Dunton Family Farm News

What's Happening Around the Farm as well as a Soapbox for head farmer, Mike Dunton

Garden Time

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of the planet, it is not quite time to get out and start digging and sowing in the garden.  On nice days like we had here on the farm this morning, there are always garden related tasks that we can steal away to.  This morning we got some of the flower beds around the house cleaned up . . . weeds hoed out of the bark, various leaves, twigs and other debris raked up, etc.  But the greenhouses sit empty and the fields fallow.

However, we all know Tempus fugit, and it will not be long before we will be in the full swing of gardening.  What does this mean right now?  It is time to plan!  I have not started to actually lay out our gardens, but I have been figuring out the list of what things I need to be growing out to replenish stock as well as the new varieties that I want to trial.

For the home gardener, this is the perfect time of year to review your gardening notebooks from past years, noting your successes and failures, your favorite varietiess, and getting your seed orders submitted.

I can tell you that as I write this entry, we have no work backlog and are getting orders filled and mailed within a day or two.  Those of you that have been supporting our seed variety preservation work with your orders over the years know that we can get busy the closer we get to planting time.  This is just a heads up to folks who are in a position to take advantage of the slow time.

And once you do get your list of seeds made and ordered, there is still more planning you can do to be prepared for gardening time.

1)  You can start getting your pots cleaned and organized.  Most folks skip this step and I admit, I can be lax on this point when time is a factor.  But if you are ahead of the game, take the time to put a little chlorine bleach in a five gallon bucket of water and dip each old pot.  It is just another precautionary measure to help prevent soil borne diseases.

2)  Buy fresh seed starting potting mix.  This is actually pretty important.  Old potting soil will likely have lost any nutritional value that it might have had.  And depending on how and where it has been stored, it could be harboring insects and disease.  You want to give your seeds and seedlings the best possible conditions that you can in order to improve your odds of success.  A good, organic, sterile, seed starting mix is a good investment.

3)  Get your garden journal ready.  This is nothing fancy.  I use a three ring binder with clear plastic sleeves to store things like seed packets, garden layout drawings, and blank pages for keeping notes about things like weather, the emergence of various pests, when things were sown or planted, first maturity dates, harvest dates, what inputs were applied and overall summaries of how each variety fared.  This is great data to review when planning each future garden.

4)  Set up your seed starting location.  I have a small cabin on the farm that I heat and move a shelving unit into that I attach lights to.  If you use a spare bedroom, heated greenhouse or potting shed, etc. , now is the time to get an area cleaned up and ready.

5)  Draw up your garden plan!  I actually measure out the space and on graph paper, draw my gardens to scale.  It takes a bit of time up front, and I have been known to change my mind a bit when we actually set to planting, but I would never head out to a fresh garden space without one.

It would be like a painter starting a painting on a fresh canvas without the first thought or prior sketch of what they were about to paint.  Yes, they might end up with something beautiful, but you an bet there would be many revisions and a lot of wasted time and materials.

Plan!  Draw the outline of the space.  Make a reference to where south is and where the sun will be at the peak of your gardening season.  Use your list of seeds to decide where they will best thrive and remember to consider their height and girth at maturity when assigning them their locations.  If you are a seed saver, this is also a good time to consider isolation distances.

These are the types of things that we can actually control in our explorations into gardening and food production.  Of course, nature always has a few surprises to throw at us over which we have no control, but by planning and working with our knowledge of how nature typically acts in our location, we stand a good chance of achieving some level of gardening success.

And in closing on this subject of garden planning, the following is a news segment from a Eugene, Oregon television station.  It offers some tips and we really like the seed choices that the garden writer made :)

posted by Mike in Company News and have Comments (2)

Middle of August? Already?

Hello everyone.  Thank you for all of you who have recently “Liked” us on Facebook and are following us on Twitter.  Things are busy around here so I apologize for not staying in touch with updates.  I will try and do better.  This will  be just a quick update.

Where is the time going?  Summer is winding down fast!  It really hit home when we started talking about schedules here on the farm yesterday.  Some of our summer helpers are preparing to head off on family vacations and shortly after that heading back to school.  I am starting to stress a bit thinking about all of the harvest work that lies ahead plus I still have a pile of unfinished projects that need to be finished (or started).  It will all work out :)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are having one of the mildest summers that I can remember.  Whereas many folks in the country are suffering 100F+ temperatures, we have had cool nights and pleasant days.  This weekend the highs are forecast to reach the high-80s or possibly even hit the first 90 degree day of the year.  Not only has this weather meant that we have had great working conditions outside, the garden is growing great.

Stupice tomaotes on the Vine

Stupice tomatoes on the Vine

We have even gotten enough ripe fruit on one variety of tomato, ‘Stupice‘, to start harvesting seed.  Stupice, pronounced “stu-peek-a,” is always a good and early producer here on the farm.

That is the latest from the farm.  I hope that all is well in your garden.



posted by Mike in Farm News and have No Comments

July Edition of the Victory Gardener’s Almanack

The Victory Gardener’s
Almanacfor the month of July

Here in the United States, in the whole Northern Hemisphere actually, we have hit the peak gardening month. This is the time of the year when we are reaping the rewards of our Winter and Spring work. Some crops are peaking, some are done and ready to be removed to make room for planting your Fall garden.

In the Vegetable Garden

  • Plan and plant for a Fall harvest:
    • Plant your broccoli ten weeks before your first frost date. Because you are planting the seedlings while the summer days are still hot, mulch them to help retain moisture and to keep the soil cool.
    • Brussels sprouts are great for your Fall garden. The flavors are actually enhanced when harvested in the cooler weather. Start seeds in June and set plants out this month.
    • Start your cabbage and cauliflower plants six to eight weeks before your first frost date and transplant them into the garden after they have a couple sets of leaves. Like broccoli, they will need protection from the heat and sun and they need rich, fertile soil.
    • Sow turnips in the early part of the month to follow an early crop that is done.
    • Rutabagas, or Swedes, need to be sown twelve weeks before your first frost date. Plant in fine, loose soils and keep it moist. This allows the globes to form properly and prevent forking.
    • Mustard, radish, kohlrabi, spinach and lettuce can all be sown as close as four to six weeks before your first frost date. Just pay attention to the particular variety’s requirements.
    • It is not too late in most areas to sow a crop of shorter seasoned beans to be enjoyed as snap or green beans this fall.
  • When planting seeds in the middle of summer, remember that you may need to plant a bit deeper than normal since the surface layer of soil will dry out quickly.
  • Harvesting and processing of beans, carrots and cabbage is done now while a bit on the young side.
  • Side dressing heavy feeding plants like squash can be done by working well composted steer manure or compost.
  • While watering, use the time to inspect plants and remove any unwanted insects or egg clusters.
  • Where tomatoes are subject to sun-scald, pick the fruit as they first start to turn color and let them finish ripening indoors. Click here for more information about tomato problems and disease.

In the Flower Garden

  • Bachelor buttons can be helped to bloom a second time by removing about six inches from the tops of the plants and fed a manure tea. Delphiniums can also be encouraged in a similar way by first removing the old flower stalk.
  • Sowing fresh delphiniums and Hollyhock seeds now will give best germination results and provide nice plants for next year.
  • Planting columbine from seed can be done by pressing into the soil so that they are no more than 1/8″ deep. The seeds often take up to 4 weeks to germinate.
  • Transplant irises now by taking divisions from the newer or outside growth and immediately planting in the new location by covering the rhizomes with 1 to 2 inches of soil.
  • Cuttings of plants that will need to winter over in the house or greenhouse should be done now. Root clippings of geraniums, begonias, coleus, etc. in moist sand.
  • Roses should be thoroughly soaked once a week or as needed in very hot weather. Mulching is very beneficial.
  • Prune roses as soon as they are finished blooming.
  • Many biennial and perennial flower seeds do well if sown in the first part of the month.
  • Rock gardens require about as much watering during this time as any other part of the garden.

Trees & Shrubs

  • Lawns do better if allowed to remain at least 1-1/2″ tall. They will stay greener, resist weeds becoming established, and remain greener.
  • Remove suckers from any grafted shrubs or trees immediately as they appear.
  • Keep an eye out for marauding birds that can strip blueberry bushes, cherry trees and other berry plants. Mesh coverings, noisemakers, and reflective devices have varied levels of success.
  • The developing bunches of grapes can be protected by securing small paper sacks over them.

Note: This almanac page should be used as a general guideline of common garden tasks. You should modify the list based on your specific geographic area. For a very useful tool to aide in planning your garden, click here.

posted by Mike in Garden Almanac and have No Comments

Weekend Update

Just another quick update.  Last week the emphasis was on planting, watering and maintenance tasks.  Most things are in and we are late this year.  We had to adjust some planting schedules but we should be o.k. unless Mother Nature throws an early freeze this fall.

John spent Wednesday and Thursday setting posts for various trellis systems.  The majority of the posts are to accommodate the tomatoes.  The taller posts are for the pole beans and pea varieties.

Posts Set - 06/26/11

Posts Set - 06/26/11

This coming week, we will be working on the actual trellis installs.  We primarily use the “Florida Weave” method for tomatoes and are experimenting with a new method for pole beans.  More on that in a future blog post.

As we are approaching the month of July, make sure that you are signed up for our newsletter.  It will be sent out late this week.  If you are not yet signed up, click here to join our list.


Part of the reason we do what we do is to encourage and promote healthy living.  I ran across the following article that I thought was interesting.  Proof that gardening not only provides us with healthy food, but also is an activity that provides healthy exercise.

Reap the Benefits of Gardening:  Burn Serious Calories and Prevent Cancer” by The American Institute of Cancer Research:


By the way, if you have never heard of SparkPeople.com, check it out.  It is an awesome (and free) community for helping people learn about, monitor, and maintain health.  There are some really cool tools on there.

I have no connection with them other than I found them in January while looking for a tool to keep track of my caloric intake.  Their food tracker is accessible from both the web site as well as an app loaded on my smartphone.

posted by Mike in Company News,Farm News and have No Comments

Click for Heirloom Tomato Seed Selection Save Seeds - Victory Horticultural Library matersearch.com - online tomato resources