I registered the name “Magicland” as an assumed name in Michigan in 1976. There were two basic reasons: Much of the soil (over 50%) seemed almost magical to me since stuff seemed to grow so well in it. This was especially obvious when I put in my first fruit trees in 1971–the semi-dwarf apple trees actually have grown too fast, which was good early on but they got too big too fast. Sweet corn also seemed to grow unusually well in much of the soil. The soil, obviously, was one reason why I chose the name. The other reason was that it sounded good! Apparently other people did too. You might be interested in seeing a new YouTube video that was just released a month ago. I just want you to know we had nothing to do with this video or Rainbow Magicland. I have to admit I like the first 20 seconds of the video a lot more than the rest of it!
I’ve been asked a number of times where we get our seeds. We actually purchase our seeds from a number of seed companies. Two of these companies, Rupp Seeds and Seiger Seeds, are seed houses that only want to deal with commercial growers since they have very high minimum order requirements. Another seed house we buy a lot from, Harris Seeds, has two catalogs, Professional and Home Garden. Other places we purchase from are Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Stokes Seeds and they have a single catalog but sell seeds such as beans in small packets as well as 50 pound bags. You might be surprised to learn we also buy from the popular home garden seed company Burpee since they have some varieties that we think very highly of. Keep in mind if you purchase from Burpee they have many deals if you keep a watchful eye. For instance, if you are a sharp shopper you can get free shipping and a good a good healthy discount as well. Unlike many companies, you can use several promo codes to save extra money at Burpee. In addition, to saving more money, Burpee is also on the Ebates list. Right now Ebates will send you 7% on what you spend at Burpee.
Last year we started selling seed, in small packets, at relatively low prices. We can do this since the seed companies often provide huge discounts when you order large quantities. For instance, we can sell 2 ounces of some bean and corn seeds, which is enough for many home gardens, for a buck and still make a fair profit. Stop by our market, which we should have open by mid-April, to see what we have available. We also will have red seed potatoes for sale.
Since I am getting many new people looking at my blog, I would like to fill the newcomers in on where I am and where I am coming from.
The original name for this blog was Tom’s Blog. I am Tom and, so far, have written all the posts for Tom’s Blog, now known as Magicland Farms’ Blog. In the near future I hope to have guest bloggers writing posts for me. I have one lined up already and if you are interested let me know by leaving a comment. To subscribe to this blog Click Subscribe
In addition to running Magicland Farms, where our family grows and sells a huge variety of fruits and vegetable we grow ourselves on our 67 acre farm (4380 S.
Gordon, Fremont, MI 49412) I am the Workshop Editor for Boys’ Quest and Fun For Kidz’ magazines as well as a freelance writer. In addition, I operate an online business selling electronic parts and electronics kits. I also am a movie producer…sort of anyway. I now have 27 videos on two YouTube channels … Magicland Farms and Cool ContraptionGuy
I live on a 360 acre lake and there is another lake just to my west. There are many nice things about living on a lake including the effect the lake has on the surrounding microclimate. During the heat of the summer, there is a cooling effect and on cold, calm and clear winter nights, with the lake completely covered with ice there is also a cooling effect. However, the autumn nights by the lake are measurable warmer than the land just a quarter mile away. So warm in fact that frosts are uncommon before October 20, while away from the lake frost seems to hit on average around the first of October. This allows a long season for tomato and other tender crop harvest AND it is nearly perfect for late grapes to reach their maximum sugar content. The lake also provides warmer spring nights, but this effect isn’t as pronounced as the fall warming simply because the water is warmer in October than in April. Despite this, the few apple trees we have at the lake made it through last years disastrous apple season.
Right now we are raising vegetable plants which we are going to transplant to our farm located to the east of Briar Hill Golf Course across Gordon Avenue. We have around 67 acres and our roadside farm market is located in the southwest part of the farm. Since we are raising the plants at our home on the lake, we don’t have to worry as much about our plants freezing — at least not after all the ice is gone from the lake. Right now there is still ice on the lake and the warming effect is near zero. Very soon, however, the ice will be gone and we then we won’t have to watch the thermometer as much! Of course we still will keep them in our two small unheated greenhouses at least until the end of April, but we won’t have to bring the plants in to our basement nearly every night like we are doing right now.
I recently received an email from a sister-in-law who asked about my views of GMO. This sister-in-law, who has spent many years helping out people in Africa raising food, has a doctor’s degree in agricultural economics from MSU. Her email started me thinking about my own views of GMO and I would like to share them with people who are kind enough to read my blog.
First, I want to sum up my thinking and my position on the matter. In the Plantae Kingdom (plants) but not necessarily in the Animalia Kingdom (animals) it is appropriate to transfer genes from from one organism to another AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE SAME FAMILY! For example, when it comes to Roundup Ready corn, which is resistant to the glyphosate herbicide, GMO is OK. Here, in fact, genes were taken from the same species, which is corn, Zea Mays (Genus: Zea, Species: Mays) and transfered to the same species. I also believe it is OK to transfer between different species and genus, as long as the are in the same family. As an example here of the meaning of species, genus and family let’s look at the tomato and potato. First, they both belong to the same family, which is nightshade (Solanaceae), However, the tomato belongs to the Lycopersicon genus while the potato to the Solanum genus. However, I do believe there are reports of the two crossing naturally, although that is rare. I do know you can graft a tomato plant on to a potato plant. Because of this, I don’t feel there is a problem taking, say the late blight resistant gene from a potato and splicing it into a tomato variety.
Now lets still discuss the potato and what I see is bad GMO.
Potatoes have a big insect problem–the Colorado Potato Beetle. They can devastate a crop if something isn’t done. About 20 years ago Monsanto developed the New Leaf potato which was a GMO since they took a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, also known as Bt, and stuck it into a Russet Burbank potato.(By the way, bacteria are not only in a completely different family, they are in a completely different kingdom, the Eubacteria Kingdom!) This gene produced a protein that worked in some insect’s gut, like the Colorado Potato Beetles, to kill it. It did work and I even tried it out. The problem I discovered was that my tummy didn’t feel good after eating the potatoes–they seemed to just sit there. I wasn’t alone. Michael Pollan who wrote a best selling book “The Botany of Desire” reported similar digestive problems. Well, after a few years, when McDonald stopped buying Bt potatoes, the New Leaf was no longer being bred. Obviously Michael and I weren’t the only ones who reported this.
While they gave up on Bt in potatoes, it is still going big in corn–including sweet corn. I must tell you right off — we don’t use any GMO in any of the fruit or vegetables we grow and sell. However, much of the sweet corn in the market, especially from down south where corn earworm is a huge problem, is Bt corn. Also, Bt field corn is relatively common but since European countries won’t buy it, it hasn’t completely taken over the market. One interesting note among dairy and cattle farmers. It has been reported from some of them that if a Bt field of corn is planted next to a normal field of corn and animals are let loose in them, they won’t touch the Bt corn until all the regular corn is gone!
I know all of this makes the issue of GMO corn more complicated than ever, but if you think about it, it does make sense.
If you drive past our orchard across from Briar Hill Golf Course you will be able to notice that we have been pruning the last month or so. This is a good time to prune apples and pears but is too early to prune peaches since temperatures below 10F are still possible and for some reason newly pruned peaches are more tender to cold than unpruned ones. A better time to prune peaches is from late April through mid May.
This year we are pruning our apples more heavily than normal because we are expecting a snowball bloom since there were no apples last year. By pruning so heavily we are cutting out a lot of flower buds so the tree will have a less chance of being overloaded which means smaller and poorer quality apples. (This doesn’t mean just because an apple is small it isn’t good quality–genetics has a lot to do with that too!)
Orchard Versus Garden Pruning
Not everyone who prunes has the exact same purpose. In general, there are two basic, but separate, objectives. If you are an apple grower your primary objective is to get the maximum amount of good quality fruit that can be cared for and harvested with the least labor. Another trite phrase here would be “more bang for the buck.” If you are a homeowner or a paid landscaper the quantity and quality of the fruit is usually secondary and the primary reason for pruning is to make the tree look nice and make it easy to care for.
One notable difference between orchard and garden pruning is the desired height of the lowest branches. The apple grower wants a tree with low branches starting at two or three feet, for ease of harvesting along with better insect and fungus protection. On the other hand, a homeowner wants to be able to walk up to the trunk of the tree for more lawn space as well as making it convenient for cutting grass. This implies the garden tree should have branches starting at 5–7 feet from the ground.
In addition to the height of the low branch there is also a difference in basic philosophy concerning the maximum height of the tree. Today, apple growers try to keep the tree’s maximum height restricted to 12 feet while those who have landscape value in mind don’t restrict the trees height as much. Other than height, there is little difference in pruning philosophy simply because a well pruned apple tree in an orchard looks better than an unpruned or poorly pruned tree.
Tips on pruning.
It is a no brainer that all dead branches should be removed. Also most, if not all, watersprouts should be removed as well as root sprouts. Cross branches should be removed as well as weak spindly branches. A popular system for pruning most apple trees is the modified central leader system. As its name indicates, this system is a modified type of the central leader system. The central leader system is easy to explain since all you need do is look at a Christmas tree and see one main trunk with the largest branches at the bottom and and the shortest at the top. This is the upside down ice cream cone look. If you are growing super dwarf trees this is the best way to prune them since super dwarfs never get much higher than 10-12 feet. However if you have semi-dwarf or full sized apple trees the modified leader is better. Basically, this done by removing the central leader at a height of between 12 and 20 feet, depending if your aim is to make money growing apples or for the landscape effect.
One other thing to keep in mind. The large bud at the end of a branch, called the terminal bud, produces a hormone (auxin) which keeps buds from forming on the rest of the branch. The result is that the branch just gets longer and longer and side branches don’t develop much. This is bad for both fruit production and landscape use. To stop auxin from developing simply cut the branch back which removes the terminal bud. Of course to grow a central leader you don’t want to cut the terminal bud at the end of the central leader. However, with a modified leader this is done at a height somewhere between 12 and 20 feet.
We aren’t only changing the name from Tom’s Blog to Magicland Farms’ Blog but are changing its focus too!
Why are we changing the name of this blog from Tom’s Blog to Magicland Farms’ Blog? Well I wanted to make the blog more focused and provide not just my thoughts but more helpful information for those who wish to grow their own vegetables and fruit. I plan on ending every blog post with some tips on growing stuff. But first a very short introduction…
As some of you may know, I have been growing and selling fruits and vegetables for over 35 years. Most fruits and vegetables I (and my family) grow are sold right at our Magicland Farms roadside farm market, which is located on the southwest corner of our 65 acre farm. The mailing address of our farm is, 4380 S. Gordon Avenue, Fremont, Michigan.
No doubt the most common question I have been asked between Memorial Day and the 4th of July is “When will the sweet corn be ready?” Last year we ran a contest, which offered a Magicland Farms gift certificate, asking the readers of my blog, to guess the date when we would first be picking corn for sale. Surprisingly, someone actually guessed the exact date–July 9!
While “When will the sweet corn be ready?” is the commonest question early in the season, I actually get more questions during the season about information on growing vegetables and fruit. Because of this I will be changing the focus of this blog as well as increasing the frequency of posts. I will be providing tips that I have learned about growing stuff through the years. I also plan on putting out news on our farm and market as well as agricultural news about what’s going on at farms throughout Michigan. I hope to put out at least two posts a week from now until we start picking sweet corn and then at least one a week from then until around mid September and then two posts a week after that.
Tips: If you are growing your own vegetable plants get your peppers in as soon as possible since they are relatively slow growing. Also, you can start planting your early tomatoes and eggplants, although there is no rush here. If you plan on growing your own sweet onions like Sweet Spanish types, they also should be started right now–Walla Walla (Newaygo Newaygo) sweet onions should have been planted a month ago or they will be small. The 15 flats (10″x20″)of our Newaygo Newaygo onions are already a couple of inches high.
They’re talking about a big snowstorm Thursday and that reminds me that I just recently had a root canal. How come? Because the two have a lot in common. If you have to drive a car during or just after a snowstorm you know it isn’t fun–in fact it is often painful emotionally.
The exact same thing can be said about a root canal.
Root canals cost money and time. Ditto for snowstorms.
But then all snowstorms eventually end. Roads always clear up. And the sun always returns and its bright rays become even brighter as they reflect off the newly fallen, crystalline snow making it whiter than white. Often, when this happens–and it usually does after a snowstorm–I feel it is a taste of heaven. Whatever it is, it is a real mood booster.
In addition I must admit the long term affects of snowstorms are real positive since they are an important source of water– which helps greatly with growing stuff which is one of the things I do.
Positive thoughts though, seldom happen when slipping and sliding on the road. But when the snow stops and the sun comes out suddenly the world looks brighter than before, for one reason it is! After the snow has fallen and roads are in good shape, the beauty of the newly fallen snow and the lasting wonderful affects of the moisture it provides is something that lasts for a while.
What about a root canal? Well, until the mouth heals from the procedure there is discomfort but then in just a day or so instead of suffering with a toothache and a potential infected tooth, the tooth feels fine and the world seems to be a little cheerier place. Also, you don’t ever have to worry about a toothache again–at least in the tooth that had its root fixed–and you still can chew as before. Too bad the snow’s wonderful effects–its cheeriness and the moisture it provides– doesn’t last as long as a root canal!
Yesterday we planted 2000 Walla Walla onion seeds in four 1020 flats. We plan on doing more onions tomorrow and then start our onions and soon after our tomatoes for our high tunnel.
By the way, I looked at the latest weather maps and there is a fair chance we will miss the brunt of the snowstorm. Am I happy about that? If we had two feet of snow on the ground I would have to say yes. But to be honest we have at most 4 inches of snow out there and the way it looks it only has a quarter inch of liquid water in it. In other words, instead of being analogous to a root canal, one can say it looks like it could be more like a temporary filling–won’t hurt much but won’t do much good either!
Its about 19F out and snowing lightly off and on. It doesn’t look much warmer tomorrow with some more snow. So far, February has been colder than normal and the next few days it will stay that way. Despite all of this, it looks like the ground hog’s forecast isn’t way off. The heart of winter will take a mortal wound on February 9. Don’t worry you ice fisherman. The ice should stay around for most of February and maybe into March. Do I expect temperatures in the 60′s with pussy willows and snowdrops in a week or so? I sincerely hope not because that’s the way last year’s fruit wipe out started. However, it looks like a touch milder air is headed this way with no more high temperatures this winter season in the single figures and the salt on the roads should do its job better now. Does this mean no snowstorms? No. No one but God knows about snowstorms and He isn’t telling. Snowstorms can appear right through March and it is still possible we will have a big one, although there is nothing in the offing yet. Keep this in mind. January is normally the coldest month in Michigan which simply means things normally start to warm up starting in February, although some years February is the coldest month. From what’s going on in the atmosphere it looks like while spring isn’t here yet, the bitter cold of winter which can hurt peach flower buds is basically over. I think we are going into a season, let’s call it winspring, that is between winter and spring. Right now we have nearly four inches of light snow in the woods and that can go quickly since there isn’t much water content in it. This worries me for two reasons–lack of moisture and a rather quick warm up when the snow goes and the strengthening sun comes.
Things are really starting to hop out there in the sky—things you might not even have to wait until dark to see…
First off, you may have heard about the Great Comet ISON which, come fall, may be a startlingly bright comet that you won’t have to wait until night to see. It is possible that it will even brighten up the sky on a bright sunny day! At night, it just may light up the landscape so much you will think that, if you are out in the boonies on a clear night, there is an extraordinarily bright full moon out–at least until you look up at the sky and see the comet!
Also coming up in March keep a look for the Comet Pan-STARRS since it is expected to become visible to the naked eye at night.
And then right now the Green Comet, also called Comet Lemmon, is already visible in the southern hemisphere (South America, Australia, Southern Africa) and we will be able to see it here in April. This comet appears greenish because it is full of the poison gas cyanogen, which is related to cyanide.
Now if that isn’t enough an asteroid is headed our way and although it isn’t expected to hit the surface of the earth, they are sure it will come closer than the communication satellites. These satellites include those owned by Direct TV and Dish Network. These satellites also include the GPS satellites and the weather satellites. Astronomers are really excited about this as you can tell from this headline comment on the website: SpaceWeather.com
RECORD-SETTING ASTEROID FLYBY: On Feb. 15th an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly past Earth closer than many man-made satellites. Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, astronomers have never seen an object so big come so close to our planet.