Friday, October 28, 2022

Tom Tasselmyer and Family at Valley View Farms for the Pumpkin Seed Contest

 On October 29th, Tom Tasselmyer, with his wife Laurie, will be here to cut open this year's giant pumpkin, Miss Amelia, and count the seeds. She weighs in at 2005 lbs, not our biggest, but one of two we've had weighing over one ton. While this tradition began with Norm Lewis back in the '80s, Tom has been doing the counting for decades since. I've collected a few photos over the years to share here. These are not in any order, but you can see the subtle changes over the years as Tom's boys get older, and the pumpkins get larger.

Norm Lewis oversees as Alan cuts the pumpkin

The Tasselmayer Family a few years ago

Tom and Bill

The Tasselmyer Boys (-1)

Taking the pumpkin a section at a time

The family is here to help

Concentration is key to getting the count correct

The seeds are grouped together in containers, then added up to get the final count

The VVF guys lend a helping hand to scout for seeds that may have been missed

Gloves are optional to sift through the goo

We look forward to seeing these two every year

The Sawzall is the tool that opens up the pumpkin

The Tasselmyers are experts

Pumpkin goo anyone?


Tim adds more seeds from the pumpkin

Thank you, Tasselmyer family!

The big question is how many seeds are in Miss Amelia? We will find out when the seeds are counted on Saturday. In the meantime, get your guesses in our book. 1st prize is a $300 Valley View Farms Gift Card, 2nd is a $200 card, and 3rd is a $100  card. Your guess needs to be in the book at the time of the counting. Winners will be notified with a phone call. Your name and phone number will not be used by Valley View Farms for any marketing or tracking information. 

Miss Amelia, the 13-year-old that our pumpkin is named after

Amelia will get all the seeds from her pumpkin sent back to her so she can grow another behemoth pumpkin next year. 

Pumpkin seeds are sent back to the grower

The rest of the big pumpkins (minus the seeds) will be donated to Whispering Rise Farm and Animal Sanctuary, a home for rescued Potbelly Pigs. The pigs love the pumpkins.  

It may take a few trips to get the pumpkins to the pig farm

We hope to see you Saturday! 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Checklist for Fall Gardeners

 The weather is changing, bringing with it cooler air temperatures, and steadier rainfall (despite Ian's arrival). Some of our gardens may be tired after summer's weather and our own vacations. We're all back- to school, home, and community. Now is a great time to get back to the garden.

Here is a checklist/to-do list for the autumn garden:

Plant mums, pansies, and other cool weather annuals and perennials for fall color. Rejuvenate pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets with vibrant, colorful celosia, calibrachoa, petunias, and ornamental cabbage and kale. 

Mums available in many sizes and colors

Renovate, fertilize and reseed the lawn. The cooler air coupled with still-warm soil temperatures makes fall the perfect time to overseed and feed the lawn. We recommend a soil test every 2 years to check on soil pH that will advise whether or not the lawn needs lime. 

The lawn provides a foreground to plant borders

Maintain the perennial garden. Cut back browning foliage. Leave green growth. Divide larger perennials as needed. Check for insects and diseases, removing affected plants. Plant now for fall color---Asters, Anemones, Solidago, and other plants that provide food and shelter for migratory birds and butterflies.

Anemones provide fall color and movement in the garden

A mixed border provides autumn color

 Plant trees and shrubs. Again, warm soils and cool air temperatures allow roots to take off, providing a plant less stressed by next summer's droughts. Look for attractive fruit and foliage, including Iteas, Dogwoods, Winterberry Holly, Oakleaf Hydrangeas, and some of the beautiful maples we love.

Hydrangeas anchor this colorful mixed garden

Plant spring flowering bulbs. Purchase them early to get the best selection; wait to plant until late October or November. Many bulbs, like daffodils, hyacinths, and alliums are deer resistant. Plant all bulbs to a depth of 3-4 times the diameter of the bulb for best results. Use Bobbex as a bulb dip for animal favorites like tulips.

Tulips planted en masse

Dig up summer bulbs and tubers. Store them in a frost-free area until spring planting time. Dahlias, Cannas, and tuberous Begonias are among the bulbs that should be over-wintered inside. 

Summer Dahlias blooming in late September

Protect houseplants. Summer vacation has been wonderful for our tropical plants outside on our decks and patios. Clean them with a soft cloth and/or provide a shower to avoid bringing any pests inside. Treat with Horticultural Oil and/or Soap. Wait until spring to repot into larger containers as the plants are shutting down and probably won't grow much from November to March. 

Houseplants return indoors after their summer 'vacation'

Winterize your pond. Remove tropical lilies and plants to overwinter inside. Shut down pumps. Provide a heater to keep the pond from totally freezing over. Stop in our Water Garden Department for more information. 

Nick and Ava get a frog's eye view of the pond

Tidy up...but not too much. Our beneficial insects, birds, frogs, and other wildlife need places to shelter and hide from predators. Shred leaves to add to the garden. Shut off outdoor hoses and faucets. Clean, sharpen, and oil garden tools. Repair hoses.  

Pat tidying up the butterfly garden

Take some photos as a journaling tool to help plan next year's garden. Write down the challenges and successes of the past year. 

Salvias, annual or perennial, attract hummingbirds

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

How Do We Decide What to Grow Each Year?

The last two springs have been incredible when we consider the number of plants that our own farm grew to ship to our store, basically every day from mid-April thru mid-June. Deciding what to grow, and how much, is our biggest challenge as we sit down to review last spring and plan for 2023. 

John and his crew at our growing location in Hydes, MD, start to plant pansies in late January. By late February into March, all 12 of our greenhouses will be open to growing the many plants we'll need to have for our customers. We will begin to ship plants to Valley View Farms in early March. 

A few of the tomatoes grown at our Valley View Farms greenhouses

Our vegetables are all planted from seed. John and his team will grow over 28,000 tomato plants alone! Our variety list changes slightly from year to year. To find new varieties, we'll scour seed catalogs, check in with local farmers' markets to see what is trending, read articles on new introductions, and ask and listen to our vegetable gardening public. We've found that All-America Seed Selections (AAS) are a wonderful resource too, as they have trial gardens nationwide to see which varieties perform the best.

The AAS tag means it has performed well in gardens 

 Adjustments are made accordingly. Last year, we grew over 70 varieties of tomatoes. Our customers wanted more small-fruited types, so we will add some for next year. We go through the same process for choosing pepper, squash, eggplant, lettuce, and other vegetable varieties. 

The flowering plants we grow come into John's greenhouses as young plants, which his team will transplant from plug flats containing a hundred or more plants into the pots that we will sell in our store. Choosing those varieties is similar to how we decide on vegetables, but we have a few other ways to see new plants. In mid-spring, trials for plants are held in California. Newsletters from our trade industry highlight the best of the plants. This is usually our first peek into new varieties. We will then attend Cultivate, a huge show for horticulture every summer held in Columbus, Ohio. There, breeders show off the best of the new plant cultivars.

Salvias are favorites of pollinators

Rudbeckia in so many sizes

Our customers love begonias

We attend trade educational seminars, like those offered at our Maryland Nursery Landscape and Greenhouse Association's Chesapeake Green and Greenhouse Field Day conferences. Plant breeders and sellers send glossy catalogs and tempt buyers with magazine articles in trade magazines, and emails. We are lucky to also have a large regional plant trial hosted by Penn State in the Lancaster area. We will walk those grounds to see what improvements may have been made to some of our old favorites.  

Celosia is a fantastic late summer and fall flower

So many shades of Rudbeckia!

The good, the bad, and the ugly are all represented. Lobelia is not the best of the summer crops

On the other hand, Scaevola loves the heat

As we meet to discuss all the information gathered, we look at the larger picture of what gardeners are asking for in their plantings. They want to attract pollinators, have flowers that can be cut and arranged in vases, heirloom vegetables, annuals that bloom all summer, and perennials that reliably come back for years. We find what's new isn't always better and see the resurgence of old varieties with improvements. 

We hope we get it right and that our community is happy with our offerings. Please tell us what you're looking for in your garden next year. Let us know what did spectacularly and what plants didn't live up to expectations. 

We love what we do and strive to provide the most beautiful, healthiest plants for Maryland gardens. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Philadelphia Flower Show 2022

The Philadelphia Flower Show was held outside again this year. My friend Lisa and I lucked out, heading up in the morning rain, to see the skies clear as we entered FDR Park. Puddles dotted the walkways, but the gardens looked great. Many volunteers from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society met us as we strolled in. Directional signs inside the display area were good; I only got lost a few times. 

A leafy woman on stilts was among the greeters

We passed through an arch of flower orbs

The entrance was spectacular. Paths were placed on both sides of the archway, but who could deny passing beneath the beautiful flowers? The beds on either side were edged with coco coir, a natural way to create the raised beds where most of the gardens were placed. The plant materials used were a beautiful mixture of annuals, perennials, tropicals, trees, shrubs, bulbs, and mushrooms. 

I love the sentiment on this sign

The coco coir edging works beautifully

The wooden spoons act as plant markers

Repurposing at its finest!

Mandevilla is such an awesome vine

Softening the surrounding industrial area is a great use of these plants

A gardener's haven

The Mushroom Capital of the World is in nearby Kennett Square

Nice textures; pretty colors

Love the Heuchera with Artemesia

Green is a color; fun with texture

Now there's an entrance!

Plywood +paint = pool

Also at the show were artful flower arrangements, judged horticulture displays, and tons of mostly garden-related vendors where one could purchase all sorts of things. Signs with QR codes gave the attendees additional information about individual gardens and plants. FDR Park was very accessible and had seating for those of us who needed to get off of our feet for a while. Food and drink were also available. All in all, a nice day. Our Tuesday outing was fantastic! Thank you, Lisa.