Friday, October 4, 2013

It's nearly bedtime!

As we roll through the beginning of fall, it becomes quite clear to me that it is nearly time to put the garden to bed. Here in the Northeast, the cool, early morning outside air beckons the call for warmer clothing. Blackbirds flock together to perform their annual ballets in flight, and colorful fall foliage starts to make its way into the landscape.

My garden this year was a successful one indeed. It is relatively small, compared to the efforts of my departed father. Gardens of the past were always big, and so were the annual harvests. My garden consists of four raised beds and the produce I harvested was impressive. My tomato plants were very productive, and they skirted the devastation from late blight. Many fellow gardeners were not so lucky. Red Candy grape tomato was outstanding, as its texture and sweetness were at the top of the charts.

I have never attempted to raise sweet corn, as it is always commonly available around town at most farm stands, but this year was different. In an area of around 5 feet by 8 feet, I planted my favorite variety to eat - "Mr. Mini Mirai". This yellow supersweet is so tender and sweet that it is clearly classified as gourmet quality. If any of my readers grow sweet corn and have not grown this one, then I highly recommend four or five rows in your garden next season.

I also had a couple plantings of Crockett green bush bean. Given the fact that I had four small rows throughout the season, I believe I harvested a bushel of tasty, dark green beans. I picked the plants several times, and the beans kept on coming. Crockett is a slender, dark green bean that eats exceptionally well.

If any gardener is a fan of radishes like I am, then the one to grow is Red Satin. In my opinion, this is the finest radish in the marketplace. Hybrid radishes have not been around for very long, and hybridization has greatly improved the species. Red Satin is consistently clean, smooth and round, with an appetizing bright red color. In 20 days, you will harvest beautiful red radishes with a delicious mild flavor. There's probably still time to plant a few more rows before cold weather sets in.

My Kuroda carrots made excellent size, and I have left a few to sweeten up for a later fall harvest. Add a few rows of spinach, Swiss chard and lettuce and my garden was quite complete.
In a few weeks, clean-up will begin. Plants will be pulled and composted. I will top my beds with an organic fertilizer and till it in. Then I will wait. I will wait for the snow. I will wait for spring to follow. But then, my garden will begin its next life cycle.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A personal opinion…

Although there are many excellent sweet corn varieties available to the consumer today, I have my personal favorite. Our Mr. Mini Mirai is my hands down favorite and for many reasons:
  • I do not think you can find any other variety that will be sweeter and more tender than Mr. Mini Mirai, the desert corn. Sweetness, or sugar, in any vegetable is measured with the brix scale. For any sweet corn variety that approaches a 20 number on the brix scale, you will have one that has top of the chart sugars. Couple this with exceptional tenderness and you have a complete eating package.
  • The size of each ear is quite unusual. Ears average only 5.5" in length, but it is packed with tender, juicy kernels. I believe there is as much corn on each ear of Mr. Mini Mirai as there is on longer varieties. Bottom line, it fits on a plate. In my opinion, the restaurant trade should be all over this one as it has a great presentation when served, and it is truly "gourmet" quality..
  • Home gardeners who have grown and sampled this Mr. Mini Mirai have raved about its high quality. We picked, cooked and served 500 free ears of Mr. Mini Mirai at the Rochester Public Market. Just about every taste tester commented to me that it was the very best corn they had ever eaten..
  • We had a box of Mr. Mini Mirai in a cooler in Illinois for about two weeks. We shipped it to a cottage in Indiana for a summer picnic that weekend. The results were exactly the same…the very best corn they had ever eaten, and it was two weeks old!
Mr. Mini Mirai is a supersweet type, so it needs warm soil for proper germination. For professional growers, it will be important for them to sample it to their customers. For home gardeners, you will never find a sweet corn variety any better than our Mr. Mini Mirai. I personally guarantee it. Plant this one for ultimate satisfaction.

Friday, March 8, 2013

An old piece of cloth...

It is time for me to apologize again, as I have not written a blog post in quite some time. It is not because I despise the effort, it really comes down to my inability to remember to do so. Therefore, I apologize again.

When I refer to the fact that I am cut from an old piece of cloth, my heart lies with the corner grocery store, the many retail shops that used to populate Main Street where I grew up, and retail the way it used to be. It seems to me that big corporations do everything possible to push the smaller retailer out of business. I am not naive, as I truly know nothing is forever.

This subject brings me to the smaller independent garden center retailer. These are the folks in the horticulture trade who are our target customer. We do not do business with big box retailers, but choose to provide products and services to the smaller businesses in the ornamental trade. Part of the dilemma we face every year is finding means and ways to deliver these various products and services at an improved level.

It has been voiced many, many times by industry professionals and consultants that if the independent garden centers want to survive long term, they need to stay in touch with the needs of the new consumer who will populate garden centers... Generation X and Y. It seems to me that one could more easily communicate this group of buyers in society by calling them the 25 to 50 year old consumer. Now I know who he, or she, most likely is.

They will want to garden and will do it differently than mom or dad. They have little to no understanding of the demands of gardening, and it is up to the garden center to teach them. This is where I believe the independents have a leg up over the big boxes. Independents have the product knowledge and horticultural understanding to be much more competitive.

I truly want the smaller independent garden centers to survive, and I do believe they can compete. Therefore, this is where our readers can help. If you are a consumer or a garden center manager or owner, let us hear from you. As I had mentioned before, everything changes, so how does a company like Harris Seeds provide improved products and services to these independent garden centers to ensure long term profitability and staying power in the industry?

It is vital for a company like ours to understand the needs of our customer, the garden center, much like the garden center needs to understand the needs of its own customers. If you would like to share your thoughts and recommendations with me, responses are most welcome.