Winter may not be over quite yet, but in Ambler Farm’s greenhouse, farmer Jonathan Kirschner, director of agriculture at the farm, has already started many of the vegetable, herb and flower transplants that the farm sells to the public every spring.

Right now, gardeners can go to Ambler Farm’s website and pre-order a wide range of transplants for pick-up starting in mid-April for the cold-tolerant plants and mid-May for the plants requiring warmer temperatures. Gardeners can select from more than 70 varieties of tomatoes—from Lemon Drops to Indigo Blue Berries and Brandywines; more than 42 herbs including Stevia and a wide range of basils; over 36 different salad greens; as well as a huge selection of root vegetables, squashes, broccoli, peppers, leeks and onions, cucumbers, celeries, cantaloupe and watermelon, peas and flowers, including Sunflowers, Cosmos and Snapdragons.

“Some plants, such as albums, celery, and certain flowers, have a longer growing season,” Kirschner explains. “By buying transplants that we’ve started in the green house in February and March, gardeners can get a one-month jump on their gardens.”

Once again, Ambler Farm is also offering its “Grown Only to Order” program to give gardeners an even wider range of options for their home gardens. Kirschner will grow specific varieties of transplants—such as Black Sea Man tomatoes and Mammoth Melting Snow Peas—but gardeners have to order these in advance.

“We don’t have the space in Ambler Farm’s own garden to plant all of the varieties we are offering. Our “Grown Only To Order” program enables gardeners to experiment with different types of vegetables, herbs and flowers that they might not normally grow.”

In all, Ambler Farm offers a veritable smorgasbord of transplants, and whether someone is a beginning or expert gardener, their hardest challenge will probably be deciding which ones to order.

100-Percent Organic

All of the transplants grown at Ambler Farm are 100-percent organic. “We start them from seed in a compost-based potting soil,” Kirschner says. He and his knowledgeable assistants take great care to nurture the seedlings to ensure gardeners receive healthy plants that will do well when they put them into their own gardens.

“Size can be deceiving,” he points out. “While people may be inclined to buy the biggest plant, it can often be root bound. If the roots have have wrapped around the soil block, the plant may take longer to adjust to transplanting than a smaller one, which is not root-bound. Smaller transplants tend to suffer less transplant shock and show better resistance to adverse conditions such as disease and pest pressure.”

When the transplants are ready for pick-up, Kirschner will let customers know by email.

“We don’t notify customers until the plants can be safely put into the ground. Too often we get a warm spell, and gardeners go out and buy seedlings from a nursery or Walmart and put them into the ground, only to watch them die during a cold snap. We want to do everything we can to help people be successful gardeners, so we want to be sure the conditions are ready before we ask customers to pick up their plants.”

While cold-tolerant plants are generally ready for pick-up by mid-April, Kirschner will often wait until the weekend after Mother’s Day to give out the warmer-weather plants. “It’s important that the soil has warmed up enough so the plants will thrive. Soil temperature is an important factor in whether transplants do well.”

He also points out that because the Ambler Farm transplants are grown locally, they may have a better chance of flourishing than plants started in another geographic area and then shipped into Connecticut.

Prices for the Ambler Farm transplants are very reasonable and competitive with local nurseries and retailers, ranging from $1.50 for a single transplant to $5.00 for a 4-pack. All of the proceeds from the annual transplant sale benefit Ambler Farm to support its educational and agricultural programs.

In addition to offering gardeners the opportunity to pre-order transplants through the Ambler Farm website, Kirschner will also be selling many varieties of vegetable, herb and flower transplants on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon in a market stand outside the White Barn, starting in late April.  He will begin selling cold weather transplants at the farm every Saturday starting April 16 and warm weather transplants starting May 14.

Home Garden Workshop

For anyone who has never started a garden but has been thinking about doing so, or for gardeners who want to improve their skills, Kirschner will be offering a Home Garden Workshop on Wednesday March 30, from 9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m. in the White Barn at Ambler Farm. In this informative and practical workshop, he will cover topics include crop selection, timing, spacing, basic soil nutrition and garden design. The fee for the workshop is $25 for Ambler Farm members and $30 for non-members, and registration is required. Anyone interested in attending this workshop can go to register online.