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Jun 10, 2021

Gardening Knowhow From Shipton’s Big R

Gardening Knowhow From Shipton’s Big R

June 10, 2021

These days, more and more people are discovering the joys of playing in the dirt — or, as grown-ups prefer to call it, “gardening.”

We put together some tips not only to help you know your potatoes, but also so you can watch them grow. (Imagine the day you finally wave goodbye as they drive to Potato College. So. Proud.)

Good for the world

Whether it’s the cost-effectiveness, the environmental sustainability, or the sheer damn nutritiousness of it all, food gardening is becoming the frozen aisle of the future.

Renewed interest in gardening may be due in part to changing behaviors. Locavores are interested in having greater access to healthy and local foods, knowing where their food comes from, and supporting the environment and the local economy.

Good for your body and brain

Gardening doesn’t only boost the health of your geraniums. The simple act of pruning a hedge can also provide significant health benefits.

  • Growing a garden encourages people to engage in other behaviors and activities that promote wellness. For example, gardeners consume more fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners.
  • Home gardeners who choose to grow food organically reduce their exposure to pesticides.
  • People end up potentially eating produce with a higher nutrient content.
  • Gardening also reduces stress and improves your mental health.
  • A study showed that gardening also counted as moderate-intensity exercise and can help women live longer.

Rule umero uno: Relax and have fun. Gardening is often a process of trial and error, and we promise that it’s not as intimidating as it might seem!

Plants are like people, but better. Each type of plant has a unique “personality” and likes different things (water, sunlight, soil type, different hats, etc.). Some plants like it hot and sunny, while others like it cooler or moister (or both).

It’s fun, but meeting the needs of your seedlings can take a bit of experimentation (and internet research) to learn what works best for a particular type of plant. That being said, virtually all plants require a few basic ingredients:


Plants are pretty magical, as they harness energy from the sun and, through photosynthesis, convert that energy into their tissues.
(Try eating sunlight. We bet you can’t. Also we bet you look foolish trying to eat sunlight. Plants win this round, okay?)  Because plants need the sun to grow, many of them, including most fruits and veggies, need a good amount of direct sun during the day.

Have a shadier plot? Research which plants prefer shady conditions if you have less light available. (Also, stop hatching shady plots. You are not the supervillain you think.)


Plants also need water. Just as a fresh beverage keeps you from wilting in the sun, plants rely on there being a good amount of water available nearby to stay proud and healthy. In many places, it may be necessary to water your garden regularly in order to keep plants happy.  Consider your water sources. If they’re not close to your garden plot, it will be important to figure out a system for transporting water to your garden.  Water conundrum! Don’t forget, while you’re out tilling the soil this summer, you need water too.

Nutrients and soil

You need to eat as healthy as possible to stay at peak health, right? On a similar level, plants need nutrients, and lots of them.
In larger farming operations, different nutrients cycle through the soil as different plants grow. This is what they mean by “fertile” soil — nutrient-rich bounties of growth for new plants.

You might need to add nutrients manually if your garden isn’t already part of an annual crop rotation cycle (and if you’re reading an article about gardening basics, that’s not altogether likely — although if accomplished farmers are also tuned in, welcome!)

If you live in an urban environment, you might also want to test the soil for lead, especially if you have little ones that play in the garden and roll in the mud.  This is less important in terms of growing veg, although doesn’t help, according to research.

Growing season

The length of your growing season is another handy piece of information. It’s the average amount of time per year where the temperature stays above freezing during both day and night.  Knowing about the growing season is particularly useful for planting annual plants, including most garden vegetables and many flowers, which live for only a single year.

If you want to plant melons, for example, you’ll want to make sure that you can find a variety of melons that can grow fully within the length of your growing season.

Location, location, location

Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what will work for you and what’s within.

Community gardens provide another great alternative for people with limited space to get their hands dirty — or for those who’d rather not get their hands dirty alone.  If you’re growing plants outdoors, try to choose a spot that optimizes all those things that plants need — light, water, nutrients, and good soil.

You can choose to grow plants directly in the soil (which is an easy and affordable option), to build raised beds, or to grow plants in containers. Raised beds (which are basically large wooden boxes filled with soil) are often 6 to 24 inches off the ground.

They can be very productive, but it will cost extra money for the materials to build the beds. For smaller spaces or starter gardens, containers are a fantastic way to go because they provide so much flexibility. Watering is especially critical for containers because they dry out faster than garden beds.  Luckily, these gardens are often pretty small, so watering only takes a few minutes. If you’re feeling cooped up in a small apartment, here are some other ways to make your world feel more open.

The wonderful thing about gardening is that, with so many potential plants and vegetables to grow, you can paint your green patch pretty much any color you see fit.

If you’re to get the most from your garden, have answers to the following before kicking things off:

  • What types of plants are you most excited to grow? Many people want to see their salad sprout from the ground. Others may be more interested in giving their yards a makeover. Know your motive, and it’ll guide the rest.

  • If you’re food gardening, what do you most like to cook and eat? There’s no reason to grow a 5-pound zucchini if you don’t love the stuff. Grow things that are yummy to you. (And stop trying to grow Sour Patch Kids. That’s not how they work.)

  • How much space and light do you have available for gardening (whether at your place or at a community garden)? Know whether you’re gardening in the ground or in containers, how much light the area receives each day, and whether the area offers any shade. You can pretty much garden anywhere though.

  • How much time are you looking to spend gardening? Plants require care, so be realistic about how much time you’ll be willing to spend weeding, watering, and so on. It’s generally a good idea to start small and learn the ropes before taking on a huge commitment. If you love it, you can scale up from there.

Now you can stop digging for answers and start digging for real.

The ideal amount of water they need varies and depends on a few factors. Hotter and drier air will pull moisture from plants and soils more quickly, so more watering will be necessary as the temperatures climb.  The type of soil you have in your garden will also affect how much water is available to plants. A good rule of (green) thumb is that plants should guzzle up enough water to cover the ground with an inch of water every week.

It’s also better for plants to get all the water one or two times per week rather than a little bit each day. Think of it as intermittent fasting for plants.  An easy test to see if plants have enough water available is to stick a finger in the soil and make sure it feels moist 2-3 inches below the soil.

When watering, it’s best to use a watering can or sprinkler, as dumping a lot of water on the plants all at once can damage them. If your area gets a lot of rain, however, this won’t become that regular a chore. 

The larger the scale of your gardening, the more tools you’re likely to need. One of the major reasons people are interested in gardening is its impact on bringing down food costs. Adding unnecessary equipment costs to that may feel counterproductive.  If you’re in this camp, start with the minimum and add things as you go.

Container gardens are very easy to get going. For these, you’ll need the following:

For raised beds, or an in the ground garden it’s helpful to have:

You might need heftier equipment for a larger garden, such as a rototiller for preparing the soil, but this is by no means necessary if you’d prefer gardening to be more of a workout.

Finally, it’s time to put some plants in the ground.  When purchasing plants, You’ll have the option to purchase seeds or small, starter plants that you can transplant into your garden. Many vegetables and flowers are easy to grow from seed, making this the simpler (and more affordable) choice in many situations.

Buying plants, rather than seeds, is especially useful when:

  • a plant is difficult to grow from seed
  • the growing season is particularly short

To combine the best of both worlds, lots of seeds can be started inside in pots and later transplanted outdoors.  The directions for planting will depend on what’s being planted. The packaging of the seeds will usually tell you everything you need to know. And the internet is always there, no matter how at one with nature you feel.

You can plant seeds in rows or patterns that use space more effectively. Just put seeds in the soil (how deep depends on the plant) before covering them back up with dirt and water. If you’re using starter plants, dig a hole big enough to fit whatever you’re transplanting so that the roots have lots of growing room. Gently pack soil around the roots so that the plant stays the same level above the ground as it did in the container. After planting seeds or starters, be sure to give the soil a hearty watering.

Once your plants are flourishing, one of the biggest challenges is keeping weeds, pests, and diseases out of the garden.  To a certain extent, weeds are inevitable, and that’s okay — so long as they don’t start choking out your plants. The best course of action is to weed every week and keep them from getting out of control.

In general, it’s easier to pull weeds out of the ground when soils are wetter. Hoes are more effective for dry soil. Covering the soil with mulch or straw can help reduce weeds while keeping the moisture in. Garden pests (including bugs and meddlesome critters) and diseases challenge even the most experienced of gardeners. But you can fix many of these issues with a little planning. Many bugs and diseases that cause damage to plants are more likely to occur when plants are stressed, so a good supply of sun, water, and nutrients will reduce other gardening issues.

How many vegetables to plant in your garden to feed your family

All amounts are based on fresh eating, so adjust accordingly if you want to preserve any of your harvests or you have an extra long growing season.

Number of Plants to Grow
1 to 2 per person
5 per person
5 to 10 per person
Bean (bush)
5 to 10 per person
Bean (fava)
4 to 8 per person
Bean (pole)
3 to 5 per person
5 to 10 per person
Bok choy
1 to 3 per person
2 to 4 per person
Brussels sprout
1 to 2 per person
2 to 4 per person
10 to 20 per person
2 to 4 per person
2 to 6 per person
2 to 3 per person
2 to 3 per person
Corn (sweet)
6 to 12 per person
2 to 4 per person
3 to 6 per person
1 to 2 per person
10 to 15 per person
3 to 5 per person
4 to 8 per person
10 per person
5 per person
2 to 3 per person
Mustard green
5 to 10 per person
2 to 3 per person
Onion (bulb)
10 to 20 per person
Onion (scallion)
15 to 25 per person
Onion (shallot)
10 to 20 per person
5 to 10 per person
Pea (shelling)
15 to 30 per person
Pea (snap or snow)
3 to 5 per person
Pepper (sweet)
3 to 5 per person
Pepper (hot)
1 to 2 per person
5 to 10 per person
Radish (spring)
15 to 25 per person
Radish (winter)
5 to 10 per person
1 to 2 per person
5 to 10 per person
Squash (summer)
1 to 2 per person
Squash (winter)
1 to 2 per person
Sweet potato
5 per person
1 to 2 per person
Tomato (cherry)
1 per person
Tomato (slicing)
2 to 4 per person
5 to 10 per person

Apr 8, 2021

Caring for Your Backyard Flock For The First 18 Months

Caring for Your Backyard Flock For The First 18 Months

April 8, 2021

Newly hatched chicks are very tiny. They are delicate and fuzzy – and so cute! Unfortunately, they are also extremely vulnerable to the harsh world around them. The chick needs all the advantages it can get. Once you have made the commitment to step in as mother hen, the care is in your hands.

You have (hopefully) previously thought ahead and set up a good coop that will be a good home for the baby, and of course its mates. Chicks are social animals that need companionship, which is why they thrive in a flock.

You will also need the brooder to be large enough for the number of chicks you plan to raise and make sure it’s equipped with a feeder and waterer. Make sure it has an inch of wood shavings for bedding and a heat lamp or electric chick warmer. Make sure the heat lamp has a RED bulb, and it can be raised and lowered to regulate heat on the birds. Once you have these basics in place, you are ready to welcome home your new chicks!

We recommend using these six chicken growth milestones as a roadmap to creating a complete feeding program.

1. Weeks 1-4: Baby chicks

Bedding:  That inch of wood flake shavings you laid down, will provide the chicks the dry, warm environment they need. Be aware that shredded paper has micro filaments that can cause respiratory problems in the birds, so using the larger wood shavings is a good choice. Raising chicks on newspaper, plastic or an otherwise slick surface may cause their legs to splay, making walking difficult or impossible. Spraddle leg can be a permanent condition if left uncorrected, resulting in distress in the chick that can lead to death.  Make sure you clean the bedding every day and change it fully every 2-3 days.

Heat:  Without a mother hen to keep the chicks warm, the next best substitute is a warming pad or heat lamp. The most common option is a heat lamp. A radiant heat lamp will heat the chicks’ bodies and provide them the comfort to shelter and sleep.  Make sure that your heat lamp is secured, and the height is adjustable. To adjust the heat from a heat lamp, hang it starting at 18” to 24” from the chicks. The proper temperature for the chicks should range between 85- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Use an outdoor thermometer designed to measure air temperature to ensure a suitable climate for the chicks.

The best way to monitor the heat is to pay attention to your baby chicks! They will tell you if the temperature is comfortable. If the chicks tend to huddle under the light, peeping loudly, it is too cold. If they are always to the edge or away from the heat, it is too hot. If they are spaced out, pecking around, going about their business in a way that that looks casual, they’re comfortable.  The Red Bulbs you chose for the heat lamp is a good choice. It does not resemble daylight, like a white bulb, and helps chicks sleep at night. Also, the red light is not harmful to the chicks’ eyes and tends to keep chicks from pecking at one another.

Water, then Food: Once you introduce baby chicks to a brooder, provide them with fresh room temperature water, for the first couple of hours. This gives the chicks the opportunity to rehydrate before they feed. If the chicks seem unsure around water, feel free to dip their beaks into the water. They will catch on and take it from there.  Electrolytes and probiotics can also be provided to your chicks through the water. These come in bulk packaging or in pre-measured quantities that can be diluted with water. The electrolytes provide energy and help to keep your wee ones hydrated while the probiotics help aid in digestive health. The two can be used alone or combined for ultimate health. (Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and recommendations.)

Food:  Start your chicks strong by giving a complete starter-grower feed with at least 18 percent protein to support growth. Look for feed that includes amino acids are important for chick development, prebiotics and probiotics vital for immune health, as well as vitamins and minerals to support bone health.  Also, when you purchase your chicks at Shipton’s Big R, they will be unvaccinated. For non-vaccinated chicks, we recommend the medicated feed mentioned, to prevent coccidiosis, a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract.  Chicks are vulnerable to illness and a medicated chick starter feed will provide the extra boost they need.

2. Weeks 5-15: The teenage chicken stage

During weeks 5 and 6, chicks will go through visible growth changes; new primary feathers will come in and a pecking order will begin developing. Growing birds are now referred to differently. Pullet is the term for a teenage female, while a young male is called a cockerel. Between weeks 7 and 15, the physical differences between genders will become even more obvious.

Continue to feed a complete starter-grower feed during the teenage stage. In addition to 18 percent protein, be sure the feed contains no more than 1.25 percent calcium. An excess of calcium can have a detrimental effect on growth, but a complete starter feed has just the right balance.

3. Weeks 16-17: When to switch from chick starter to layer feed

Around this point in the growth people begin to check their nesting boxes for the coveted first egg. It is time to consider layer feed options so you can make a smooth transition. As compared to starter-grower, a layer chicken feed has less protein and more calcium. This added calcium is important for egg production.

Look for a chicken layer feed that matches your flock’s goals. Be sure the layer feed is made with simple, wholesome ingredients and includes 16 percent protein, at least 3.25 percent calcium as well as key vitamins and minerals.

4. Week 18: At what age do chickens start laying eggs?

When birds reach 18 weeks old or when the first egg arrives, slowly transition to a layer feed. It is best to transition over time rather than all at once to prevent digestive upset. Mix the starter feed with the layer feed evenly for four or five days. If birds are used to crumbles, start with a crumble layer feed. The same goes with pellets. The more similar the two feeds are, the smoother the transition will go.

5. Month 18: Molting chickens

During about 18 months feathers will likely begin to cover the coop floor. Welcome to the season of molting chickens! The first molt usually occurs in the fall as days become shorter. Your flock will take a break from egg laying and shed feathers for a few weeks. Molting is completely natural and will happen every year.

 It is important to keep your flock strong during molting. Protein is the key nutrient in a flock’s diet because feathers are made of 80-85 percent protein, whereas eggshells are primarily calcium. When molt begins, switch to a complete feed with 20 percent protein. A high-protein complete feed is important for feather regrowth. Once birds begin producing eggs again, switch back to a layer feed.

6. 5+ Years: Laying hen retirement

One day, the time may come for the veterans of a flock to take a vacation and retire from egg-laying. At this point transition retiring hens to a higher-protein feed. Although a laying hen will stop laying as she ages, she still has an important place in the flock as a steady companion who brings joy to the entire family.

One Final Thought:

We all love to spoil our chickens with treats every now and then.  Giving treats to your chickens helps to give their diet some variation. It also helps to keep them happy and laying eggs.  Also check out our Chick Days Page for more information on how Shipton's Big R can help you raise your flock.  

Feb 18, 2021

Tips For A Smooth Calving Season

Tips For A Smooth Calving Season

February 18, 2021

The most important day of a calf’s life is the first one. There are some key factors that play a role in whether or not a baby calf gets off to a good start and research has demonstrated that the first 24 hours of life are critical in order for a calf to survive to weaning and beyond.

Interventions – follow-up care is important

Dystocia, or calving complications, pose a health risk for both the newborn calf and the mother cow. Dystocia can be partially managed with careful breeding and culling practices, proper nutrition, and by managing for a body condition score of 3 (on a scale of 1-5) before calving, but difficult deliveries can still occur.

Every scenario is different, however, once a water bag appears the calf should hit the ground within one hour for cows, or up to one and a half hours for a first-calf heifer. Intervention may be needed, especially if no progress has occurred for thirty minutes, the cow stops pushing, or there are other signs of trouble. If there is a problem, a water bag may not always appear, be observant of other behaviors that signal labor, such as tail switching, restlessness, the appearance of membranes or discharge, or a kink in the cow’s tail.

Calves born with assistance are less likely to drink colostrum – that first, rich milk newborns require – on their own. Assisted calves are more likely to have reduced vigor or be mismothered and need proper care and attention to increase their ability to survive.
  • If a calf is born with assistance, DO NOT hang the calf upside down. Rather, place the calf in the recovery position to keep the airway open and better enable it to start breathing.
  • Both the mothering cows and calves may benefit from pain medication following a difficult delivery. Administering an NSAID, like meloxicam, can help to promote recovery, improve appetite, and lead to better milk production. If a calf’s pain is managed, they will be more comfortable, are more likely to get up and stay active, start nursing, and stay warm.
  • Assess a calf’s vigor by testing for a suckle reflex. Place a finger or two in the calf’s mouth and gently tickle the roof of its mouth. If a calf has a strong suckle reflex within 10 minutes of birth, they will have a better chance of nursing the cow on their own without assistance. A calf with a weak suckle reflex will need monitoring and likely colostrum supplementation.
  • A dazed or weak calf can be resuscitated. To stimulate a calf, rub the chest vigorously, poke a clean straw into its nostril, or even dribble a small amount of cold water in a calf’s ear.

Colostrum – the sooner the better

Colostrx Colstrum is full of fats, vitamins, and protein antibodies called immunoglobulin G (IgG). These antibodies are essential to help a calf develop immunity to diseases specific to the farm it is born on. Calves should suckle a recommended minimum of 1 liter of colostrum in the first 4-6 hours of life.

Producers should pay attention to whether or not they see a baby calf nurse its mother. Look to see if the cow’s teats have been sucked, feel the calf’s belly to see if it is full, or look at its hooves to see if the soft, rubbery capsule has been worn off, an indication that it has been standing up. If it does not look like the calf has what it needs or it appears weak or dull, the following are some supplementations to consider:
  • The best source of supplemental colostrum is from within your own herd. The freshly calved cow can be milked, or colostrum can be collected from another cow on your farm and frozen for up to one year.
  • Never microwave colostrum, it which can “cook” the antibodies and render them useless. Instead, place the bag of frozen colostrum in a bowl of warm water so it can gradually increase in temperature.
  • Powdered colostrum is an option if fresh/frozen colostrum is unavailable. Read the package to determine if the product is a “replacement” or a “supplement.” Supplements contain fewer grams of IgG per liter so two packages may be required to meet the needs of the calf.
  • Veterinarians recommend feeding calves anywhere from a minimum of 100 grams IgG up to 200 grams IgG.
  • Avoid colostrum sourced from other farms, to prevent bringing unwanted diseases to your herd.
  • When administering colostrum, bottle-feeding is better than tube-feeding. A bottle will support the calf’s suckle reflex which in turn will ensure the optimal amount of antibodies are absorbed in the calf’s gut.
  • Tube feeding is better than nothing, however it places the milk directly into the rumen, which does not allow for maximum absorption.
  • Use separately marked tubes or bottles for feeding colostrum and treating sick calves. This will prevent newborn calves from being exposed to disease.
  • Clean and disinfect bottles and tubes after each use.

Disease prevention – keep calving area clean

The most effective way to manage disease in young calves is to manage the “disease balance” If calves aren’t exposed to bacteria and viruses that cause common calfhood diseases such as scours, septicemia, pneumonia, or navel ill, their risk of infection is going to be minimal.
  • Disease outbreaks are less common when cattle are spread out so if possible, reduce confinement.
  • For producers calving on pasture, provide ample space for expectant cows, then move pairs to fresh ground. This is referred to as a Sandhills calving system.
  • When calving in a corral, the principle of providing a clean environment remains the same. Provide lots of fresh, clean bedding. This also helps ensure that cows’ udders are kept clean and dry.
  • Clean pens regularly.
  • Disease-causing bacteria can lurk in common areas such as creep feeders, wind shelters, or warmers. Ensure permanent structures are kept clean and well beddedMove portable feeders and shelters often.
  • Isolate and treat sick calves to prevent them from infecting healthy calves.
  • Talk to your veterinarian and make sure yo" target="_blank">Antibiotics may also be necessary. 

Planning for a successful calving season starts months before the first calf of the year is born, however the tips outlined above can help producers navigate the calving season now.

Providing effective support for difficult deliveries, ensuring calves receive adequate colostrum, and keeping calving areas clean will allow producers to optimize the health, wellbeing, and profitability of this year’s calf crop.  Shipton’s Big R has the resources you need including nutrients and supplements, as well as warmers, bottles, and tags.  We are open 7 days a week, and you can always shop online at

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