Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Pre-Season Prep: Order seedlings before the start of the 2021 growing season!

Get ahead of the game this year 

We’re offering a pre-order option for vegetable, herb and annual flower seedlings for the 2021 spring season. Reserving your plants by the dates listed below helps us grow the correct number of plants. With so many folks at home gardening this year, ordering ahead of the season is especially important!

 

We’ve also listed the dates that we expect your plants to be ready. At that time, you pick them up at M R Gardens, 441 Onteora Blvd., Asheville. We email you to arrange a pickup day/time.


Defiant is a disease-resistant slicer
 

Early Spring Seedlings: Brussels Sprouts, Collards, Dill, Kale.

Pre-order by mid-February. Pickup in early April.

 

Summer Crop Seedlings: Eggplant, Peppers (sweet and hot), Tomatoes (slicers, disease-resistant, heirlooms, cherries and plums).

Pre-order by March 12. Pickup in early May.

 

Herbs and Annual Flowers: Ashwagandha, Basil (three varieties), Calendula, Feverfew, Nasturtium, Parsley, Tulsi and more!

Pre-order by March 12. Pickup in early May.

 

Go to https://m-r-gardens.square.site/ to reserve yours. PLEASE IGNORE THE PICKUP DATES ON THE SHOPPING CART, CHECKOUT PAGE AND RECEIPT. That is a default setting that we’re unable to change.

 

We’re also in the midst of updating our Native Perennial and Groundcover sections. Contact us directly if the website shows any items that you’re interested in as sold out: megan@mrgardens.net or 828.333.4151. In addition to the varieties listed on the site, we also have: Aromatic Aster, Cream Wild Indigo, Downy Wood Mint, Harebell, Purple Giant Hyssop, Yellow Giant Hyssop, Scarlet Bee Balm, Heart-leaf Golden Alexander, Ox-Eye Sunflower (Heliopsis), Starry Campion, California Poppies, Snow in Summer, Marshmallow and White Official Hyssop.

 

Scarlet Bee Balm

Looking for lettuce? Due to warm temperatures in March in recent years, we’re experimenting with a new growing time for lettuce to prevent it from bolting early. We expect it to be ready by mid-March. Contact us directly to reserve yours, and be prepared to cover it in case we get freezing temperatures at that time. We typically grow Romaine and Buttercrunch.

 

If you prefer to pay by check rather than through the online store, you can email us the names of the plants and quantities that you’d like.

 

M R Gardens in the Oakley community of Asheville aims to grow as sustainably as possible. We have a passive solar greenhouse so that no heat is needed other than solar gain, use renewable resources in our potting soil mixes, and practice organic growing methods. Plants are grown on a small scale so that individual attention can be given to plants, ensuring high quality.

 

Many thanks – Ordering ahead is a big help to your neighborhood nursery!

 

P.S. If you can’t predict your order at this moment, no worries, we always grow extra. We plan to be open on select Thursdays to Sundays: April 1 to 4; April 15 to 18; May 13 to 16 and June 3 to 6.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

We're looking for experienced greenhouse grower who is eager to keep learning

The following greenhouse/landscape design training turns into a paid opportunity within two months to two years depending on the participant’s level of experience and skill. The site of the program is M R Gardens, a sustainable nursery in the Oakley community of Asheville, NC. We grow primarily native perennials, as well as complementary plants such as groundcovers, vegetable starts and medicinal herbs.


It’s recommended applicants have:

  • Three years of experience working in a commercial greenhouse, preferably managing or playing a large role in coordinating operations;
  • Familiarity with and commitment to organic greenhouse practices;
  • An interest in Southeastern native perennials;
  • An appreciation that there’s always more to learn in the field of growing;
  • Wide-ranging life experiences that offer a broad perspective so that you can interact well with all types of people;
  • A knack for coordinating the logistics that go into running a small operation;
  • An eye for aesthetics in a naturalized landscape;
  • The flexibility to change course in the midst of an evolving business;
  • A grounded excitement for plant work, and a strong grasp of what’s realistic.

Our main greenhouse in July
Photos of M R Gardens on this page by Vickie Burick Photography

The main skill is coordination—keeping your eye on the ball as various people come in and out of the greenhouse, whether that be clients, students, helpers or others involved in building the business. You also need to get to know each of the plants’ requirements well—particularly their timing. In the meantime, you can refer to the spreadsheets we’ve created throughout the years, which includes dates of stratification and seeding, germination requirements and other helpful information. Record-keeping is an important part of this job, as is keeping track of plant orders and reserving plants that have been pre-ordered. 


Get a glimpse of what our passive solar greenhouse looks like in January

Be sure this description fits you, but also know you have others’ help in carrying out the tasks listed. At some point, it will likely land in your hands to make sure that the greenhouse stays at desirable conditions—which means opening and closing the vents at specific times depending on the outside environment. You won’t be the sole person involved in this task, but you need to be able to direct others to do so.

 

It helps if you also have a bit of landscape design experience. Currently we are primarily focused on 200 square foot (or less) designs for clients who need help arranging plants from our nursery. We can teach you how to do so regardless of your design experience as long as you are very familiar with how each species has unique needs and aesthetic elements. If you already are a landscape designer, you'll likely appreciate the opportunity to be able to grow your own plants for your clients' designs!

 


The hours/days that you work are negotiable, but it’s best if you’re quite flexible. The more hours you can devote to your education, the more quickly you'll be able to make income. You meet with your primary teacher, Megan Riley, a minimum of two times a month for 2.5 hours, but most likely more. She is also available to answer questions via phone/email every day. You also have tasks to take care of on your own throughout the week. Please keep in mind that in November through April, we often propagate (about once a week) in the evening unless we happen to have two cloudy days in a row. (Propagating in sunny conditions is stressful to the plants, and the seedlings prefer shade the first day as they root in their new cells.)

 

The cost of the training starts out at $500 per month. You’ll likely make enough income to cover the tuition cost if not more, possibly as soon as your third month. Proceeds from plant sales are shared with the business for a variety of expenses, including advertisements for your landscape design services. We can discuss our potential monthly sales numbers during your interview. The duration of your training is negotiable depending on your experience level and is addressed in each month’s check-in with your instructors.

 


Our goal is to grow the nursery to get you on-board, potentially as a contractor working about 20 hours a week, with no tuition as soon as possible. But we need your help to get to that level. Our investment in reaching the point to be able to offer such an opportunity has been significant. As you know, nurseries are different than most businesses in that it takes multiple years to become highly skilled due to the short growing season. We often only have two or three attempts each season to get right something new we're trying, and otherwise we have to wait until the next year to figure it out. We appreciate your understanding and your commitment to this project, nursery and community, and we look forward to hearing about your needs as well.

 

Please read this article to further understand the unique opportunity you are undertaking. Send your resume and an explanation of your interest to megan@mrgardens.net. If accepted for an interview, which includes three 2-hour work sessions, we’ll collect an application fee of $50.

Recalibrating

Find out what you can learn at M R Gardens as an advanced greenhouse grower/landscape designer


Like all businesses, M R Gardens is recalibrating after all the changes of 2020, adjusting our plans accordingly. Thankfully everything still seems to be headed in a promising direction (knock on wood). That said, we’re adjusting a previously advertised opportunity to better reflect developments that happened in the last year as we take steps to turn the farm into a robust resource for the community.

 

The greenhouse operator/landscape designer training was originally created for all experience levels. That has not changed—if you’re nearly a beginner but have a green thumb and match the description, please don’t hesitate to apply. We are leaving that advertisement as-is because we might return to a beginner level training in the future.

 

That said, the applicant that is most likely appropriate at this time is someone who already has a fair amount of experience coordinating a small greenhouse operation. It helps if you also have a bit of landscape design experience. Currently we are primarily focused on 200 square foot (or less) designs for clients who need help arranging plants from our nursery. We can show you how to do so regardless of your design experience as long as you are very familiar with how all plants have unique needs—such as room to grow, soil preferences, adequate sun exposure—as well as aesthetic elements.

 

Sochan with ferns.
Photos on this page taken at M R Gardens by Vickie Burick Photography

We originally designed this training to be two years, but with an advanced grower we can shorten that length of time and move quickly into an income-producing position. Also, we expect more people to be involved with the farm, so you may have flexibility to switch your involvement to other parts of this diverse business as it suits you over time. The main requirement right now is the ability to coordinate lots of details and a diverse set of people.

 

The greenhouse operator/landscape design training is an excellent opportunity for an advanced grower, and we’ll attempt to explain why here. Our nursery is quite unique. (If you’re a novice grower, bear with us as we nerd-out on a bunch of propagation jargon here…)

 

First and foremost is our passive solar greenhouse. As far as we know, no other commercial greenhouse uses a passive solar design quite like ours. (Feel free to correct us if you know of others). Similar greenhouses exist, but usually they are backyard hobby greenhouses or propagation houses for small vegetable farms. That’s another model than a commercial nursery. Growing native perennials and other plants nearly year-round to sell to landscape design clients and other customers is an entirely different undertaking.

 


Why did we choose this design? The main reason why Megan (M R Gardens Owner) got into farming in 2001 was to create sustainable systems. She had zero interest in building a greenhouse with significant healing and cooling requirements. So she researched passive solar designs for years, and when the opportunity arose for her to build one in 2015, she went for it.

 

What she found is that the greenhouse is not only fossil fuel-free, but it also produces high quality plants. Our customers repeatedly tell us how well the plants do in their gardens. Certainly there’s been quite a bit of trial and error over the years determining which plants grow best in the unique environment of a passive solar design. But the following factors seem to contribute:

  • A ton of light streams in from south-facing windows, bouncing off the white rear and side walls and onto the plants. The greenhouse also has pockets of shade, where we can place plants that are more sensitive to light.
  • The heat radiating from the water barrels is good for root growth, especially if the trays sit on top of the barrels. Typically the overnight temps in the greenhouse do not drop below 50F—except on the rare occasion when it falls below 10F outside and the previous day was cloudy, resulting in less heat capture. Even then, the greenhouse stays above 40F, which is fine for native perennials and early spring vegetable starts. By April when we seed tomato starts, which only take five weeks to grow to planting size in this greenhouse, it rarely drops below 55F inside and easily rises to 80F on sunny days. We’ve learned to negotiate the needs of our various plants, placing the native flowers, which mostly prefer 60-70F, in cooler microclimates within the greenhouse.

  • We hand water. At this point, the nursery has not expanded to the point where a mister is needed, and we propagate almost all plants by seed, which don’t require continual irrigation like cuttings do. (Growing from seed means increased genetic diversity in the ecosystem, and an opportunity to create unique selections). Believe it or not, hand watering usually only takes us 30 minutes each day, except in peak season (March to May) when it might take an hour a day, and only if it’s sunny. Making sure each plant is getting just the right amount of water when they are less than two months old is absolutely key for optimal root growth, and correspondingly healthy plants. Meanwhile, we can easily monitor for disease or other issues as we carefully look at the conditions of every plant as we water. That leads to a high success rate. We typically don’t have much loss as long as we’ve grown the species more than once or twice, as experimentation is always needed when trying a new variety.
  • Humidity typically remains well under 50 percent unless we’ve had an unusually rainy week. That means disease pressure is low and easy to catch. If a certain species prefers higher humidity, we can move it into another structure during the day, such as our unheated hoophouse that remains quite humid.

Beyond the greenhouse design, our entire nursery is created around a sustainable model. We use peat-fee potting soils made with renewable materials (often byproducts of other manufacturing processes). We also encourage customers to wash their plastic pots and return them so we can sanitize and reuse them.

 

Being sustainable is not just about using as few nonrenewable resources as possible, but also about educating customers so they have high success rates. We offer garden coaching and are generous with our gardening tips on plant sale days. We encourage landscape designs so that customers plan ahead and tell us ahead of the season what they need.

 

We can serve landscape designers who have large installs because our turn-around time is fairly quick, even for natives, which are often slow-growing. It’s possible to have well-developed, strong, deep plugs or quart containers ready within six months. Growing a tray of 50 deep plugs of one species for a client is usually no problem, depending on the plant’s germination rate.

 

Another crucial element of our business is that we put a tremendous amount of care into our plants, customers and helpers. Throughout the last 10 years of slow growth, the enterprise has remained manageable so that it never becomes a burden—it’s never boring, and only minimally stressful. In fact, the meditative work is often rejuvenating. It is possible to run a successful business and keep the stress minimal if the grower has a high level of skill—in both propagation and management.

 


Our goal is to keep this work enjoyable—even as the nursery grows—because we believe this care transfers to the plants and to the customers. No doubt, there will be stressful days. Thankfully most of our customers are exceptionally understanding of how difficult it is to run a small farm and forgive a tad bit of crankiness on our busiest days.

 

So what do we need from a greenhouse operator/landscape designer? Please see this post to see if the description fits you.

 

Our goal is to grow the nursery to get you on-board, with no tuition, as soon as possible, but we need your help to get to that level. Our investment to reach this point to be able to offer this opportunity has been significant. Nurseries are different than most businesses in that it takes multiple years to become highly skilled due to the short growing season. We often only have two or three attempts each season to get right something new we're trying.

 

We appreciate your understanding and your commitment to this project, nursery and community, and we look forward to hearing about your needs as well.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Fall plant show - 2020

Native plants, groundcovers and vegetable seedlings

M R Gardens in the Oakley community of Asheville opens to the public for a four-day plant sale this fall.


Visit the sustainable nursery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 17 to Sun., Sept. 20. The address is 441 Onteora Blvd., Asheville N.C.

 

Liatris. Photo taken at M R Gardens, by Vickie Burick.

Native Perennials currently in stock: Butterfly Weed, Calico Aster, Creeping Phlox, Black Eyed Susan (Goldsturm), Boneset, Carolina Bush Pea, Columbine, Culver's Root, Cup Plant, Golden Alexander, Ironweed, Liatris (L. spictica), Little Bluestem, Lobelia (Great Blue), Milkweed, Mistflower, Maryland Golden Aster, Mountain Mint, Rosin Weed, Sochan, Showy Goldenrod, Sundrop, Sweet Joe Pye, Switch Grass, Whorled Rosin Weed, Wild Stonecrop and Wild Strawberry.

 

Groundcovers: Hairy Golden Aster, Nasturtium, Sweet Alyssum, Wild Stonecrop, Wild Strawberry and Wood Spurge.

 

Fall vegetable, culinary herb, and edible flower seedlings: Arugula, Cilantro, Collards, Dwarf Siberian Kale, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Cimarron Romaine Lettuce, Nasturtium, Pak Choi and Spinach.

 

Go to https://m-r-gardens.square.site/ to read descriptions of most of the plants. You have the option to reserve your plants online and pick them up at a pre-arranged time and date.


Maryland Golden Aster


M R Gardens grows in a passive solar greenhouse so that no heat is needed in winter other than solar gain, and it is cooled with manual vents eliminating the need for exhaust fans. The nursery also uses sustainable potting mixes, limiting the use of peat. Plants are grown on a small scale so that individual attention is given to plants, ensuring high quality. Contact megan@mrgardens.net or 828.333.4151 (office line – not text) for more information.

 

Best wishes to everyone in these unusual times – The garden is a soothing place!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Pre-order fall vegetable seedlings

UPDATE 8/21/20: Pre-ordering has passed, but we have extras. Go to the online store to reserve yours, or email us directly at megan@mrgardens.net if the website lists the items as sold out. 

We’re offering a pre-order option for fall vegetable and herb seedlings (and a few annual flowers too). Reserving your plants prior to mid-July helps us grow the correct number of plants. With so many people at home gardening this year, generating a count prior to seeding in the greenhouse is even more important than ever.

Put a note on your calendar that your fall plants should be ready for pickup in late August or early September. We contact you then.

Choose: Arugula, Cilantro, Collards, Dwarf Siberian Kale, Buttercrunch or Cimarron Romaine Lettuce, Pak Choi or two types of Spinach. We also have Nasturtiums, which have edible leaves, and Alyssum, a lovely flower for attracting insects that are beneficial to the garden.

Pak Choi

We’re also experimenting with Broccoli Raab, so if you’d like to try it, send an email to megan@mrgardens.net, let us know how many you’d like, and we’ll set them aside for you.

And as always, if you prefer to pay by check rather than through the online store, you can email us the names and quantities of the plants you'd like, or call 828.333.4151.

Many thanks - Ordering ahead is a big help to your neighborhood sustainable nursery!

P.S. If you can't predict if gardening is going to fit into your life this fall and need to wait until August to order, no worries, we always grow extra. 

Tour M R Gardens - In person, six feet apart

M R Gardens is a one-of-a-kind experience. The hour-long tour is appealing to folks of all gardening levels, aims and interests….

Whether they visit to enjoy the varying shapes, textures, scents, sounds, butterflies and other critters flying or scurrying through the farm;


...Or experience walking among the array of fruit trees, medicinal herbs and vegetables;
Plum and apple trees in early spring

...Or learn about the unique Microbe Rich style of building garden beds, creating homes for beneficial microbes, which do the bulk of the gardening work;
Vegetable beds created by layering leaves and mushroom compost on top of cardboard, letting it decompose over winter. Raw wood chips are used for pathways so that we can avoid walking in beds, ensuring less compaction and proper aeration of soil.

...Or view what M R Gardens nursery's native perennials look like mature, full-size, during their season of bloom;
Baptisia in front; Coreopsis (yellow) in background

...Or appreciate the beautiful passive solar greenhouse, in which no additional heat is needed other than solar gain to grow plants;

Greenhouse faces south to capture the sun's heat. 

...Or understand how to create an attractor garden to keep the vegetable garden a healthy balance;
Carolina Lupine frequently attracts pollinators.

...Or find out how swales capture rainwater runoff, limiting the need for irrigation;

...Or see how we’ve put into practice some of the most innovative techniques in ecological landscaping, such as incorporating plants that come up naturally, using groundcovers, or designing with plant interaction in mind.

Groundcovers such as Chamomile surround newly planted Paw Paw seedling

Anise Hyssop, Columbine (red), Sundrops (yellow) and Lavender (background)

Visitors first get an overview of the entire farm, which might seem quite complex and extraordinary to beginners. But then they’ll also hear simple advice so they can easily take the first steps to creating their own garden at home.

Experienced gardeners or landscape designers should let us know about their background, and we’ll dive into discussion about growth habits, plant interaction, and groupings, as well as point out some of the more rare, unique varieties we have at the farm.

In any case, we tailor the tours to each of the participants’ needs and interests. They leave with worksheets on how to build their own Microbe Rich beds, with specific directions for varying sites and vegetation types. They also get a list of the farm’s fruit varieties, proven to be suitable for the local climate.

We host up to five people at a time, for a total cost of $25. Sign up here and contact megan@mrgardens.net to schedule the day and time. If social distancing guidelines for COVID are still in effect, we'll remain six feet apart.
 
Can't make it in person? Visit the M. R. Gardens YouTube page for latest videos of:
our native and medicinal perennial bed at front of the farm; and the orchard.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Upcoming plant shows

M R Gardens in the Oakley community of Asheville continues to be open to the public for plant sales from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on select Thursdays to Sundays:

May 7 through May 10,

and June 4 through June 7. 


We’re at 441 Onteora Blvd., Asheville N.C.

Currently, we primarily have in stock (updated 6/2/20): Calico Aster, Black Eyed Susan (Goldsturm variety), Carolina Bush Pea, Columbine, Culver's Root, Cup Plant, Dragon's Blood Sedum, Golden Alexander, Great Blue Lobelia, Hairy Golden Aster, Little Bluestem, Mountain Mint (Slender and Virginia varieties), Rosin Weed (as well as a local Whorled variety), Showy Goldenrod, Switch Grass and Wild Strawberry, as well as a handful of other native perennials and medicinal herbs such as Catnip.

Go to https://m-r-gardens.square.site to read descriptions of the plants.

Columbine

Golden Alexander and Culver's Root

Ashwagandha


You can also read about our sanitation practices hereWhile we had a steady flow of traffic for our April sales, no more than five people were browsing at a time, so no waiting was required. Some customers even got the place to themselves for awhile, allowing them time and space to think thoroughly about their selections, laying them out in a mock design before purchasing.

M R Gardens grows in a passive solar greenhouse so that no heat is needed other than solar gain, and uses peat-free sustainable potting mixes. Plants are grown on a small scale so that individual attention can be given to plants, ensuring high quality. We primarily focus on native perennials and other plants that are beneficial to the garden ecosystem. Contact megan@mrgardens.net or 828.333.4151 (office line - not text) with questions. 

Thank you for helping make the 2020 nursery season a success so far. We're sending continued blessings to you - and hope you are staying well. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The best way to get your plants this unusual spring

We’re asking customers to take advantage of our order-ahead option this spring. Reserving your plants before you arrive allows us to implement extra sanitation measures.


Once your plants are ready, we contact you at the email address you listed on the store checkout page and arrange a pickup day/time that works for you.

If you prefer to pay by check, you can send your request list to megan@mrgardens.net or leave a voicemail at 828.333.4151.

Bradbury's Bee Balm

At this time, M R Gardens plant sales are taking place as scheduled, but check mrgardens.net before arriving—events may changes depending on recent news in Buncombe County.

In addition to items on the online store, we also have:
Cream Wild Indigo (Baptisia bracteate),
Northern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa),
Cliff Sedum (Sedum glaucophyllum),
and Heart-leaf Golden Alexander (Zizia aptera).
You can contact us directly if you'd like one of these.


M R Gardens in the Oakley community of Asheville grows in a passive solar greenhouse so that no heat is needed other than solar gain, and uses peat-free sustainable potting mixes. Plants are grown on a small scale so that individual attention can be given to plants, ensuring high quality.

Sanitation practices at M R Gardens

As world events unfold this spring, I’ve been thinking about you. I’m taking the physical distancing and cleaning recommendations very seriously since a large portion of my customers are in the at-risk category.  

Photo of Megan by Lisa Kruss

In addition to usual sanitation routines in the greenhouse, I’ve been spraying customers' pots and trays with hydrogen peroxide 30 minutes prior to pickups. I plan to hold part of the upcoming sales outdoors to take advantage of the natural air flow. I’m also displaying the plants so that there’s distance between them and people browsing.

Typically, I only have one or two customers at a time at sales, and certainly no more than five. I can’t predict the traffic this year, but I plan to monitor the number and request that new arrivals wait in the unlikely event I have more than five people here at that moment.

In general, the farm is a very low traffic area. While I often refer to M R Gardens as “we” or “us,” it’s almost always just me in the greenhouse (at least in the past year). Even in a typical spring, I stay close to the farm between November and May because I need to adjust the vents to keep the best temperature in the greenhouse. So other than navigating cancellations at my Airbnb, my daily spring life hasn’t changed much as the world shifted to staying home.

Proper disease management in the organic nursery also means washing hands a ton. After picking off decaying leaves, I often squirt my hands with sanitizer before pruning the next set of plants to prevent spread of anything unwanted.

And of course I always have a tub full of bleach nearby and often my gloved hands are in the water because washing pots is such an important job in an organic nursery.

So sanitation is a big part of my life in the greenhouse to keep plants healthy regardless of what’s going on in the world—and I don’t mind making the extra effort to ensure I’m properly limiting human germs too. In other words—in cooperation, we got this.

That all said, I do appreciate if you can order plants online (or email your request list to megan@mrgardens.net) to make sanitation easy. If any of your neighbors usually attend my plant sales, it would be great if you could pass on the word to them too.  I’m mainly holding the April and May sales to alert passersby who aren’t familiar with my nursery. I’ve noticed health officials are recommending gardening as a way to stay active and emotionally healthy during all this change, so I want to be of service. Speaking from my own experience—hands in the dirt in the presence of newborn seedlings really does help.

I’ve also enjoyed the continuity of my spring activities in the midst of all the upheaval—particularly seeing your familiar faces, even if from six feet away!

--Megan Riley, M R Gardens Owner