Author: Sam May

8 Cool Vegetables to Grow from Seeds

Cool season vegetables are chill not just because they like frosty temperatures; they are also super easy to grow. Compared to some of our summer favorites like

tomatoes, these crops are definitely on the mellow end of the maintenance spectrum.

Here are eight cool season vegetables to try that are in my Home Grown Seed Collection. This laid-back lot will provide you with fresh produce during the chilly spring

and fall months. Each variety is simple to start from seed, relatively pest-free and doesn’t require much space.

COOL SEASON VEGETABLE SEED VARIETIES

Baby Broccoli ‘Aspabroc’ (Broccolini®) – You are probably familiar with Broccolini® from the produce aisle at the grocery store. Well, that is the branded name for ‘Aspabroc’. This baby broccoli has a mild flavor and an asparagus-like stem. I planted it in spring and it lasted in the garden until July. July!

75 days to maturity from direct seed

50 – 60 days to maturity from transplant

Broccolini® is a registered trademark of Mann Packing Company, Inc.

‘Aspabroc’ baby broccoli 

Baby Broccoli Aspabroc also known as Broccolini

Baby Broccoli ‘Aspabroc’ is also known as Broccolini®.

 

Cabbage ‘Stonehead’ – This AAS Award Winner did really well in my spring garden and we sold quite a bit to local restaurants. ‘Stonehead’ matures early

so it’s perfect for regions where spring is short or the first fall freeze comes early. I love the gray-green color paired with purple violas.
P. Allen Smith harvesting broccoli from his Home Grown Seed Collection

60 days to maturity from direct seed
45 days to maturity from transplant.

Collard ‘Bulldog’ – I’ll never turn down a helping of collard greens so I plant plenty in my garden. ‘Bulldog’ is a workhorse with a high yield. It

isn’t quick to bolt, which is good in my zone 7 garden where summer heat comes early.

71 days to maturity from direct seed

 

Mustard ‘Miz America’

One of my absolute favorite cool weather veggies is ‘Miz America’ mustard. The taste is pleasantly mild, without bitter or spicy notes, and it maintains its gorgeous color even at a mature stage!

 

‘Deep Purple’ mustard has a nice spicy flavor.

Spinach ‘Imperial Green’ – If you are going to grow spinach, ‘Imperial Green’ is a must for your garden. I like that the stems are extra-long and

grow upright; makes harvesting very easy. You can direct sow spinach in the early spring garden before the last frost date and in late summer for a fall crop. ‘Imperial

Green’ has been exceptionally heat tolerant for me.

25 – 30 days to baby leaf from direct seed
35 – 40 days to maturity from direct seed

Swiss Chard ‘Peppermint’ – This chard is pretty in pink! The stems are a lovely rose color that stands out in the vegetable garden. I sowed the seeds in spring and ‘Peppermint’ was still going strong in early August when temperatures were 100 degrees. Wowza!

35 – 40 days to baby leaf from direct seed
58 – 63 days to maturity from direct seed

Chard Peppermint

Chard ‘Peppermint’ is extremely heat tolerant.

WHEN TO SOW COOL SEASON VEGETABLES

Many people get nervous about starting plants from seeds, but these cool-season vegetables are pretty straightforward. Timing is everything. Check the maturity date on

the back of the seed package and plan your sowing accordingly. For an autumn garden count back from the first frost date and for a spring garden count back from the

last frost date if you are starting seeds indoors. You can direct sow collards, mustard greens, and lettuce after the last frost date. Your local garden center will have

frost date information for your area.

Root crops that don’t transplant well and fast-growing vegetables like lettuce or spinach can be sown directly in the ground at the appropriate time. To get a jump

start on other varieties, start the seeds indoors. This is true for spring and autumn gardens.

 

You can find these varieties and more in my Home Grown Seed Collection HERE.

CANADIAN SEED SOURCE

If you live in Canada and would like to try these vegetable varieties from my collection, you can purchase them from Halifax Seed Company.

Dazzle Your Winter Landscape With Colorful Trees and Shrubs

River birch is a handsome ornamental shade tree that adds interesting character to the garden. Photographer: Betty Freeze

As I look out my study window at the bare trees and brown fields around me, I’m struck by the colors and textures of the landscape. I know that many people think of winter as a gray, dreary season, but I see beauty in the subtle tans and browns of the woods, the contrasting colors of the leaves as they skitter across the grass, and the icy slate sky.

Of course, as I write this there is a blaze in the fireplace and a cup of hot tea at hand, which allow me to be more generous in my praise of the cold scenic view. If you’re one of the folks who find the winter landscape more bleak than beautiful, I’d like to make some suggestions about how you might tweak your garden or yard to add a little dazzle to your day. There are many trees and shrubs that provide a pop of color and look their best when their “bone structure” in winter is on full display.

`A classic winter shrub to brighten the garden is winterberry, a deciduous holly with bright red berries. Ilex verticillata is an Arkansas native that can reach 8 to 10 feet tall, but there are more “user friendly” varieties like ‘Red Sprite’ that grow only 3 to 5 feet tall. In addition to enjoying the profuse red berries in the landscape, you can easily cut branches to bring inside and enjoy — win-win.

Another berry alternative is firethorn, or pyracantha, an evergreen shrub that displays brilliant orange to red berries in winter. You don’t see it as often as winterberry, mainly because of its thorns, but that makes it an excellent selection for a barrier hedge. A healthy specimen is a stunning sight this time of year.

This Japanese maple has striking red bark that is prominent in the fall and winter. Photographer: Betty Freeze

If berries are too subtle for you, then I recommend the bright red tree trunk and matching scarlet branches of the Japanese coral bark maple. The cultivar ‘Sango Kaku’ can reach 15 to 25 feet tall and wide, a very manageable size for a small yard. You’ll see the best color in full sun, but this maple will also take light shade. If you haven’t seen one of these trees in person, then you should track one down.  It’s stunning year-round, but it really shines in winter — picture this beauty covered with a light dustig of snow.

And don’t overlook the value of showy evergreens in the landscape. There are several yellow false cypress that absolutely glow in the gray winter months.  Chamaecyparis ‘Golden Mop,’ reaches 3 feet tall, and Chamaecyparis ‘Crippsii,’ grows to a more stately 8 to 10 feet tall. Both have bright chartreuse-colored needles that might resemble a spotlight in your yard. In fact, the only thing more brilliant on a dull January day than a ‘Golden Mop’ cypress is a ‘Golden Mop’ cypress growing near a couple of coral bark maples. 

If you’re looking for something more understated — because let’s face it, there’s nothing understated about a ‘Golden Mop’ — then consider trees or shrubs that have ornamental bark. Don’t think you can get excited by tree bark? I dare you to look at the trunk of a paperbark maple and not be impressed. It’s beautiful as a maple, yes, but it’s claim to fame is its peeling, cinnamon-colored bark that covers the entire tree. You’ll want to place one near your deck or patio where you can appreciate it close up in every season.

The memory of my childhood pine inspire my spring planting ideas. Photographer: Betty Freeze

Oakleaf hydrangeas also have a peeling bark and come in a variety of sizes, from the relatively small ‘Ruby Slippers’ at 4 feet tall to the straight species, which can reach up to 12 feet tall. This is one of those hydrangeas that appreciates a little shade in the summer, so I’d site it where it has some protection from the hot afternoon sun.

So don’t feel blah when you look out your window this time of year. There are lots of subtle and not-so-subtle colors and textures to be found in the landscape. You can appreciate the interplay of nature’s browns, tans, and grays, or go wild with red tree bark and yellow evergreens. Either way, enjoy the bone structure of the landscape.

 

 

Winter Solstice

If you’ve been suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD), take heart because the winter solstice is this week. In the Northern Hemisphere it is the shortest day of the year and marks the start of winter. It also signals the beginning of more daylight hours, which is certainly reason to celebrate!

To mark the day I like to get my hands in the soil. Weather permitting, I’ll putter around the garden or I’ll plant something indoors like paperwhite bulbs or some sweetpea seed for placing in a cold frame. At dusk I’ll watch the sunset, turn on the Christmas tree lights and make a mental note that spring is just 90 days away.

It’s A Good Day To Have A Good Day!

From the splendors of spring through the holiday season, I love welcoming guests into my home and gardens. As I have said many times, I love to share the farm with all of you because keeping Moss Mountain Farm to myself wouldn’t be near as fun!

Some of the kindest and most genuine folks visit the farm, and it makes me so happy to receive messages with kind words from them regarding their experience! It is not only encouraging to myself and the staff, but I hope you find a little encouragement in the following words as well!

Thanks again to everyone who has visited or plans to in the future! You can find tickets here!

-Just a short note to let you know how much we enjoyed our tour at the farm last Friday.  My niece seemed to have a wonderful time and appreciated the special attention with the gluten free crackers. Please tell Ellen how much fun we had. Maybe another trip in the future.

Best regards,
Sherry Dale & Lynne


– A group of ladies (and our male driver) from the Murphysboro United Methodist Church visited Moss Mountain Farm on Friday, Nov. 9th. I just wanted to let you and your staff know that we had a splendid day and how much we appreciated your hospitality. You have such a beautiful home, barn, gardens, structures, animals, etc., and you are kind enough to share that beauty with the world!

Since I’m a 4-H Leader in Illinois, I very much appreciated how much time you took in answering my question about your involvement in the 4-H Program in Arkansas (and how you caught your first chicken). Teaching our youth important life skills has been a priority in my life for the past 20 years. Several years ago, I started an Apple Pie Workshop for youth, and now they have created a new youth division with a cash prize in the Apple Pie Contest at the annual Murphysboro Apple Festival. We hope to continue this tradition for years to come. I’d love to bring our 4-H club members to visit Moss Mountain Farm!!!

The lunch was divine, and the Buttermilk Pecan Pie was scrumptious – coming from one pie snob to another. Several on our church bus purchased your cookbook and enjoyed reading the recipes and stories about the recipes on our trip back home. Well, you might think our trip would end with good conversation and laughs about our trip. However, on the way home, one of the ladies suggested that we have a P. Allen Smith Dinner Party (after we have had time to try some of the delicious recipes, of course). We will all make and bring a couple of our favorite dishes from your cookbook to share with each other.

Thank you again for your genuine hospitality for a fabulous day at Moss Mountain Farm!

Rosie


– I just want to say how impressed we were with the whole experience of the tour, grounds and especially the staff! We got lost on our way there. We got a call asking if we were lost and did we need help!! 5 min. later we arrived! Even the rain did not dampen how much we enjoyed the gardens, lunch, chickens and houses.   The lunch was delicious and well done. Ellen was our guide. She charming, knowledgeable and personable.  I bought a book in the gift shop then hurried back to the tent for Allen’s signature. We enjoyed having a personal visit with him! Then left with better directions this time. A short time later we received a call from Diane saying I had left my credit card in the gift shop. She asked where we were and told me it was on her way!! She brought the card to us!!! We are very grateful for her extra effort and felt it was way beyond normal !!! We are totally impressed with our wonderful day!
Thank you!

Jerri

Ralston Family Farms Rice Contest

I don’t know about you, but I like to know exactly where my food comes from. I could go on and on about all the reasons I love Ralston Family Farms rice, but you wouldn’t understand until you try one of their delicious farm-to-fork rice varieties for yourself!

Head over to my Instagram to enter to win a Ralston Family Farms prize package including 3 of my favorite rice varieties and a rice cooker to make meal prep a breeze!
Enter HERE! 

Decking The Halls With Holly Chapple

Every year I pick a Christmas decorating theme, drawing inspiration from everyday items or materials from the garden. This year’s theme is completely nature inspired, and I am thrilled that Holly Chapple is bringing the ‘Holly’ to Moss Mountain Farm! If you have never been to Moss Mountain Farm during the holiday season, this is the year to make the trip! I can’t wait to collaborate with Holly and I know the decor will be more spectacular than ever!

 

“Decorating for the holidays is one of my absolute favorite times to design. Perhaps being born on Christmas Eve has something to do with my love of seasonal decor. It’s also why my parents named me Holly. So it looks like we have a date with a horse named Trudy, a chicken temple, a gingerbread house and a fabulous designer, landscape architect, author and tv personality named P. Allen Smith!” – Holly Chapple

A longtime resident of Loudoun County Virginia, Holly is a highly recognized and sought after floral designer whose work has been published in countless prestigious publications and top industry blogs. With over 25 years of successful business experience behind her, Holly now serves as a teacher, speaker and mentor for other professionals in the wedding industry. She currently sits on a trend report board with industry leaders, owns and operates Hope Flower Farm.

 

 

**Holly will NOT be present at 2018 holiday tours, but her designs will be on display for guests to enjoy.

 

 

 

2018 Arkansas Cornbread Festival Preview

Executive Pastry Chef at Cathead’s Diner, Kelli Marks, and I had the pleasure of spending a little time with Ansley Watson to talk about The Arkansas Cornbread Festival on Good Afternoon Arkansas yesterday! I am sure you can guess without watching what the video below is about… it’s cornbread!

The Arkansas Cornbread Festival is this Saturday, October 27, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Little Rock on S. Main Street in SoMa. It’s a free event for all ages, however a Cornbread Tasting Ticket is $8 before the festival and $10 at the festival. This allows you to taste all the cornbread within the competition.

For more information on the event you can visit the KATV website or the official Arkansas Cornbread Festival website!


Video courtesy of KATV Little Rock.

Top Five Must See List for Arkansas This Fall

It’s impossible not to love fall in Arkansas. After the summer heat dissipates, we’re rewarded with pleasant weather and a changing of the leaves that’s not to be missed. Fall is one of my favorite times of year to get out and explore the great destinations Arkansas has to offer. Here are 5 of my favorite things to do around The Natural State this fall.

1. Arkansas Cornbread Festival – Who wouldn’t travel to sample the best cornbread in the state? I know I would! Luckily for me, SoMa Little Rock is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the farm! I look forward to this event every year and bonding with the community over cornbread… it’s a southern tradition! This year, the festival happens on Saturday, October 27 from 11a-4p.

Photos courtesy of https://www.arkansascornbreadfestival.com/

2. Crystal Bridges Museum – Crystal Bridges will make my list any time of year! It’s such an inspiring place, celebrating American art and culture. This fall, experience works of art by important Native American artists from the 1950s to today, enriching our understanding of American art.

3. Mount Magazine Scenic Byway – There’s nothing like hitting the open road just to enjoy the scenery. This 28-mile drive stretches between Havana, Arkansas and Paris, Arkansas. On this beautiful trek, you will experience Mount Magazine, which is the highest peak in Arkansas at 2,753 feet. When the trees are showing off their gorgeous fall foliage, the views of the mountains, valleys, and waterways just can’t be beat!

4. Johnny Cash Heritage Festival – Dyess, the boyhood home of Johnny Cash, will host their annual 3-day festival honoring the Arkansas legend and the programs that shaped his childhood. The event includes regional music, public presentations, food and craft vendors, demonstrations, and tours. This year’s closing concert, from noon to 5p.m. on Saturday October 20, will include a tribute to the 1968 Johnny Cash Homecoming Show. Hosted by producer/performer John Carter Cash, the performance will feature award-winning singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson and Grammy record-holder Alison Krauss, along with Ana Cristina Cash, Suzanne Cox, Heather Berry Mabe, Ira Dean, and others.

5. Battle of Prairie Grove Reenactment – This December, Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park will commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Prairie Grove, fought on December 7, 1862. This battle saw about 22,000 soldiers fighting most of the day, with about 2,700 killed, wounded, or missing. During the weekend there will be many activities to take part in, including tours through the Union, Confederate, and civilian camps, along with living history programs.

If none of these events sparks your interest, there is much more to experience this fall in The Natural State. To explore other travel destinations in Arkansas, visit www.arkansas.com.

 

Hiring a Landscape Designer

We’ve been in our new house for about a year and I’m ready to start on the garden. We’ve got a blank slate so it is going to be a pretty big job. I received a design from the architecture firm that drew up the house, but am looking for a company to install it. Do you have any tips that will help me make a good choice?

Whether you are establishing a new flowerbed, transplanting a shrub or installing a detailed garden plan the person you choose to handle the job can make or break the results. A mistake may not be noticeable until weeks or months later so it is important to be confident in the help you receive from the start.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you look for someone to help you in the garden.

  • Write out exactly what you want the landscape professional to do.
  • Check with local utility companies to make sure there are no electric, gas or telephone lines running underground in the area.
  • Clearly mark the area you want prepared.
  • If sod, rocks or debris are to be removed, give instructions if you want those items hauled away.
  • Independently investigate what soil amendments your garden requires.

The landscape professional/designer you hire should be:

  • Insured and properly bonded.
  • Properly licensed for landscape maintenance work.
  • Willing to furnish you several current and past references with similar projects.
  • Knowledgeable about soil preparation and horticulture.

Before you finalize the deal:

  • Negotiate a clear, detailed agreement in writing. Do not accept verbal agreements.
  • If a contract is involved read it over carefully. Understand its terms and conditions including payment schedule and guarantees on plants. Ensure all documents are correctly signed and dated by involved parties.
  • Verify licenses and check with your state’s Contractors Board and the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the contractors.
  • Secure payment and performance bonds from the landscape professional.

After the project is complete:

  • Inspect the work to make sure it was done to specifications.
  • Schedule a walk through/review with the landscape professional to go over any care instructions or discuss potential problems.
    I encourage you to check out the P. Allen Smith & Associates website!