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.


Golden Alexander and Culver's Root


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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Save the dates - 2020 Plants sales and online orders

M R Gardens' sustainable nursery focuses primarily on native perennials while also offering some vegetable and herb starts. Plants are grown on a small scale so that individual attention can be given to them, ensuring high quality.

This spring, the greenhouses are open to the public for plant sales from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on select Thursdays through Sundays:
April 16 to April 19;

May 7 to May 10;

and June 4 to June 7

Customers can also reserve their plants at an online store or via email, and pick them up at the nursery at a pre-arranged time. Native perennials can be reserved now; orders for early spring transplants (lettuce and kale) start approximately March 23; orders for groundcovers and herbs begin by April 1, and orders summer crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and Swiss chard) open approximately April 10.

See https://m-r-gardens.square.site/ or contact megan@mrgardens.net or 828.333.4151.

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. Ask about tours of the greenhouse and gardens.

Carolina Bush Pea (Thermopsis villosa) is native only to forest openings of the Appalachians. The nitrogen- fixing legume has large racemes bearing deep yellow flowers followed by pods. The unique, striking show lasts less than a month in early summer—but the wait is well worth it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Training opportunity - Passive solar greenhouse operator

Unless otherwise posted, we are still accepting applications for this program.

M R Gardens in the Oakley community of Asheville is introducing a nursery training opportunity as part of our educational program for professional gardeners. We are offering a Greenhouse Operator track, in which we train participants in all they need to know to operate a commercial passive solar greenhouse, including marketing and basic native landscape design. Participants have the opportunity to make income depending on how much time they can devote to the operation.

We are only reviewing applicants who are certain they want to reside in the Asheville area for the long-term. Our plan is to transition at least one of the students to a contractor position in one or two years (or less depending on previous experience). They would be in charge of operating M R Gardens' small-scale greenhouses on a seasonal or part-time basis, and work with landscape design clients in the summer when the greenhouses need less attention.

If you are a seasoned nursery worker and question whether you need additional classes but are interested in the opportunity, please do apply. We can tailor the program to suit your needs, interests, background and skill level. M R Gardens is unique, so anyone would need to be trained regardless of experience. The educational fee is similar to the cost of renting a greenhouse, and on top of that you get access to established markets. Once you transition to a contractor, you'll likely have a considerable amount of freedom in deciding how you'd like to run the greenhouse. At that point, various scenarios for fair compensation will be discussed—most likely a percentage of your plant sales will go to the nursery to cover structural costs.

If it’s your dream to own your own farm, please let us know during the application process.

M R Gardens’ one-of-a-kind passive solar greenhouse requires practically no heat other than solar gain to maintain its warmth in the cool season. Manual vents keep it from over-heating on sunny days. We also have an 800 square foot unheated hoophouse to overwinter perennials. We aim to be as sustainable as possible in every aspect of the nursery operation, including using peat-free microbe rich potting mixes made primarily of byproducts from other manufacturing processes. We also offer customers an opportunity to wash and return plastic pots, which we then disinfect and reuse. We primarily propagate plants via seed, which encourages diversity in the ecosystem, and the passive solar greenhouse allows for a quick growing time similar to root cuttings.

Participants are involved with all aspects of the business, including plant propagation, sanitation, temperature control and other management duties for this unique passive solar greenhouse. They also take part in marketing and sales, which includes developing their own landscape design clients—typically small backyard gardeners. Participants should be willing to perform administrative tasks such as ordering supplies, updating plant inventory, and keeping records. Our evolving farm business has many aspects, so you might eventually work alongside other professional gardeners, students, entrepreneurs and vacationers.

Your trainer is primarily Megan Riley, owner of M R Gardens. She has grown plants for sale since 2011, as well as provided garden coaching, edible landscaping and other educational opportunities on and off-site since 2012. The nursery started out very modest—under grow lights in her basement—and is now thousands of plants in two greenhouses, which she has mostly cared for herself.

Photo of Megan by Lisa Kruss

The most important characteristics for you to have success in this program are:
--Acute attention to detail, yet you also know which details to prioritize in the aim of efficiency in the busy season;
--Excited about cleanliness, but you remain calm and productive when things get disorganized temporarily;
--Have enough familiarity with plants to know you have a green thumb, and also enough experience to recognize that you learn for a lifetime in this line of work;
--Revel in monotony and routine, yet you also appreciate getting out of your comfort zone;
--Enjoy people from all walks of life, and are comfortable in various sales scenarios, whether that be on-site sales, off-site markets, landscape design clients, online stores, and retail, which entails developing relationships with stores. (Our primary plant customers are landscape design clients, but participation in other outlets boosts all aspects of our business.);
--Excellent skills in managing your schedule and multiple clients;
--Comfortable with Microsoft Office, particularly Excel (for record keeping and making plant lists); online software such as Squareup.com, Mynewsletterbuilder.com, Blogspot and Wix.com; and Adobe products (In-Design is a plus);
--Generally self-motivated, with the understanding that we give you the tools you need to succeed;
--A good memory! Plant names become easy to remember because you write them numerous times on tags and plant lists. It's most useful to have the capacity to recall tasks to be done, the things we agreed upon, and the lessons learned each session. We encourage note-taking, tape recording and dedication to memorization;
--An interest in native plants, the bulk of our selection at this time. We also currently grow groundcovers, herbs and vegetable starts, and are open-minded about other ideas if you are drawn to any particular species.
--Eager to be a part of a sustainable business, and also appreciate that there are steps involved in achieving the ideal. Maintaining motivation is more helpful in achieving sustainability than feeling frustrated in a lack of perfection.

If you don’t fit all of these qualifications but are enthusiastic to learn, go ahead and apply—we are understanding of the time needed to grow into this position, and it’s okay if more than one person is required to fulfill the diverse duties of the greenhouse. Entrepreneurs in the field of sustainability and plant propagation benefit if they are humble, have patience and can recognize areas for professional growth before speeding ahead. 

It’s best if you have your own computer, printer and laminator, as well as access to above mentioned software. 

Nodding Onion. Photo by Lisa Kruss.

Participants meet with Megan in person at the farm at least twice a month for 2.5 hour sessions, and she is also available via email and phone when not in session. We find a time and days that works with your schedule. It’s recommended participants also reserve approximately two additional days each week—particularly in the busy season between March and early June—to work on assignments. The more you can devote to the program, the more potential for income. We can start as soon as you are accepted, or on a date that is suitable for you.

The cost of the program is $500 per month, and a portion of the fee goes to advertising plant sales and your landscape design services. During your interview, we can discuss what income is possible for you in your first two years, as well as potentials for when you transition to a contractor role. Income largely depends on your experience and the amount of time you can devote to the program. Submit your resume at no charge, but if you are selected for an interview, the application fee is $50, which includes a tour of the greenhouse and farm.

At certain times of the year, you have a flexible schedule so that you can pursue other endeavors. If you hope to make a full-time living at this work in the long-term, it is possible — if you have adequate motivation, skill and ability to juggle tasks. It takes dedication, self-care, enthusiasm and groundedness, yet the payoffs—particularly as you are growing as a person in your interaction with plants and other people—are way beyond income. The sustainable and native plant industries are quickly expanding—you are wise to invest in your education so you can be a leader in these fields. 

During the two-year program, students and program leaders check in with each other for at least 15 minutes each month to make sure that all parties feel like their expectations are being met. While we only accept applicants who are certain they can finish the full two-year program, we also understand life is unpredictable and unexpected events happen. As long as we continually dialogue about the possibility of the participant transitioning to a contractor role, we can be certain everyone is clear on the outcome after the program is complete. No matter what happens, our goal is for you to have the tools to operate a passive solar greenhouse nursery, whether it’s at M R Gardens or elsewhere. We aim to be as ethical and fair as possible. Be ready to compassionately communicate your needs, as well as understand ours.

Please contact megan@mrgardens.net to apply. Voicemail (not text) is 828.333.4151. The Greenhouse Operator training is a part of Emergence, our program for professional gardens.