Farmer Bill’s Blog

March 31, 2015

Two week old pepper seedling ready for mycorrhizae. It is important for the fungi to attach to the roots where they will colonize on the roots as the roots develop.

Two week old pepper seedling ready for mycorrhizae. It is important for the fungi to attach to the roots where they will colonize on the roots as the roots develop.

At this time of the year, there is always excitement for the new season and a bit of anxiety as I wait for the seeds to pop through the soil. When I see the new sprouts poking their heads from the soil and then reaching for the new light as the seedlings begin their journey to feeding many folks throughout the season, my excitement swells.
This year brings new excitement in trying a new product with most of my veggies, except the brassica family, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts etc, and beets. It is a fungi called mycorrhizae. The fungi is most effective when the seed roots touch the fungi and it colonizes on the roots. The research shows that yields will increase, better nutrient uptake, more developed roots, handles stress better i.e. not enough water. Before starting seeds where the fungi is effective, I sprinkle some in each planting hole so there is great contact. So far, I have used it with onions and lettuce. When I transplanted tomatoes into larger containers,they received a sprinkle as well. Peppers will receive their dose later this week when I transplant them into larger cells. The beauty of using mycorrhizae is that one cannot use to much and the cost seems very reasonable for the increased yields anticipated. I will do some experimenting with some tomato plants and potatoes to see if there is a difference this season.
Pretty sure this will be a late planting season again this year, hear in Walden as several feet of snow remain. Last year the peas weren’t planted until May 6 and was only able to get one planting in due to the lateness. In 2013, their was very little snow late and peas were planted pretty early on April 23. I am just happy to harvest the veggies that grow here at the farm whenever they are harvested.

March 15, 2015

Here is the starting mix I use

Here is the starting mix I use

Soil is the life of the farm as far as starting the seeds and having them get a great start. Strong seedling will fight disease better, grow better, transplant with less shock and yield better. We know what better nutrition does for our bodies, soil is the same for our farm.
Like many other farmers that I know, we use starting mix from Vermont Compost in Montpelier. The mix is easy to work with, holds moisture well, has a great balance of nutrients and will keep the seedlings looking great until they are transplanted. There are many challenges starting seeds now, with snow still on the ground, bright sunny skies and below freezing temperatures during the day. Venting the greenhouse so the seedlings don’t fry from the heat is my biggest concern. As always during the season, I listen to the weather in the morning and often times make plans based on the weather if I need to leave the farm. The seedlings can get pretty stressed if the temps get above 90 in the greenhouse.
Last Monday we planted 30,000 onion seeds, two to a hole, in trays. I look forward to their emergence within the next several days. The sight of young green seedlings poking up from the soil still excites me and is a bit of relief. In spite of years of experience, it is still hard for me to think about harvesting these onions in mid-August with the way the weather is now and all of the snow we still have on the ground. However, I know spring is on her way as the daylight lengthens, and soon the temperature will warm again above freezing. We all know here in the Kingdom that the weather can change many times throughout the day.

February 24, 2015

Not quite what the farm looks like now!

Not quite what the farm looks like now!

Sunday afternoon Ellen and I stepped out our door and started our x-ski on our long loop around the farm. Most of the trail goes through the woods and fields, but there is a short run along the snowmobile trail. We skied through the three acre field and then into the mixed woods of maple, birch, spruce and hemlock. Taking our time skiing and looking around and listening is one of my favorite parts of skiing , whether it is in the woods or the fields. The snow was still laden on the trees creating beautiful sculptures, now of which looked like vegetables. The stillness was magical, the air crisp, the snow so pristine with many snowshoe hare tracks easily recognized. As we entered our young sugarbush and last climb through the woods and before entering the north facing field, we stopped to listen and watch two hairy woodpeckers searching for food with their beaks creating music and walking up the trees. As with farming there is so much to learn through observation and creating an environment that diversity of vegetables will thrive in. Woodpeckers are the same way. They thrive in hardwoods both live and dead and a bit of openness. Though the weather has been cold and the snow is wonderful, I am in no rush for the cold and snow to go away. I know what is ahead and I enjoy the sounds and silence of the woods and fields.

February 15, 2015


Tomorrow is the beginning of the “new” season. It is tomato starting day. Big Beef, a hybrid tomato, has been my standard tomato for twenty years of growing in greenhouses. I like the size, taste and color of the tomatoes and the disease resistance for greenhouse conditions is great in most years. The 250 plants will be transplanted the third week of April, assuming that the soil temps have warmed enough and by early August we all will be enjoying this delectable delight through September.

June 18, 2014

tomato greenhouse


As I walk the fields and see how the fields are growing, I am reminded how important luck plays in farming. The luck I talk about is the weather. Several weeks ago after losing all of my cucumbers and peppers to the hot dry weather, it finally rained and much of the recently transplanted crops were saved. Since then the weather has been sunny and warm, I have replaced many of the dead plants with plants grown by other farmers, and all the veggies have taken off. Planting of seed and transplanting of veggies was later than in past years and the harvest time will be a week or so later than in the past. Chard and kale are just about ready to harvest, but broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage won’t be harvested until early July. The blueberries had a hard winter and look to be about 75% of last year’s fair crop, but they are wonderful to eat no matter what the quantity is. Tomatoes in the heated greenhouse are a bit later than past year’s as well due to the cold ground in the greenhouse and will be ready in early August.
Tomorrow is the first day of the CSA and with any first day there is much to organize and get ready for. The new interns this year, Liv, Dwight, Karen and Katy are working hard and learning the system here on the farm to make the harvesting, packing and shipping of the boxes to everyone as smooth as can be.
The big news on the farm is the new cooler which has been built. The cooler was turned on Monday, just in time for the harvesting of this week’s veggies for market and the CSA. The cooler will add to efficiency with doors from the wash and shipping area. The cooler is larger and is well lit so we can see better. The larger size will allow the farm to have larger and better storage into the winter for root crops. The old cooler was an old fertilizer shed measuring 5×17 and the new size is 12×20 and is well insulated. The new cooler will add to our efficiency at the farm.
The fields are packed with lots of veggies and soon the harvest time will begin in earnest.

May 11, 2014
One of my favorite times of the planting season is seeing the heated greenhouse planted with “big beef” tomatoes and trellised. This is the beginning of their 7 week journey of growing, being suckered and then producing my favorite food of the season. One of the ways my days are fulfilled through the summer months is walking through the greenhouse, finding a ripe tomato, taking out my knife and coring, eating and then wiping the juice, which has dripped down my beard, with my hand or arm and continuing my day until my next venture into the greenhouse. As far as my being a tomato snob, it is very true. As the season goes along and the other varieties of tomatoes are planted in another greenhouse in late may, the crew and I always do a taste test. The other greenhouse will be filled mostly with heirloom tomatoes, with varieties such as Paul Robeson, our favorite tasting tomato on the farm, pineapple, the most beautiful, a yellowish-orange tomato with red variegation throughout the center,and numerous other unique tasting tomatoes.
The crew this year, Katy, Karen, Dwight and Liv composted, fertilized, planted and set up the drip irrigation system for what I consider, the best taste of summer!
With the soil temperature warming, drying fields and sunshine peeking through, the crew planted our onions, brussels sprouts, kale, chard and the first planting of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The garlic barely survived the deep freezing of the winter, with many of the gloves pushed to the surface of the soil and killed, but most of the garlic did survive.
With the drying fields, I finally planted peas, spinach, beets, carrots and radishes. With the late planting of peas, there will only be one planting of peas this spring instead of two.

April 29, 2014
NOFA-VT(Northeast Organic Farm Assoc) is sponsoring a CSA farm day on Sunday, May 4 from 1-4pm throughout the state. Harvest Hill is participating. So if you wonder what happens behind the scenes at Harvest Hill, interested in how the farms workplace or family CSA work stop by for a visit at the farm in Walden.Call, write or google for directions.

April 27, 2014

Cover cropping is very important for the soil. I plant oats and winter rye in the fall to add organic matter and to hold nutrients through the winter. Oats, pictured above winter kills with the freeze of winter and can be turned into the soil in early spring. I use oats where I plant my first crops, lettuce, spinach, radishes and peas.

April 2, 2014

The sun was so hot yesterday that  some of the tender seedlings wilted in the heat, before I watered and cooled down the greenhouse. The lack of sun has been a blessing as the seedlings are growing slowly, which is good, since there still is so much snow on the ground. Unless there is a dramatic amount of rain and warm weather, it is hard to imagine getting onto the fields before May.

March 17, 2014

Greenhouse filling up with flats of kale, broccoli, chard, cauliflower and cabbage.

Greenhouse filling up with flats of brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, chard, cauliflower and cabbage.

Onion seedlings breaking through the soil

Onion seedlings breaking through the soil

Today was a major seeding day which means the start of the heating season in the seedling greenhouse.  The propane was fired up and there are now thousands of seeds waiting to grow. What always amazes me is that some of the crops I start in March, such as brussels sprouts, won’t be harvested until almost the end of the season, not until after several frosts in late September or October. We planted 1500 brussels sprout seeds, as well as kale, chard, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. We will continue to start seedlings for many of these crops, such as the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, on a regular basis over the next few months in order to be able to harvest them over a 4 month period during the summer and fall.

The onions began to germinate and they were also moved into the greenhouse for that wonderful sun to help them on their way to being planted when the snow hopefully leaves by early May. Could this be the year that there is still snow on the ground in late April which will prevent field preparation work? I plan my first plantings for the first week of  May so I am hopeful that the fields will be ready.

March 10, 2014


Today is the continuation of planting 15,000 onion seeds, all of which will be transplanted into the field in early May if the snow is gone by then. Karen, one of this season’s interns, will be helping me today with this daunting task.  Pepper seeds will also be started today and transplanted in late May to one of the hoop houses, which is not heated. Growing peppers in a greenhouse will allow them to fully ripen to red. I have had good success in past years with the ripening of peppers and I am designating most of one greenhouse to peppers this year. Ginger will be a new crop for me this year. It will be grown in the heated greenhouse with tomatoes. I am excited to see how ginger grows here in the Kingdom. It is a tropical plant, so it must be grown in the greenhouse. Ginger pieces are very slow to root and must be kept at 70-80 degrees to promote root and sprout growth before they are transplanted into the ground. At his time of the year I start peppers and tomatoes and keep them in my boiler room where it is very warm. Ginger also will grow there for two months before transplanting.

March 5, 2014

Here is a flat of 300 tomato seedlings ready to be transplanted

happy seedlings

Gently transplanting tomatoes


I decided to try growing ginger for the first time – here it is starting to root in preparation for transplanting into the greenhouse in late May.



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