Tag Archives: Gardening

Tomato Power

Tomato Plants


06/27/14 – These beauties are Brandywine heirloom variety plants, about 8 weeks old and loving these warm nights we’ve been having lately. The distinctive leaves are a lot like a potato plant. Brandywines are a large tomato, some as large a 1 1/2 lbs each. Great slicing tomato for sandwiches, or if you need an organic doorstop.

Give them another 5 or 6 weeks and we should have some on the farm table for sale. Go tomato power!

Mini Greenhouse Is Providing Big Benefits

Broccoli PlantsWell Worth The Effort

For years we have started our seedlings on the porch, with relative success. It provides the plants with adequate protection from frost until we can put those tender seedlings into warm and cozy garden beds come the end of May. Of course, we’d love to have a big old hoop house like the pros use, but it’s hard to justify the high cost to get one started and keep it running unless you make your living that way. We’re not there yet. This is still mostly a wonderful hobby of ours.

This year though, we built a mini greenhouse for the seedlings to live in and what a difference! We still sprout them on the porch, on heat mats, but then they went in the greenhouse. The plants get a lot more direct sunlight throughout the day, resulting in the rich green color and sturdy, stalky plants pictured above.

This little structure was very inexpensive to build. Yeah, It’s ugly, but it’s cheap and it gets the job done.

Miniature GreenhouseI didn’t save receipts, but I’d estimate we didn’t spend 100 dollars to build this. There’s no artificial heat source and no lights. So far, there’s been no need to heat it. All of the lumber came from scrap materials left over from other farm projects, which you could probably get from your local landfill’s demolition dumpster. It’s 10′ wide x 5′ deep x 7′ tall and covered with 6 mill plastic. The roof is made of transparent corrugated plastic paneling from the building center, probably the most expensive component, but important to help it last through many years of harsh New Hampshire winters. We put about 12 hours of work into it over a weekend.

The real benefits are that we can keep our plants in one place and they get a lot more direct sun. We don’t have to move them outside during the day to harden them off (get them used to sunlight and wind) and then in at night to protect from them from frost. The greenhouse warms up within minutes when the sun hits it in the morning, so the plants begin their growing day sooner. At night, we’ve had temps down below freezing, and it’s gotten down to 32F inside, but because the plants don’t experience the dew and the wind with the greenhouse closed up, the plants are not subject to frost, even at freezing temps.

We’re no using it for our heat loving plants – for peppers and tomatoes we would have to heat it at night. Given the size of the greenhouse, we could probably achieve temps of 80F easily with a single infrared heat lamp. I might just build a second one with double wall plastic to help insulate it, for use with heat-loving plants, but for now, this is working great for our brassicas, our flowers, our alliums, leafy greens, etc.

Seedlings in Greenhouse



Crops are Loving the Warm Nights and Warmer Days of Summer


It’s funny, we talk to people who drive by all the time and they say: “wow, I didn’t know you grew so much there.” There’s a lot going on out back that can’t be seen tooling by at 6o MPH…

ant on peonie flower

When you slow down and look, there’s an amazing menagerie of life happening all around us.

wide row raised bed gardening

Our daughter Christie took these amazing pictures on her last visit to the farm and we sent her home with a mess of Kale, herbs and such.

bean stalks

She’s got a unique perspective and helps us appreciate even more the bounty that comes from the earth each summer.

Which reminds me.. I better go pick snap peas before they get past me again!

Piper says “Woof!” (translation: “pat me please?”)



Gardening Tips for the Lakes Region of New Hampshire

tomato seedlings

Gardening in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire is trickier than many parts of the country. Here’s some tips we employ at Mercy Hill Farm. These heirloom tomato seedlings started life “under the lights” about two weeks back. They will need to be coddled in a cold frame to protect them from frost until mid to late May.

seedling starting table

Making use of the heat from the lights, we’re sprouting the next round of seedlings on top, right above the lights. We like to add to the soil some flowers and herbs that will grace the beds along with the vegetables we grow. This attracts many beneficial insects and birds, keeps the bad insects away from our food and makes the garden much more appealing to the eye. After all, we’re not just about growing eats.

planting lettuce among the peas

Meanwhile, some frost tolerant things like butter head lettuce seedlings are ready to take their place in the rich soil of our companion planting beds. Unlike traditional gardening, companion planting mixes up varieties of plants in the same bed. There are many symbiotic benefits that companion plants get from growing with other varieties. Here we put the head lettuce right down the middle between two rows of peas. Then we’ll plant flowers and herbs here and there in the bed as well. By the time the peas get big enough to shade the lettuce, the lettuce will be ready to harvest.

onions wintering over

The yellow onions we planted last summer awoke from their winter slumber and started reaching for the sun. A little weeding and a top dressing of compost and they will be a great addition to our summer harvest this year.

brocolli and kale growing in deep dug raised beds

Growing plants love our deep-dug, wide-row, raised beds. Because we don’t till them or walk on them the soil is fluffy and preserves the micro-life and nutrients below. The soil in our garden is so soft you can stick your hand down into it up to your wrist. Tap roots can go deep to grab more nutrients/water and weeds pull up real easy because the soil is hardly compacted at all.

Brocolli seedlings

What a great way to spend part of our Easter Weekend; digging into the rich soil, tucking new seedlings into their beds! In a month or so, we will have a nice variety of garden fresh vegetables to eat and to share.

Got a gardening question, comment or another great tip? email Mercy Hill Farm. We’d love to hear from you!

Sure Signs of Spring at Mercy Hill Farm

The month of March brings with it dustings of snow, like this one last Thursday, but they quickly melt away.

Meanwhile, the Daffodils are pushing up through the mulch,

Brocolli, Kale, Collards, Lettuce and Onions are sprouting indoors.

A thick layer of newspaper weighed down with fresh cut firewood will keep the growing beds free of weeds for another month until the soil temperature gets comfortable enough for our seedlings.

The girls even came out for a spring stroll, a scratch and some foraging.

and then tonight after dark – BONFIRE baby! Woohoo!