Archive for February, 2009

Madison Garden Expo

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This weekend saw three-fourths of the CobraHead Team working the Madison Garden Expo in our home city. The event is sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television and I can say with certainty, as we’ve now got over two hundred trade shows behind us, this is one of the better garden shows in the United States.

We learned early into our launch of CobraHead that trade shows can provide exceptional exposure for a small start-up company. Shows are possibly the best way to get a product known to the world when you don’t have the unlimited marketing and advertising budgets of the big corporations. The nice thing about consumer trade shows is that you have a chance to make some money while you are telling the world who you are.

If we were as well known throughout the U.S. as we are in Madison, CobraHead would be pretty famous. This is our sixth year doing this show and we have developed a following. It’s pretty easy to close a sale when someone walks by and says to the person thinking of buying, “I bought that tool last year and it is the best garden tool I’ve ever owned.” Unsolicited testimonials are indeed the best advertising. I hope Madison is a bell weather for the garden show season, because the show was crowded, as you can see in the first picture, and folks were spending money.

Here I am showing people our garden tools. We almost always have a box of soil at the shows, so people can see how the product works in the real stuff. In Wisconsin in February, people will stick their hands into the box of dirt just to re-connect with the earth, which outside is frozen and covered with snow and ice. We call it our zen box.

This is our friend Renate Favour of Etc. Designs, a Michigan lady we first met at the International Master Gardeners Conference Trade Show at Covington, Kentucky in 2004. Renate is an artist who crafts exceptional jewelry of insects and other whimsical creatures. I was actually quite jealous of Renate when I first met her. The ladies at the Master Gardener Conference were spending all their money at her booth “buying bugs” when they should have been buying my slick garden tool. Renate’s art is excellent, however, and I know now that the ladies were not wasting their money. We’ll be doing the IMGC show this year in Las Vegas.

Here is Bryant Moroder of Sustain Dane, a local non-profit whose RainReserve® Rain Barrel Program is a project which we hope to partner up with.

This is our good friend Michael Schael, a potter here in Cambridge. His business is Rock Eagle Pottery. Michael is an exceptional potter and a really nice person.

Lastly, a picture of three objets d’art acquired at the show. The turtle is a birthday present to Anneliese from Kirk at Kicking Y Creations of Ripon, Wisconsin. The dragonfly, a purchase by Judy from the same vendors, and the toad abode a purchase by me from my friend Michael.

Onion Obsession

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I got most of my onions seeded into a flat tonight. Three types – Copra, a hybrid yellow storage onion that I’ve grown for years. It is extremely reliable and an excellent keeper. Redwing, a red storage hybrid. This is a new one for me. I had been growing a red onion called Mars, but Fedco Seeds dropped it, I think because the seed all comes from Seminis, a Monsanto owned company. Monsanto is on Fedco’s do not buy list, which is fine by me. Monsanto is from the dark side. And lastly, Prisma, a hybrid shallot that I’ve grown before with great success. Prisma is big for a shallot and it keeps almost forever.

I have yet to start leeks and another onion seed that Fedco has backordered, a sweet onion called Expression. I’ll start those when the backorder shows up. Plus some scallions and a new for me onion called Crystal White Wax Onion which is supposed to be a direct seed into the pea bed. Those plus the perennial chives and Egyptian onions and the already started garlic make up our edible allium crop.

I do not start my onions the way most people do, which is to just scatter them into the flat or starting pot. I actually make tiny rows or furrows one centimeter wide and plant the seeds one centimeter apart. It’s a little time consuming but I like the advantage of the easy separation when its time to plant the starts and I think I get a better seed yield and more uniform plant size.

I use a calibrated T-square and a drywaller’s taping spatula to make my rows. I put the seeds into a bowl and use tweezers to pick out the little onion seeds and place them into the furrows using the centimeter marks on the T-square for a guide. Obsessive? Yes, but I almost always get an excellent onion crop, and I now have 440 Redwing, 396 Copra and 172 Prisma seeds in the flat, watered, and, with any luck, on their way to becoming part of the wonderful harvest of home grown food that we will enjoy this year.

Just Call Me Master (But Not Yet)!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

I’m excited about the coming months for many reasons. We have a busy schedule exhibiting at garden shows and Green Festivals, and it’s always fun to travel and meet new people (and say hi to the folks you haven’t seen since last year). I’m excited for spring to arrive. Which it will. Eventually. I hope.

I’m also excited to turn 29 this month. Okay, not really.

But what I’m excited about today is that I had my Master Gardener Training orientation class. I’m going to become a Master Gardener Volunteer! Over the next several months, I will take classes and spend time volunteering at various gardens and gardening events so I can earn my Master Gardener certification.

I’ve decided to go through the training because I feel I have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to gardening knowledge. I’m reasonably confident when it comes to vegetable growing, but when it comes to annuals, perennials, invasive species and plant diseases, I could stand to learn a few things. Plus, I think referring to myself as a “Master Gardener” will be a nice ego stroke. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t expect to be magically transformed into some kind of gardening expert just by completing the general training. I will, however, gain a better understanding of overall gardening concepts, and hopefully I’ll make some friends in the process.

The picture above is of the 2009 Wisconsin Garden Journal. It is produced by the Madison Area Master Gardeners Association. They describe the journal as “an invaluable resource to help Midwest gardeners in Zones 3, 4, and 5 plan, organize, and maintain their gardens.” It certainly is. The journal includes gardening articles by local experts, weekly tips and calendars, monthly chore task lists, and loads of other helpful information to keep you and your garden on track. Plus, proceeds from sales of the book help fund community gardens and non-profit programs in the area. MAMGA has been able to donate close to $25,000 since 1996, when they began producing the Wisconsin Garden Journal.

If you’d like your own copy of the 2009 Wisconsin Garden Journal, you can find a list of retailers here. The Madison Area Master Gardeners Association will also have copies available at their booth at the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo, which runs February 13-15, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. CobraHead will be there, too, so please stop by booth 904 and say hello!

Hi Anneliese, that is fantastic. The world needs more master gardeners and volunteers to do the dirty work too. Looking forward to seeing you once again in Chicago. 🙂
# Posted By Frances | 2/4/09 4:27 PM
Anneliese’s Gravatar Thanks, Frances! I have a feeling I’ll really enjoy the experience, and maybe I’ll be able to recruit more people once I’ve gone through the program. I’m looking forward to seeing you, too!
# Posted By Anneliese | 2/9/09 5:36 PM