Monday, February 15, 2021

Spring plant shows in 2021 at M R Gardens

This spring, M R Gardens’ sustainable plant nursery in the Oakley community of Asheville opens to the public for plant shows on select Thursdays to Sundays:

 

April 1 to 4;

 

April 15 to 18;

 

May 13 to 16;

 

June 3 to 6.

 

The nursery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find us at 441 Onteora Blvd., Asheville.


M R Gardens' passive solar greenhouse.
Photos on this page by Vickie Burick

We’re a community-oriented business, and we appreciate how our plant shows are a chance for neighbors to connect with each other. The event is typically outdoors with only a few people in attendance at a time, and our customers are thoughtful about wearing face coverings.

 

M R Gardens offers native wildflowers, other plants that are beneficial for the garden, medicinal and culinary herbs, and vegetable starts. Plants are grown on a small scale, so they are high quality as they are given individual attention. We strive for as sustainable as possible, which means not only growing organically but also using nearly all renewable resources and reusing nonrenewable resources.

 

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. See nativeplantsasheville.com or contact megan@mrgardens.net or 828.333.4151.

 

Agastache

We expect to have the following plants at the shows once they are ready for planting.

Native Perennials

Asters (Aromatic, Calico, Maryland Golden and Smooth Blue varieties), Bee Balm (Bradbury, Scarlet, Spotted, and Wild Bergamot varieties), Blazing Star (i.e. Liatris), Blue and Cream Wild Indigo, Black Eyed Susan (Goldsturm or Bicolor varieties), Boneset, Butterfly Weed, Carolina Bush Pea, Columbine, Coreopsis (Lance-leaf variety), Creeping Phlox, Culver's Root, Cup Plant, Downy Wood Mint, Golden Alexander (including a Heart-leaved variety), Great Blue Lobelia, Harebell, Hoary Vervain, Hyssop (Anise, Yellow Giant and Purple Giant varieties), Ironweed, Jacob’s Ladder, Little Bluestem, Mistflower, Mountain Mint (Slender and Virginia varieties), Ox-Eye Sunflower (i.e. Heliopsis), Rattlesnake Master, Rosin Weed (as well as a local Whorled variety), Sochan, Showy Goldenrod, Starry Campion, Sweet Joe Pye, Switch Grass, Violets (Common), White Doll’s Daisy, and Wild Strawberry.

 

Herbs

Ashwagandha, Basil (Genovese, Cinnamon and Thai varieties), Calendula, California Poppy, Catmint, Feverfew, Lavender, Marjoram, Marshmallow, Nasturtium, Official Hyssop (Purple and White), Parsley, and Tulsi.

 

Groundcovers and other flowers

Ajuga, Alyssum, Creeping Thyme, Dragon's Blood Sedum, Hairy Golden Aster, Roman Chamomile, Snow in Summer

 

Read here about our vegetable starts — it’s best to pre-order them ahead of the season, but we may have extras at the shows.

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 potting mixes made with byproducts of other manufacturing processes, limiting the use of peat. Ask about our tours.
Megan Riley, owner of M R Gardens


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 IN YOUR SHOPPING CART. 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. 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, Common Violets, Heart-leaf Golden Alexander, Ox-Eye Sunflower (Heliopsis), Starry Campion, California Poppies, Snow in Summer, Marshmallow and White Official Hyssop. Contact us directly if you'd like to reserve any of them: megan@mrgardens.net or 828.333.4151.

 

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.

 

We also have Swiss Chard, which you can also reserve by contacting us directly.


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

Take part in this expanding community-oriented farm


The following greenhouse/landscape design training turns into a paid opportunity potentially within two months 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. We are a community-oriented business, usually selling direct to customers or to landscape designers. We have an online store — in which customers reserve their plants and then pick up at the nursery. We also hold four-day plant shows at the farm at least once a month in the spring and fall. In addition, we offer coaching services in ecological gardening to clients as well as to other professional gardeners.


M R Gardens is on a two-acre farm with native flower gardens, naturalized slopes, swales to hold rainwater in the landscape, orchards/forest gardens, and vegetable beds, rich with beneficial microbes. We practice innovative techniques that we've picked up in the last 20+ years from many sources that are ahead of their time. If you're only interested in the training rather than the potential for income or a long-term position, go ahead and get in touch with us to see if our aspirations align.


Be sure to read this article for a longer explanation of our nursery before contacting us. We are a small, one-of-a-kind nursery, so in the rare instance we can pay others, we typically hire folks who have participated in our educational programs. We are so unique that there is not many previous experiences that could prepare someone adequately to immediately work for this business, but we definitely look forward to hearing what you bring to the table.


Over the years, we have paired complementary services with the nursery so that we can stay committed to our value of sustainability, while also producing high quality plants and creating a rejuvenating work place. Throughout the last 10 years of incremental growth, the enterprise has remained manageable so that it never becomes a burden—it’s never boring, and rarely stressful. 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 continues to grow—because we believe this care transfers to the plants and to the customers.


It’s recommended applicants have:

  • Three years of experience working in a greenhouse;
  • 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. While you won't be expected to take on these tasks until you have graduated from the training, it's good if you have a natural knack for management. 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 tips 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. 




Be sure this description fits you, but also know you have others’ help in carrying out the tasks listed. After graduating from your training, 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.


This work varies greatly depending on the season. We mostly focus on the greenhouse February through May, and the rest of the year, there are opportunities to develop landscape design clients. It helps if you already have a bit of design experience, but currently we are mainly 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 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.

 

Our first step in this process is surveying potential applicants. Our hope is to train someone to stay on board here so that they can have the experience of running a small nursery without taking on the full risk of owning a business. That said, the training can take many forms depending on your situation. Send your resume and an explanation of your interest to megan@mrgardens.net. If it seems like a potential fit, we’ll discuss your availability, required hours, tuition and potential income. Cost of tuition varies depending on the skills and experience of the applicant, and we can assist you in running a crowd-sourcing campaign for the tuition if needed. Note that if you are chosen for an interview, the application process includes three 2-hour sessions in the greenhouse, and we also ask for a $50 application fee.


We anticipate your time here to be quite enjoyable—people love being at our farm. We care about our team—throughout the apprentice 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.


Thanks for considering this rare opportunity to be able to learn directly from a native plant grower. Be sure to read this article for a fuller understanding of our nursery before contacting us.


 



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 one to 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 a part of 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 didn't have any 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 our native flowers, which mostly prefer a max temp of 60-70F, in cooler microclimates within the greenhouse.
  • The plants get a break from the intense heat and light because the structure is designed so that they are not getting direct sun prior to 9 a.m. and after 4 p.m. (or a bit earlier/later depending on the month). In general, the residential-style construction promotes a less harsh environment than the typical hoophouse.

  • 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 plastic plant containers 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 three to 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 there are steps involved 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.