When you think about places to get fresh food, the farmers market is probably first to your mind, and hopefully the same is true when you think about buying plant starts.

Kellie Sebastian.jpg

Kellie Sebastian

Right now we have tons of herbs, and if you’ve ever wanted to start a garden but feel overwhelmed, a small herb garden is a great place to begin. It’s as easy as finding, or repurposing, a container (that’s at least 8 inches deep), adding soil for vegetable gardening and plugging in your plant babies.

We could probably write an entire article on this subject, but one of your best sources of knowledge is the farmer who planted the seed. This is always one crucial advantage the market has over big-box stores — direct communication with the person who grew it. 

I reached out to them this week to see what kinds of plants they plan to sell during spring market season (beginning April 24), beyond the herbs and broccoli we have right now. Look for tomato, eggplant, hot and regular peppers, tomatillo, kale, broccoli and elderberry plant starts, just to name a few.

We will also have various flowers, including, but not limited to, petunias, calibrachoa, marigolds, coleus, gerbera daisy, lantana, geraniums, impatiens and daylilies. We will also have some exotic herbs like astragalus (Huang-qi), valerian, ashwagandha, echinacea, st. johns wort, hyssop, soloman’s seal and more.

From what I understand there’s no such thing as a farmer or gardener who knows everything. There’s just so much to understand about so many different aspects of growing, from the soil and fertilizer options to when to plant or how far apart to space things, what grows well together and what doesn’t, till or no till methods, etc. It can be overwhelming. 

Here are a few tips for beginners like me. Maggie Dungan with Salad Days farm suggests that you “bury your tomato stems as deep as possible when planting, as they will grow roots off the stem and develop an extensive root system.” Cheryl Snow with Bluebird Hill recommends planting “when it’s overcast to reduce the stress on new plants.”

Laura Greenfield with Taproot Nursery encourages: “If you are limited on yard/land space, try container gardening. Many herbs and vegetables can be grown well and hardy in a pot. Don’t limit yourself!”

And, “Start from the ground up, as quality plants are grown from quality soil! Make your own compost out of kitchen scraps, and check in with your local cooperative extension office to see if they offer soil testing. Not all soil amendments are pricey, you can, for instance, add coffee grounds if your nitrogen levels are low,” our own Chelsea Barbour of High Five Farm reminds.

I asked the same farmers about their favorite plants to grow. We had a couple votes for hot peppers, because evidently it's fun to watch them change colors and it’s always entertaining to eat them.

Another chose lantana because it blooms all summer long, is drought tolerant and is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds. And one farmer favors herbs because you can easily grow, harvest and make them into teas (chamomile, tulsi, lemon balm and more).

When we talked about why they love growing things, all of them spoke to the magic of seeing tiny seeds emerge, bearing fruit and leaves that feed us, flowers that delight the eyes, and shelter, shade and food for the rest of the ecosystem. Chelsea described the process as “conducting a symphony of life itself."

No matter how big or small your gardening aspirations are, we hope you’re able to get your hands in some dirt this summer using our plant starts and our growers to help guide you along the way. 

And remember, our first Saturday market of the regular season is April 24 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. We begin Tuesday markets, with the same hours, on May 4. Curbside delivery starts April 22 for pre-orders placed through local food marketplace, https://fcmarket.localfoodmarketplace.com/. We'll see you at our final “winter market” April 17 from 10-11:30 a.m. before we really kick things into high gear. 

Aunt Leigh’s Salad

Dressing

1 C canola or canola/ olive oil blend

1/2 C apple cider vinegar

1/3 C  sugar or honey

1 TBS dijon mustard

1 shallot minced

1 TBS celery seed

Salt and pepper to taste

Throw all the ingredients in a sealable container, close the lid and shake to combine. Set aside your dressing and keep up to 7 days refrigerated. 

Salad

Spinach, kale or salad mix (whatever is available at the market)

Mandrin oranges

Feta

Slivered almonds

Artichoke hearts

Fill your bowl with greens and add dressing appropriate for the salad you’re making. The dressing will make enough for you to serve a very large family size salad or to use as meal prep for the week like I'm doing. Add fruit, cheese, nuts and artichokes (I mentioned specifics in the recipe, but have fun and use your favorites here). To be honest, she adds olives too, but no matter how many times I try them I still don’t like them. Make it your own, experiment, and enjoy!

Kellie Sebastian is the marketing manager for the Franklin County Farmers Market. She can be reached at local@franklincountyfarmersmarket.org

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