Farmer Fred's Greenhouse

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I should be gardening.....

This thought is on the mind of more than one gardener this weekend following three gorgeous days of sunshine last week.

But, as luck would have it, Mother Nature played a cruel trick on all of us gardening types by moving the sun out -- and the stormclouds in -- just as many of us were ending our workweek. I emerged from my office Friday evening hoping for a glimpse of the sunshine that I'd been hearing about - only to be greeted by a stiff, cool, breeze.


So, with weekend projects on hold, I thought I'd take the time to update you on the status of plants currently growing in the greehouse that belongs to famous Sacramento gardener and radio broadcasting legend, Fred Hoffman, aka "Farmer Fred."

Fred and I first met years ago when I was still in the business of broadcast radio news. He would later work alongside my wife, Venus, another former reporter at NewsTalk 1530, KFBK (seems all Sacramentans are "former" KFBK employees).

Fred, as you might be able to guess, has served as my "mentor" through the years. If I sometimes ignore his good advice, I usually wind up regretting it for one reason or another (there's a method to his madness). I built my first, raised, gardening bed at his urging. And, I'll take credit where credit is due, I introduced Fred to that wide, wonderful world that is heirloom tomatoes.

He's still not a big fan of the Green Zebra -- but that's another story for another day.

Fred has a couple of things going for him -- first and foremost -- his wonderful wife. But he also wisely invested in some land years ago when land could be purchased cheaply. And he's got a nice little setup that would make most gardeners salivate. Lord knows, I have.

Fred has also been nice enough to start a lot of my plants in the previous year of two, courtesy of his greenhouse. All of these plants aren't for me, of course. Fred does starts for a lot of neighbors, friends and fans of the show. And he's just got a wonderful system -- a way of doing things -- that results in garden success. More importantly, he's got a way of doing things on the cheap.

The photos of tomato and pepper plant starters that you see here were taken about a week ago, so these plants are quite a bit larger now. His starters are a little ahead of mine -- but then he got started a week or two earlier than I did too. Still -- there's no denying the benefit of a real greenhouse.

Soon, Fred and I will begin the process of "hardening off" our tomato and pepper plant starters. This is perhaps the most crucial part of starting plants indoors from seed, and the source of frustration for many growers. Venus and I spent months last year growing and nurturing a number of plants from seed, only to lose them in the space of one day after they had been placed outside.

If murdering tomato plants were a criminal offense, I'd be serving a life sentence right now.

It seems hard to believe that these baby plants will soon be delivering a bountiful harvest this summer that will go into a number of delicious and healthy dishes, but they will. They will also contribute to a number of canning efforts involving sauces, salsas, whole tomatoes, pickled peppers and numerous other creations.

Venus and I have come to discover that "canning a harvest" is almost as rewarding as a fresh summer salad.

Every once in a great while, you will hear my voice on Fred's show. And that's usually on the KSTE broadcast, because I'm just not getting down to the studio that early in time for the KFBK show. Sleep is important to me you know.


Carri-The Queen Bee said...

Let me know if you guys ever need help! I'd love to check out Fred's greenhouse sometime to get ideas for possibly building one in our new garden area. When are you and Venus going to get a greenhouse?

Bill Bird said...

Carri -- I love that picture of you and your girl. Positively fab. We just celebrated the birth of a baby boy down the block -- two doors down. Little Cooper came into the world at eight pounds, three ounces on Saturday night. As for the greenhouse, it is a project "yet to be finished." I hope to get it in later this summer, but who knows? Never built one before. We have the room, but not the know how -- at this point. Perhaps I'll recruit someone named Fred...... (which will make him extraordinarily happy -- NOT!).

Carri-The Queen Bee said...

Ah yes, kids are great for photo opportunities :) Congrats on your new addition to the neighborhood! I'm actually starting to plan out the new garden area. I'm torn between leaving a spot to build a greenhouse or utilizing that space to put in another raised bed. I'm leaning towards the planter bed since the greenhouse would be visable from the street and become a big target for teenagers to throw rocks at it.