettia or Christmas cactus to add some holiday color!

Now you just have to decide which type of Christmas tree with grace your home this year. We’re here to help you with the decision and wish you Happy Tree Hunting!

By Julie Fair. Originally published in the TreeTalk Newsletter in Winter 1994, updated for 2015.

Micro greens: A Leaf for Any Season

(This article was originally published in the Winter 2013 edition of Edible Front Range magazine)

China Rose Radish. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

China Rose Radish. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

By Jesse Eastman

Even though they have been around for years, chances are good you’ve only recently heard of micro greens. These tasty treats are just what their name implies – tiny little leaves. Used for years in high-end restaurants, micro greens are making waves with a broader audience thanks in part to the many different “grow-your-own” movements and the popularity of “locavore” cuisine. With winter coming soon, finding a way to get garden fresh greens to the table presents a challenge for the health conscious cook, or anyone who likes the taste and feel of spring. Micro greens might just be the solution.

 

What are micro greens?

The term “Micro greens” applies to a wide variety of leafy plants and herbs that are harvested at a tender young age. According to Kathy Hatfield of Raspberry Hill Farm, micro greens are harvested either as soon as the cotyledon (baby) leaves emerge, or once the first full set of true leaves emerge. A few popular varieties include:

Red Choi. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Red Choi. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

  • Arugula (Nutty/peppery flavor; not as intense as mature arugula)
  • Beets (Very subtle beet flavor; gorgeous red stem)
  • China Rose Radish (Sharp radish flavor; rosy pink stems)
  • Cilantro (Intense cilantro flavor)
  • Italian Basil (Same basil taste you love, but more subtle)
  • Kale (Much sweeter in its micro form than its mature counterpart)
  • Kohlrabi (Similar to the flavor of broccoli stems)
  • Komatsuna (Mustard flavor; milder than standard mustard micro greens)
  • Lemon Basil (Zesty citrus flavor)
  • Mizuna (Spicy, but much milder than mustard micro greens)
  • Mustard (Gives a spicy bite!)
  • Red Amaranth (Mild flavor; bright red color)
  • Red Choi (Mild flavor; deep burgundy color)
Beet Kale Mix. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Beet Kale Mix. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Micro greens can be distinguished from sprouts in several ways. first, sprouts typically do not have leaves. Second, sprouts consist of the entire juvenile plant, including roots, whereas micro greens consist of only the leafy tops. Third, sprouts are grown in water or in wet “sprouting” bags, with no light necessary. Micro greens, on the other hand, are grown in soil under bright light. Finally, sprouts are almost always very pale, almost white in color. Micro greens have a rich variety of colors depending on the type of plant being grown.

 

Cilantro. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Cilantro. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Are micro greens nutritious?

The answer is resoundingly “Yes!” According to a study done by researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park (Assessment of Vitamin and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens), micro greens are a packed with nutrients like ascorbic acid and beta- carotene when compared to the nutrient content of mature leaves of the same varieties. Despite this promising data, many people believe more research is needed. The nutrient content of any plant can vary dramatically depending on the light it is exposed to, the soil it’s grown in, ambient temperature, and many other factors that were not covered in the University of Maryland Study. Nonetheless, these little leaves are no nutritional lightweights.

 

Micro greens in flats. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Micro greens in flats. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Are micro greens easy to cultivate?

Micro greens only take an average of 10-14 days to grow which makes them very simple and easy to grow, even in your own home. Because they are harvested at such a young age, they do not develop the deep extensive root systems that would necessitate deep planting containers. At Raspberry Hill Farms, seeds are planted directly into standard nursery flats (11” x 22”) filled with about an inch potting soil, although any container will do. Hatfield describes the process as being identical to starting seeds indoors before the growing season. The only difference, she says, is that these plants are harvested while they are still tiny, instead of being allowed to grow to maturity. As with any recently germinated plants, consistent and even moisture must be maintained; a moisture dome can be helpful in this regard. Grow micro greens in an area with lots of light – in areas with inadequate light, micro greens will get leggy and not develop the nice strong colors for which they are so popular. Once the young plants reach proper size for harvest, use scissors or a sharp knife to cut the plants off at the soil surface. The soil, with roots and all can be composted and reused.

 

Beets. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

Beets. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hatfield, Raspberry Hill Farm

You’ve harvested, now what?

Optimally, micro greens should be harvested immediately before use. Wash them in a salad spinner. If your micro greens are ready for harvest but you’re not ready to eat them just yet, store them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer without washing them. If you wash them before storage, they will get slimy very quickly. Most varieties of micro greens will keep for 5-7 days if properly stored. As with any greens, it is best to consume micro greens as shortly after harvest as possible, with minimal, if any, storage to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

There are many different culinary uses for micro greens. The most common use for micro greens is as a garnish in virtually any dish. They are frequently used to top salads, adding crisp sharp flavors and bright colors. They can also be used in sandwiches or wraps for a surprising bit of freshness any time of year. Micro greens are finding their way into sushi, where their flavors interact very well with wasabi and soy sauce. They also turn up in soups, added at the last minute so they don’t become soggy in the hot broth.

More and more, it seems that consumers want food that is locally grown, organic, and nutritious, and with the ever increasing popularity of cooking shows on television, awareness of the visual presentation of food is at an all-time high. The positive psychological effect of harvesting fresh greens through the winter months is significant. With micro greens riding such a groundswell of popularity, there’s really only one question that remains: What are you waiting for?

 

Special thanks to Kathy Hatfield from Raspberry Hill Farm for all of her advice and wisdom.

Raspberry Hill Farm is a family owned northern Colorado  farm specializing in specialty cut flowers.