Thursday Chat: What’s Planned for 2018

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but it’s a new year, we’re getting closer to the start of the outdoor growing season, and I’ve got PLANS, man.

Be well, Everyone.


Updates, Week Ending June 17, 2017 – An Unexpected Harvest

This week actually ended up having mostly sunshine.  On Friday, there was a violent thunderstorm in the evening that flooded the streets pretty heavily (it even knocked down a few branches from trees.)  Saturday was overcast (with the threat of rain and a late afternoon rain for about an hour.)  When I arrived to the garden on Sunday, I was greeted by an absolute abundance of growth and had to do a harvest of the 1st planting of radishes and the first planting of garden greens (cut and come again.)  In the other beds, you could see the abundant growth everywhere, including the weeds.

I did find that the other beds around me that had been desperate for water the past couple weeks grow tremendously.  With the forecast for the upcoming week, I don’t think anyone will need to do much watering.  I put down a third planting planning on the rain forecast for this week to help out.

On the deck, the morning glories began growing their vines and I more or less put up the trellis on the south wall for those suckers.  We’ll see how much vegetation sprouts from them and how full they get.

Overall, a successful week.

Be well, everyone.

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Weather Forecast

The Garden Plot

The Deck Plot

Boots On The Ground – The Wicker Park Farmers Market, June 4, 2017 – updated –

This past Sunday I checked out the Wicker Park farmers market.  Parents take note: if you’ve never been here, there’s a huge playground adjacent.  Plan accordingly.

The market was spread along a stretch of walkway nearest to Damen, with the vendors alongside.  There were two produce vendors, the rest offering products.

Oh, for what it’s worth, the $4 donut the bakery sold (exclusive to the market) is not worth it.  Opt for something else.

Without further ado, here’s my report.

Overview Photos



Vendor by the NE entrance

I noticed that the displays were split and the farmer was located in a corner, which if someone had a question, they would have to find the farmer then negotiate foot traffic to reach them- not the most ideal layout.  They did sell out of most of their greens after just 2 hours of operation [noted.]



The “BIG” vendor, Nichols Farm and Orchard

The dominant vendor was Nichols Farm and Orchard.  They had a two by four tent layout of 10’x10′ tents.  They sold veggies in 8″ pots (I only noticed the tomatoes,)


Final analysis: I’ll be back when the summer crops are in.

Boots On The Ground – The Logan Square Farmers Market, May 28, 2017

Sunday I took a trip to the Logan Square farmers market to do some boots-on-the-ground intel to see what is selling, what is offered, and what vendors are here at the early part of the year.  It was a fruitful trip.


Lessons learned:

  • Summary: microgreens are a good short-term offering with a good return on investment that can be discontinued on short notice
  • Putting thought into the display and sharing the story of your operation is as much a marketing tool as the product that you sell
  • There is affordable prepared food
  • There is expensive prepared food
  • Prices for vegetables are pretty much priced the same as they are across he nation ($3 per serving, 2 for $5)
  • Lots of greens, fast-growers (radishes, beets) and surprisingly, root vegetables
  • Expect crowds

Be well, everyone.

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Some general snapshots I got of the market​

The one stall I realized I did not get pictures of was a two-man stall selling microgreens (and wheat grass shots.)  They were selling them by the ounce, and they had their growing trays on display, cutting directly from the tray as product was needed.  I didn’t engage in conversation, and got the sense that the $3.00 I paid for my ounce of sunflower greens covered the cost (or perhaps half) of the seeds that the tray required.  If they get 15 ounces per tray, that’s 7-14 times profit, not including input costs for soil and electricity.  Not bad.

Most of the other veggies at the stalls were $3 for one, two for $5.  Some singles were $3.50.

There were a good deal of young veggies for sale in various-sized pots.

I did note that there was a pretty busy crepe stall selling them from $10-$15.  Each.

Select observations on stall presentation


Good use of signage- it’s above eye-level and you can see it over the heads of people milling around the the market, which is a plus for visability.20170528_112640

Great use of visuals in by this stall.  They share pictures of their operation which gives people an understanding of what (aquaponics is and) what they do, and it also tells a story that gives the shoppers a sense of investment into this when they purchase something from them.  It was also displayed in an easy-to-take-in layout.  You can tell some thought went into this.  My hats off to them.


My impression of this stand was that of a long-time vendor who started selling at the farmers markets back in the day.  This layout is more utilitarian than it is focused on aesthetics.


This upcoming weekend is the opening day for the majority of farmers markets across the city.  I’m looking to check out one or two of them and see what’s what.

2017 Harvest Update- Things Are Starting To Pick Up in the Garden

After I attended the online garden planning course hosted by Peterson Garden Project, I realized that it was about time to start seedlings for the spring harvest.  I honestly don’t know if I’m starting too early or not; however, I’m operating on the mantra of, “Do it, then figure it out along the way.”  At worst, they fail.  At best, the timing for transplanting will be perfect.  Either way, I’m going to learn something and get experience, which is what this whole process is about.

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Here is how I went about getting everything done:

First I put my jiffy pellets in a pyrex dish.  Then I warmed up the water used to expand the jiffy pellets (I held off on boiling the water on the chance that it would kill off any beneficial nutrients in the peat mix.)


Once I poured the water over the pellets and into the dish, I waited for the pellets to fully expand, then transferred them to the grow trays.


On the advice of an experience nursery gardener, I opted to use 10-pellet trays since they would provide a greater deal of flexibility with germination:

  • I don’t have to plant 24, 36, or 48 of one thing at a time
  • Being that each tray has the same plant, they will germinate at the same time and the same rate, which makes timing with germination and transplanting easier (ie, I won’t have a half-empty tray filled with slower-germination plants.)
  • They take up less space and have more flexibility for configuring on warming mats and underneath grow lights

Once I had the pellets loaded into the trays, I used a pencil to push down the center of the pellet to the prescribed planting depth (between 1/4″ and 1/2″ for beets, carrots, cilantro and radishes I planted.)  I then put two seeds in each pellet (to increase the odds of germination occurring in each pellet, with the exception of the carrots, which themselves came in a pellet form.  Even with an 85% germination rate, I figured I’d take a chance on one-per.)


After placing the seeds in each pellet, I gently used my fingers to pinch and push down the peat at the top of the pellet.  Then I placed the the trays in the window, utilizing my grandmother’s old sewing machine table (sorry and thank you!)


Now that the seeds have been planted, the next step is to log the information on to a spreadsheet to track the progress, and germination success and growth rate of each plant.


plant chart

I also started the next batch of ginger for sprouting.  I had a plastic tray with slots big enough to fit each ginger cutting.  I’ve found that they sprout faster when using a heating mat.

These will probably sprout shoots in 10-14 days.  Once leaves come out, I’ll transplant them to the larger planter where they will grow for the next 8 months to maturity.

For the next step, I’ll plant the seedlings for the modular planters on the deck.  For that, I’ll have to buy some more 10-pellet trays.  I’m not sure if I’ll place those under the grow lights since the outdoor temperatures are getting warm enough to place outside.  If I had an outdoor greenhouse, I would place them in there.  (That said, it might be worth investing in a small store-bought one.


Putting it in Perspective – Lot Sizes in Fractions of an Acre

As I’m assessing my situation with starting up the farming operation, one of the things I’ve encountered is the question of what equipment I would need to operate at a given scale of operation (based on total area of productive land.)

I looked up what kind of area different sub-acre sized lots would occupy, just to get a better sense (I’m a strong visual learner.)  I came across a UK website that had some great examples (with dimensions) that I felt would be handy, so I figured I’d share it here.


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