News and blog

Welcome to the blog.
Posted 5/17/2012 8:51pm by Ty Zemelsky.

For those of you interested in our 2012 CSA-enrollment is full.  There is a chance that we might be able to fit a few more in a week, so check back.  Our deep regrets to anyone who wished to join.  There will be a Fall/Winter CSA . Details available in mid Summer.  Best to all of you.

Posted 3/27/2012 8:26am by Ty Zemelsky.

March 27, 2012

So a couple of weeks ago we got the final word-- our tractor was truly done- dead- finished.  Bad enough news anytime, but in this warm dry Spring, particularly a pain, since we were ready to prepare and plant much of our fields. The decision about the next tractor is complicated and well-- what are we to do before we get this one worked out? Here is the answer!Ronnie on tractor

This is our friend and neighbor Ron Stannard. For years now, he has from time to time helped us with advice, hands on repair help and tractor in the fields aid, when we've been in a pinch. Ronnie  has been helping us figure out the next tractor decision. And, in the meantime, a few days ago he just showed up on his tractor and tilled our fields. Wow! We are so grateful for his help and support. But best of all, he is a good friend an a terrific guy!  Thanks Ronnie, for everything!

Posted 3/21/2012 11:22am by Ty Zemelsky.

To celebrate  the first day of Spring , we were delighted to host a Ct Nofa workshop for new growers. David taught folks about growing in hoop houses and small tunnels in the off season.  John Bartok, perhaps the foremost greenhouse design expert in  the region, shared some of his knowlege as to designing and building high tunnels and greenhouses. There were more than 50 eager participants-- some seasoned growers, some back yard gardeners and lots of brand new hopeful farmers.

Ct Nofa workshop

Just as things were getting started, a surprise visitor arrived-- Commission of Agriculture Steve Reviczky.  After chatting with him I learned that he has always been connected to farming in one form or another and is very much a voice for the continuing and new growth of farming in the state. He was  surprised to learn how much produce we grow on a relatively small piece of land. And indeed looking around Star Light Gardens, one can imagine seeing small bits of growing all over our state-- gardens ,farms and even growing on bits of free space and /or municipal lands.Ct Ag Commission Steve Reviczky

Later in the day a local teacher brought a couple of middle school students for their own small workshop. They were so enthusiastic and helpful. They jumped right into a bed of greens and started weeding. When they wanted a break they just reached over to the next bed and pulled a couple of brand new sweet baby carrots.  These carrots were planted in mid November and wintered over as tiny plants.

Meanwhile when we are not hosting throngs of people, things are working up to a dull roar  around here. All the high tunnels are bursting with greens partly due to the warm spring after the pracitically nonexistent winter. 

 march 2012

The low tunnels that protected young plants in the field all winter are also yielding lots of food. So we're are off to a great start of the main season. That is a good thing because the announcement of our new CSA has been met with much enthusiasm. There is still room for more members so check it out right here on this site.

It won't be long before the greens  all move out to the fields and the hoophpouses are turned over to the 2012 tomato jungles. To that end,this time of year has become defined with starting and  grafting tomato plants. We will feature graftingi n a blog soon, but  it  is well underway and in a few weeks the first cycle of heirlooms will be planted in the first hoophouse. These tomatoes give us a jump on tomato season and  when they appear at our farmers markets there is practically a stampede for them. Not to mention the chefs fighting over who gets them first.  Just kidding everybody-- in reality everyone is eager, but polite !

Happy Spring !

March 21, 2012

Posted 2/9/2012 10:31am by David Zemelsky.
Dear Star Light Gardens Fans,

This season we are starting our first CSA!  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, here is a brief explaination:

Imagine that you are given the opportunity to receive weekly fresh, organically grown produce at  your favorite farm.  And while you are there,have an equally interesting opportunity to meet other people  who believe that locally and sustainably  grown, fresh  food is extremely important for both your mental and physical health.  Am I drawing a clear enough picture?  

CSA members, in a very real sense become an intregal part of the life on the farm.  Shareholders (that's what you really are!) own a real share of the harvest.  You can benefit from the kind of growing season we have by receiving bonus amounts of food during bountiful times.  Of course, a poor season will also affect the amount of food that one receives.

The CSA model  gives you the ability to experiment with the very best food that is available at the time that you receive your share.  Each week shareholders come to Star Light Gardens between 2PM-7PM on either a Wednesday or a Thursday.  Upon arrival, you'll immediately be able to see what your share for the week looks like.  There will be bins of delicious produce spread around our Distribution Shed with signs indicating how many lbs(or pieces) of each item would be your share.  Additionaly,, we'll be blogging on a regular basis : sharing the events that shaped our growing week on the farm. Giving you great recipes will help you to cook amazing dishes.  There really is no good substitute for fresh vegetables that are grown by someone you know and trust.  There aren't any good words to describe how amazing well grown food tastes.  

And that exactly is our main wish:  to grow for you the very best and nutritious food that you can find anywhere on the planet.  
To learn more, please visit starlightgardensct.com  and follow the links to the CSA.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any and all of your questions.

Bon Appetit!
Ty and David Zemelsky
Star Light Gardens
54 Fowler Ave.
Durham, CT 06422
860 463 0166

Posted 2/7/2012 4:06pm by Ty Zemelsky.


February 7, 2012

We are so excited to announce that this year we will have a CSA. For those of you not familiar with the term or the idea, a CSA means Community Supported Agriculture. Essentally you buy a "share "in this years production of our farm and we will provide you  with a weekly extravaganza of fresh, harvested that day, certified organic vegetables. For 22 weeks From May 30- October 24 you come by once a week and pick up your share for the week. 

The season will start with greens of many varieties from small head lettuces to arugula and then as it gets hotter will expand to offer all kinds of things, including our famous watermelons and our even more famous heirloom tomatoes.

All the information you need is at  CSA for 2012 .

Posted 11/17/2011 5:45am by Ty Zemelsky.

It is amazing to walk through our six hoop houses at this time of year.  We’ve been growing greens for 12 years now and I still can’t get use to the fact that we can eat fresh locally grown food every month of the year.  Spinach, kale and claytonia are our first choices for deep winter.  They seem to care less how cold it gets.  Mizuna, lettuce, tatzoi, tokyo bekana (to name a few)  are somewhat impervious to cold weather.  We make sure that we have a lot of these choices for early fall, just making sure to have an abundance of the three Winter Warriors (spinach, kale and claytonia) for the dead of winter.  This kind of growing offers huge benefits to farmers and a lot of surprises, too.  There have been many a cold January day that I will walk in our hoophouses amongst frozen greens in the early morning and think that our crop is doomed with no hope of bouncing back to life.  By 9 or 10 AM, it has warmed up enough so that the frozen plants have turned back into viable, energetic live plants.  Plants that can do this have the ability to concentrate the water in the plant cell, changing the density and therefore changing the freezing point.  The other amazing benefit of winter growing is that the winter greens are very , very sweet.  That is because the carbohydrates are increased when the plant feels that its life is being threatened.  Extra carbs in plants means extra sweet.

The cycle of growing on a farm doesn’t ever come to an end.  Currently, we are planting carrots, lettuce, chard and beets for an early harvest in late April and early May.  The object is to get the plants started in the fall, let them winter over and allow them to take off once the extra daylight returns in late January, early February.  All of these crops are being grown outside in low tunnels.  A low tunnel is a series of hoops put over a plant bed with an appropriate piece of plastic put over the hoops and weighed down with sand bags to keep the plastic from blowing away.  The most advanced of these crops(chard and beets) was planted on October 21.  They’ve already germinated and created  the first baby leaves.  Lettuce, which normally will turn to  mush below 25 degrees, does very well if the plants stay at a small size until mid winter.  We’ve planted a special mix recommended by Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Maine called 5 Star Greenhouse Mix.  The lettuces in this mix  stay healthy and are very beautiful when mature.

Anyone interested in getting salad or spinach for the holidays are welcome to call us up and we’ll get it ready for you.  Tuesday, November 22 is the last day of work for that week.  We can be reached at 860 463 0166.

We are also posting pictures of some of the greens that are mentioned above.  Hope that you enjoy them.

Posted 5/6/2011 7:42am by Ty Zemelsky.

In the midst of the greens, reds and purples around here, Ty has been working as a professional visual artist for over 25 years. Or it could also be said that in the midst of a long art career,  Starlight Gardens was started and continues to flourish. We are always in a state of never getting everything in the way that we want to do it. So one of our goals for this year is to more publically connectthe two parts of our work together. Check out her website.  ty zemelsky


Posted 2/16/2011 12:37pm by Ty Zemelsky.

As I write this note, we are getting ready to start our first wave of tomatoes.  There is a real promise of spring in this activity.  If you count all the months that these tomatoplants will be in our lives, you  begin to realize that this is a long term relationship!  The plants that are started today will be with us until the beginning of September-that would be seven months!  Among the varieties tht we will start will be Sungold, Prudens Purple, Moskovich, Red grape, Paul Robeson and Cherokee Purple.  In a few weeks, these small plants will be grafted onto a sturdy rootstock.  What this means, is that we literally cut the plant in half and clip it to the rootstock.  The purpose of this procedure is two-fold.  First, we are able to avoid soil borne root diseases.  Second, the newly made plant has the ability to increase its productivity significantly. We have always provided unusual and extremely tasty heirloom tomatoes over the years and are very proud of our reputation with top chefs and our farmer’s market customers.

On a more somber note, our greenhouses have suffered mightily this winter with all the snow that the state has received.  Star Light Gardens has 5 greenhouses with a total area of 16,500 sq feet.  In most winters, the snow that fell on the roofs of the houses would always slide off very soon after any storm.  That was also true this winter, untilthe piles became so high along the edges that there was no longer any room for the snow to go anywhere.  There came a critical moment when it became obvious that the only way to save the structures was to cut all the plastic from the inside and let the snow on top fall thru to the crop bed directly below it. Four of our five houses are now standing tall, minus the protective plastic.  The last house, our largest one by 50%,  partially caved in before we could do this procedure.  This is a costly, but not irreparable situation.  In this larger house, we can still get in the house and harvest at least half of what is there-wonderful winter spinach, truly the best that winter has to offer.  In the other houses, the snow has buried all the greens, making them inaccessible for now.  We believe that this will not kill the plants under the snow, just slow down their ability to grow.  Once the snow around the houses goes away, we can put plastic back on and the plants will start growing again. Although, we wouldn’t rate this event as positive, our goal is to get back to doing what we know best-grow the best greens, tomatoes and other veggies around.

Posted 8/11/2010 9:49pm by Ty Zemelsky.

Sungolds on my shoulder make me happy...
Didn't John Denver write that?
That sums up our attitude towards sungolds these days.  Sungolds?  Pretty little cherry tomatoes, the color of orange.  When they first began to ripen , there were 2 or 3.  Then 10.  After that 100.  Can't keep track of how many there are now.  The important thing to know about sungolds, is that they are all about the sugar.  The other thing that is important to know about sungolds is that everyone wants them.  The last thing you need to know about sungolds is that they are terribly distracting.  When we first started growing them, it was only in one house.  That would mean that if I was working on the far side of the farm, I would have to walk a long ways to get to them.  Like all farmers,  I always look for ways to save time and energy.  So the next year, we planted sungolds in every High Tunnel.  That way, when the spirit moved me, I wasn't too far away from one of these lumps of sugar with orange skin.

The biggest news around here is that we are hosting a Chef to Farm Dinner, created by Executive Chef Scott Miller from Max Oyster Bar in West Hartford.  The event will take place on August 29th at 6PM.  The theme of this dinner is organic products only, with a heavy emphasis on vegetables from Star Light Gardens.  Scott is extremely creative and will undoubtedly utilize  our vegetables in amazing ways.  Please go to Maxdiningcard.com for  more details, and ticket information.  These dinners are a fine example of the collaboration that can take place between chefs and farms.  We really hope to see you there.

Posted 8/10/2010 3:18pm by Ty Zemelsky.

July 30,2010
Things happen fast on a farm.  Not only that, but when I see something different, I am shocked that it actually happened.  Take watermelon, for example.  We start them in small pots in early April.  The seeds are soaked the night before  to help them germinate faster.  Then there is a little waiting while they sit on the heat pads so that the soil remains warm to further speed up germination.  After 5-6 days, the plant emerges- cotyledon first.  It is a different shaped leaf from what the plant will look like-just a promise of what is to come.  After tending them for a while, and watering, and talking to them and thinking about what is to come next - we are ready to get them planted.  This year, they are all the way down at the bottom of the farm next to "New Day" ,our  144' x 30' high tunnel.  We plant them out in rows 4 feet apart - a foot and a half between plants.  A row of drip tape lies down the middle of the row to deliver a small trickle of water whenever its needed.  Black plastic is put down between the rows.  This would be mid to late May.  Can't put them out too early.  If the soil or the air is still too cold, these plants could languish or even die.   Even so, for the first few weeks, nothing seems to happen.  They don't die, but they don't grow either.  I begin to panic a little.  What if there is no watermelon this year?  The idea  sends a small panic thru my mind.  But I calm myself and remember to be patient.  Eventually,  all this waiting pays off.  The vine begins to grow.  And then it grows some more and eventually the black plastic disappears beneath a sea of healthy vines.  This is followed by the emergence of tiny golf sized melons.  That would be around the beginning of July.  Every day, we give a watch to these ever larger sized melons until one fatal day when our grandson has a look at them.  "They're ready, Grampy.  Let's pick one!"  He's more than excited.  So am I.  I get closer to one promising specimen and inspect closer for the  three signs of ripeness.  Firstly, there's the dying curly sprig opposite where the melon attaches to the vine.  It should be totally dead and dried out.  This reminds me of those roasting chickens that have a thermometer pop out when it is cooked enough.  This particular sprig is totally dead.  A good sign.  Then there is the yellow spot underneath the melon where it touches the ground. That's what this one is.   Another positive sign.  Lastly, the melon needs to "thump" properly.  This is the more abstract sign of a ripe melon.  According to ancient wisdom, it needs to sound hollow.  This takes years of practices.  Probably a lot of failures, too!  This thump works for us.  With a quick assembly of bravery, we decide to cut it from the vine and bring it to the house to be cut up.  Watermelons don't particularly ripen well off the vine, so you got to pick it ripe the first time.  Not like heirloom tomatoes, who are happy to keep ripening after you pick them.  Once inside the house we all gather round the cutting board.  Now its also Ty, and our granddaughter and my sister, Judy-a whole crowd to watch the first melon of the season together.  Now, we're all excited.  I take the biggest knife we have and give it a big whack-hoping for all red.  A moment of suspense and then a parting of the two halves.  RED!  Success!  There's yelps and other sounds of excitement from all sides.  Quickly pieces are divided up and soon there are drippy happy faces everywhere.  Such a long wait for this moment and so sweet it ultimately is! And this brings me back to being shocked.  For that is how I feel now.  Besides the incredibly sweet experience of watermelon, I can not believe that all that time has gone by to transform those small seeds into this bundle of green and red energy.  We are indeed lucky.

Having said all that about melons,  you might be surprised that I didn't mention the tomato crop first.  Could have written the same story and substituted  the tomato for melon.  An even longer wait from seed to fruit and 10 times the work.  Our crop is pouring in now.  We've managed several 2 pound striped german tomatoes and equally impressive, but smaller green zebra.  The list goes on, but I won't burden you with the rest of it right now except for the Juliet.  This tomato has been named by me as the one I would take to a desert island if I had to choose only one.  It isn't an heirloom, but it's personality beats out all the rest. The fruit is smaller, deep red and shaped like a lopsided rugby ball.  Here is a tomato that doesn't care whether you eat it off the vine, cook it on pizza or dry it in the oven.  Either way,  it will knock your socks off for full flavor.  I can not overstate how delicious this tomato is.  If you come to a market, please visit our tent for a free sample.  You'll get what I am taking about right away.

On August 29th, we are going to be hosting a Farm Dinner prepared and served by Chef Scott Miller and his staff from Max's Oyster Bar of West Hartford.  Scott sits at the front of the boat as far as seeking out Connecticut grown products, whether it is cheese, meat, fish or produce.  He would be classified as a local hero in our book.  We are really excited about this upcoming event.  If you are interested-visited the Oyster Bar website at maxdiningcard.com  to make reservations.  We'd love to have you be part of the evening.