With Dan Schantz Greenhouse and Cut Flower Outlet closing at the end of 2023, many gardeners in the Lehigh Valley are feeling the loss of another family owned farm and local business. They are also wondering where they will buy their garden plants for their own vegetable and flower gardens. With many small, local nurseries and greenhouses in the area, it is likely that they will be able to absorb the need and consider the uptick in sales as a blessing.
But there is a lot of trust built with a knowing where you will get the plants that will provide food for your family. You want your purchase to be right for your growing conditions and your needs.
After relying on the expertise of the local, family-owned farm and greenhouse “empire” that Dan Schantz created, smaller farms and nurseries will have to prove that they have the knowledge and the customer service that will have gardeners returning to them year after year.
Willow Haven Farm already has a loyal base of gardeners that love to plant the same varieties of vegetables and flowers that we are growing for our Market Box CSA farm members.
“It’s time to plant more seedlings this year for the gardeners who will be looking for new places to buy their garden transplants.” Farmer Reuben confided to me when we read the article in the Morning Call about Dan Schantz greenhouse closing.
Let me tell you about one gardening family and how they learned they were planting the wrong cabbages.
The Wrong Cabbages
Phillip showed up at our farm expecting to fill up his car with vegetable plants for his home garden. He has a 15 x 15 plot in his yard that he, his wife and children take care of all summer.
‘The eggplant was AMAZING last year.” they told us.
Their children love going to the garden to help but also to snack on cherry tomatoes, a leaf a lettuce or a whole cucumber right off the vine.
Talking to farmer Reuben as they browse the green house helps them choose the plants that meet their expectations.
“You know, the cabbage that you sold me last year didn’t last when I tried to store them in my basement in the fall. Why not? I have this problem every year.”
Philip was planting the wrong kind of cabbage. He didn’t know the difference between “spring” cabbage and “fall” cabbage.
He comes with a list of how many vegetable plants he wants each year because he has calculated how much each will produce and what he needs for his family for the year. He always wants eggplant, cucumbers, cabbage, kale, zucchini and tomatoes.
But he never told us until this year that he wants to harvest his cabbage and store it for later months. The cabbage plants we grow in May and June are for planting in spring and harvesting in July. They are fast growing, favorful cabbage for coleslaw, summer salads and eating fresh. Sure… they will last for weeks in your refrigerator but not for months.
Fall storage cabbage is a different crop that we begin planting in our seed trays in early June, plant out in the field in July, to be harvested through September and October.
“You can’t buy fall cabbage plants from us right now.” I told him. “We haven’t even started planting the seeds.” We told him he’d have to come back in a month to get them when they are ready.
Gardening with a Farmer to Guide You
Learning from Farmer Reuben each time he comes to the farm is a great experience for Phillip and his family. As we plant new varieties of vegetables in our fields for our Market Box CSA members, we share that knowledge and experience with those who buy seeds, translplants and even fully grown, ready to eat vegetables.
You see, even experienced gardeners can learn new ideas, techniques and mistakes to avoid from an experienced organic farmer like Reuben DeMaster.
Growing a garden to feed your family for the year is a different goal than growing a variety of vegetables for a CSA membership of 500 households and Reuben knows what concepts will transfer to your smaller, family-sized garden.
It’s important to know your goals for your garden.
If you are just starting out, you probably shouldn’t try to grow enough for a whole year.
Farmer Reuben shares a wealth of information and recommendations on what to grow when you are starting as a beginner.
Are your starting a garden to save money?
Farmer Reuben warns against this idea for beginner gardeners. It’s not that you gardening doesn’t ever save money but it’s not a quick, solution to your increase food costs. The upfront investment of tools, soil, seeds, and other things you don’t even know you’ll need will quickly dwarf any savings. Add to that the risks of failures due to your inexperience, it’s easy to become discouraged.
Gardening for Your Family IS a Sustainable & Productive Choice
If gardening was a lose – lose experience, we wouldn’t be recommending it.
No, on the contrary. We want you to start a garden and we want you to be successful.
We want experienced gardeners to expand their knowledge, produce more of their own food and try new varieties to experience more flavors and increased health benefits.
Do you already have an established garden? Farmer Reuben can help you solve problems, suggest remedies for diseases you experience, and help you evaluate what your soil needs.
Are you thinking of starting a garden? You’ll need to know information about your soil before you start planting. Farmer Reuben can guide you through the decisions you need to make in order to start the right size garden, in the right location, for the right reasons and an outcome that will empower you to grow even more food the next season.
My Favorite Farm Customers
I used to make this joke by saying that my favorite farm customers were the ones who buy seed packets from us in the winter to start their own seeds, transplants in the spring to plant in their garden and food from us all year long because they didn’t quite get the hang of each step.
But the reality is that we can support you in each step of your journey to eating local and seasonal with all the benefits that it brings you.
Experience the joy of starting your own seeds, even if it’s only one thing. You can have early success with growing your own lettuce for your first spring salads.
Maximize the growing power of your garden starts by planning to purchase ready to plant tomatoes varieties that are difficult to time just right with the perfect conditions from your home windowsill.
Increase the variety of your organic food choices when you supplement your garden with veggies that we grow for you and you may not want to be overloaded with from your own garden. Do you want zucchini coming “out of your ears” from a giant plant that takes over half your yard? Or maybe you want to maximize that space with other herbs, vegetables or even flowers. Instead, you can choose to receive summer squash and zucchini in your Market Box or from our Farm Store when you want it.
We even grow specialty vegetables like kohlrabi, fennel, watermelon radish and celariac that you might want to have for a few recipes but not have to figure out what to do with baskets of them when they all are ready in your garden at the same time. So get these from us instead, as a way of eating more vegetables and not getting bored with what’s in season.
Join Farmer Reuben’s Organic Gardening Workshop Day
Are you getting overwhelmed with all the choices?
Getting excited to plan your garden for this year?
We can help!
Imagine how the expertise of an organic farmer will jump start your garden this year!
Farmer Reuben is teaching an Organic Gardening Workshop Day on Saturday January, 20 from 10 am – 3 pm. This is an expanded version of his presentation in February 2023 for the Harvest of Wisdom Workshop Day.
About the Workshop Day
Our popular workshop day formats focus on high value, in depth presentations, hands – on activities, and take aways to help you be successful at home. The morning & afternoon sessions can be attended separately or as a full day event.
We’ll have seeds and supplies available for purchase on January 20th, even if you can’t attend the workshops.
You’ll also receive first notice when our own garden transplants will be ready for you planting in your own garden. Our farm members can received them in their Market Boxes when they customize their orders online. All others can purchase from our plant tables in front of our Farm Store as available in April, May and June.
Farm Location & Lunch
The farm location is an ideal place to focus on building your skills to help you take another step in living a sustainable life. Participants enjoy camaraderie and connection as you learn and converse together, asking questions and sharing experiences. Lunch on the farm is available by making purchases in our farm store or choosing from our simple and nutritious, “farm-made” menu of the day.
How to Plan Your Organic Garden for Success
Morning Workshop (10 AM – 12 PM)
Kickstart your day with Farmer Reuben’s expert guidance on planning an organic garden that thrives. From selecting the right crops to understanding soil health, this workshop covers the essential elements for a successful harvest. Reuben will share insights on organic practices, crop rotation, and companion planting, empowering you to create a sustainable and flourishing garden space. A soil test will be provided because every garden needs to be tested and we know you’ll be tempted to skip this step.
Seed Starting Workshop – All You Need to Get Started
Afternoon Workshop (1 PM – 3 PM)
In the afternoon session, delve into the art of starting your own seeds with Farmer Reuben’s hands-on workshop. Learn the benefits of early harvests, diverse crop varieties, and how to foster robust, healthy seedlings. From container selection to optimal growing mediums, Reuben will equip you with the essentials to kickstart your seed starting journey. We’ll touch on how to use this knowledge to sprout your own edible seeds all year round and you’ll go home with a tray of seeds that you planted – ready to thrive at your own home.
Additional packets of organic seed will be displayed for sale as well as bags of organic potting soil, seed trays and transplant trays.
Farmer Reuben’s Final Thoughts
I’ve already purchased seeds and supplies and made plans for this growing season. Now is the time I have a the freedom to share some of my knowledge and experience with you. For me the growing season comes fast and already seems to be around the corner. I’d love to help you get a great start on your garden this year before I get too busy with my own vegetable fields.
Take advantage of this Workshop Day and tell your gardening and homesteading friends about it.
Join us for a day of practical learning, community building, and the promise of a successful organic garden.
Secure your spot now because seats are limited!
We support your desire to have a good, healthy way of life and food on your table that supports that goal.
We’ll keep farming for you!
Reuben and Tessa DeMaster
Willow Haven Farm