His talk In Defense of Okra is on Friday, Sep. 20th: 1:30–3 pm at the lovely Woodland Pavilion. Click here to buy tickets.
Go if you love okra. Go if you hate it – you might change your mind!
The workshop description says:
Calling all worshippers of this much-maligned, tasty vegetable (that is technically a fruit). And okra doubters beware — we’re about to change … your … life.
Join Smith, author of the newly released book The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration, for an interactive and entertaining exploration of the culinary (and non-culinary) uses of okra. Having grown 125 varieties, Smith will share and sample many of the incredible uses of the plant, including okra kimchi, pickled and fermented okra, okra flower tea, okra-seed coffee and okra oil — not to mention the world-renowned delicacy, okra marshmallows.
Participants will learn to enjoy (yes, even LOVE) and appreciate this disparaged underdog — from pod to stem. Take home delicious recipes that will have you profusely apologizing for ever uttering the word “slimy” in its presence.
The future of okra rests on your shoulders. Do the right thing.
Author of The Whole Okra, expert okra enthusiast Chris Smith writes regularly for The Heirloom Gardener, the Mother Earth News blog, and the Farmers’ Almanac blog. His presentations on the versatility of okra have delighted audiences at food and farming festivals and fairs throughout the Southeast. He is the Executive Director for The Utopian Seed Project, Communications Manager for Sow True Seed in Asheville, North Carolina, and serves on the board of The People’s Seed. A native of the UK, Smith has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Manchester. His short stories have been published in Nashville Review, Mid-American Review, and The Manchester Review.
Yes, he’s a fellow Brit. He’s very funny. He’s very knowledgeable about seeds and growing vegetables.
Starting with what’s being harvested now – squash and zucchini are coming in nicely. The hoophouse Gentry yellow squash (chosen for being fast-maturing) is coming in by the bucketload, and the outdoor yellow squash and zucchini have started producing.
Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables,on Saturday 6/10 at 11 am on the Yanmar Sustainability Stage, immediately followed by book-signing at the Mother Earth News Bookstore noon- 12.30.
Producing Asian Greens on Sunday 6/11 at 3.30 pm on the Heirloom Gardener Stage.
I’m also doing demonstrations of tomato string-weaving at the New Society Publishers booth 2611, near the Mother Earth News Stage (not the Bookstore this time), at 10 – 10.30 am and 3-3.30 pm on Saturday and 10 -10.30 am, 11- 11.30 am and 2- 2.30 pm on Sunday. Check out my Events page to see the pink sparkly tinsel tomato plant models I use!
At the Heritage Harvest Festival near Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday September 8 (the Premium Workshops before the main Festival), I’m presenting on Growing Sweet Potatoes at 3.30-4.30 in classroom 7, followed by book-signing at the Monticello Bookshop.
The June/July summer issue of Growing for Market magazine is out, and includes my article on Hoophouse soil salt buildup. This is an issue we have been dealing with – we see white deposits on the soil. I did a lot of research and found ways to water the salts back down deep in the soil profile. I also gathered information on how to measure and monitor salinity, and how to understand the test results and their different testing methods and different units of measure. I learned about salt tolerance of different crops, the plant symptoms of excess salinity, and how to prevent the problem in future. This topic is rising in importance as more people use hoophouses with drip irrigation systems. We were blithely ignorant for our first several years of hoophopuse use, as salinity takes a few years to really develop, and there wasn’t much information available.
I’m also looking forward to reading the other articles, especially Summer lettuce lessons from Southern growers by Jesse Frost. There are some great photos of beds covered with hoops and shade-cloth, which show a good system. I always appreciate articles written for southern growers, which can be in short supply.
Daisy Fair in Utah’s zone 5 has written about moveable tunnels with in-ground hydronic heat. So there’s information for cold climates too. Sam Hitchcock Tilton has an article with tips learned from Dutch and Swiss farmers. Robert Hadad advises on careful monitoring of costs of production in order to actually make a living from farming. The flower growing article in this issue is from Debra Prinzing and is about American Flowers Week, a chance to highlight American-grown flowers with some light-hearted fun photos.
The May/June Organic Broadcaster just arrived in its paper format – I’ve had the digital one for a while. Good thing I’ve got that long car ride to Vermont this weekend to catch up on my farming reading!
The front page story this time is about Kansas farmers, Tim and Michael Raile, transitioning thousands of dryland (non-irrigated) acres to Organic steadily over the next 5 or 6 years. Dryland farming focuses on moisture retention. The Railes grow a wheat/corn/
sunflower/milo (grain sorghum)/fallow rotation. They are also trialing some ancient grains.
Organic production in the US is not meeting demand, and organic imports are increasing, including organic soy and feed corn, not just bananas and coffee. More farmers want to produce Organic poultry, eggs, milk and meat. And so they are looking for Organic feed at an affordable price. This is often imported, which raises issues about how Organic Standards vary from one country to another, and the bigger issue of sustainability – not always the same as Organic! Does it really make sense to ship in grains to feed livestock?
Harriet Behar writes about the true meaning of Organic and overall methods of production. It’s not just about following rules on allowed inputs and materials – it’s a whole approach to how we treat the soil, our plants and livestock.
Hannah Philips and Brad Heins share research on how cover crop choices can influence the fatty acids and meat of dairy steers. Jody Padgham writes about CSAs responding to competition and decreasing membership by offering more options on shares and delivery. Gone are the days of “One box, one day, one price” CSAs. Numerous modifications of the basic CSA model have sprung up to better fit the diverse needs of customers (members). Kristen McPhee writes about the Vermont Herb Growers Cooperative, which buys from various small-scale growers and aggregates orders to larger buyers. Other topics covered include lessons learned from Hawaii’s GMO controversy, paying for end-of-life care without losing your farm, and many short items and classified ads. As always, a newspaper packed with information.
And by the way, we’re also picking blueberries – ah! heaven!
The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, is coming right up. Friday September 9 and the main day Saturday September 10. I’ll be presenting two workshops, Fall Vegetable Production and Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops. This is my first speaking engagement of the fall/winter/spring season. I have plans to make an Events Page, but our internet speed is still glacial, due to our tower having been struck by lightning, so I’ll wait on that.
Meanwhile in the garden, we have been having a challenging time. Cutworms mowed down our lettuce seedbed. We lost several weeks’ worth of lettuce at once, (all our October and first week of November lettuce). To prevent further depredations, I started sowing lettuce in flats, up off the ground on a metal frame I had handy. That should provide lettuce for late November and December. What to do in the meantime? I decided to direct sow some custom baby lettuce mix in the bed where we would have transplanted the missing lettuce. We’ll eat this at a young stage, so perhaps it will help us catch up.
We don’t usually grow baby lettuce mix outdoors, only in the winter hoophouse. We have to work hard to get lettuce to germinate in hot weather. But cooler weather is due here in a couple of days and I’ve already seen baby henbit seedlings coming up, a sign the soil is cooling down. I always watch for henbit, chickweed and dead nettle germinating as fall approaches, as they tell me when I can start thinking about sowing spinach.
Henbit is a spring and winter annual weed here. Sometimes people confuse henbit, ground ivy and dead nettle. Here’s a really useful blogpost from Identify that Plant on distinguishing these three easily mixed up early spring plants. This site has really helpful photos, although of course, we are not looking at full sized flowering plants now, but tiny two-leaved seedlings. Here are photos of chickweed, henbit and dead nettle seedlings. These are the three I look for when deciding if the conditions have become suitable for sowing spinach.
This last photo comes from a Danish website, but have no worries – they have thoughtfully written in English. See how closely the dead nettle seedling resembles the henbit? And see the differences, the way the seed leaves come off the petioles, and the overall shape of the true leaves?
I see I’ve written a lot about lettuce again. And weeds again. And some doom and gloom. So here’s some good news. Our okra is doing really well, and so is our sweet corn! Our internet is too slow to let me include photos of those.
Now, at the height of summer, I am looking ahead to speaking events this fall, winter and next spring. (I have been in the habit of turning down presentations from May-August, so i can focus on our gardens). My first booking is the fun and local Heritage Harvest Festival at Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia. Click the link above to plan your visit.
Friday is devoted to classroom workshops and walking tours. I will be giving my presentation on Fall Vegetable Gardening on Friday 2-3 pm. It’s a ticketed event, limited to the 32 people who can fit in the classroom. After the workshop I will be signing copies of my book from 3.15-3.45 pm at the Shop at Monticello, and chatting to whoever comes by. There are 30 other workshops on Friday, and 3 workshops on Sunday.
The main event is on Saturday, with general admission from 9 am to 6 pm. Attend some of the 16 free workshops, the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Tomato Tasting, the Chef demos, Seed swap, Monticello Shop tent and Kids activities. Spend your hard-earned cash in the Beer garden, at the Food concessions, and at 36 Premium Workshops (with pre-paid tickets).
If your tomatoes don’t look as wonderful as those in the Monticello photo above, you might be casting around for descriptions and photos of problems. Margaret Roach in her blog A Way to Garden, recently posted an interview with Dr Meg McGrath about tomato diseases, with photos. If you are worrying about Late Blight, you can sign up for alerts, although when I tried, my computer warned me the link to www.usablight.org was not secure. Margaret Roach’s Tomato Troubles FAQs has some good descriptions and many helpful links. One of the links is to Tom Stearn’s “tomato hygiene” management method.
We had trouble with our paste tomatoes, and got excellent help from the Plant Disease Clinic of the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Sadly, some of our plants seem to have been victim of some herbicide drift or cross-contamination, despite our best efforts to run our garden organically. We don’t control what falls out of the air. Happily, the plants recovered from the stunted curling in of the leaves, and are starting to pump out good yields. I hate the thought that we will be eating slightly poisoned tomatoes, even though they are still much better than commercially grown non-organic produce.
The August issue of Growing for Market magazine is out, along with my article about planning winter and early spring hoophouse harvests.
Here’s our month-by-month alphabetical list of what we plan to harvest:
Brassica baby salad mix, Bulls Blood
Beet greens, mizuna and frilly mustards, radishes, salad mix, spinach, tatsoi, thinnings of chard, baby turnips and greens for salad mix. We still have leaf lettuce outdoors, and only harvest from the hoophouse lettuce if the weather is bad outdoors. December
Arugula, brassica baby salad mix, Bulls Blood Beet greens, chard for salad, Chinese cabbage, kale, leaf lettuce, baby lettuce mix, maruba santoh, mizuna and frilly mustards, pak choy, radishes, salad mix, scallions, senposai, nspinach, tatsoi, Tokyo bekana, turnips and greens, yukina savoy.
Arugula, brassica baby salad mix, Bulls Blood Beet greens, chard, Chinese cabbage, kale, leaf lettuce, baby lettuce mix, maruba santoh, mizuna and frilly mustards, pak choy, radishes,
salad mix, scallions, senposai, spinach, tatsoi, Tokyo bekana, turnips and greens, yukina savoy. February
Arugula, brassica salad mix, Bulls Blood Beet greens, chard, kale, leaf lettuce (we cut the whole heads from 2/21), baby lettuce mix, mizuna and frilly mustards, radishes, salad mix,
scallions, senposai, spinach, tatsoi, turnips and greens, yukina savoy. March
Arugula, brassica baby salad mix, Bulls Blood Beet greens, chard, kale, leaf lettuce, lettuce heads, baby lettuce mix, mizuna and frilly mustards, radishes, salad mix, scallions, senposai, spinach, tatsoi, turnips and greens, yukina savoy. April
Brassica baby salad mix, Bulls Blood Beet greens, chard, kale, leaf lettuce (may end in early April), lettuce heads (until late April, then lettuce from outdoors), baby lettuce mix, mizuna and frilly mustards, radishes, salad mix, scallions, spinach.
Other great articles include one by Eric and Joanna Reuter about growing chestnuts, one by Gretel Adams about growing flowers without plastic, including the wonderfully simple idea of fastening C-clamps on the bottom of the hood over the tiller to mark rows in the soil. There are reviews of two farming phone apps, one for CSA farmers and one called BeetClock, based of Richard Wiswall’s Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook.
I just harvested 4 5-gallon buckets of gherkins (one for seed, 3 for pickling) from a 50ft row we abandoned over 5 weeks ago. We pulled out the drip tape too, so these plants have survived just on rainfall, and there hasn’t been all that much of that. Maybe 3″, but almost all of it in one week, with nothing in the past ten days.
Next year, I want this to be the only pickling cucumber we grow! Not only is it prolific and drought-tolerant, it also shows no sign of any diseases or pests, and its healthy vines cover the ground, leaving no room for weeds. It is a rambler (long vines) so maybe a trellis would be wise. I’ve also learned that it is resistant to some species of Root Knot Nematodes, so we may grow it in our hoophouse as part of our rotation of nematode resistant crops for the bed there which produced some gnarly-rooted tomatoes this year.
Because it’s open-pollinated and doesn’t cross with actual cucumbers (or watermelons, despite the look of the leaves), we are saving our own seed, and a little money in the process. I mentioned West Indian Gherkins last winter when I was ordering seeds. Before September 2012, when I saw these gherkins growing at Monticello, in Thomas Jefferson’s reconstructed garden, I had no idea of their existence. Now I’m starting to hear about them in more places.
Meanwhile, we are replacing the plastic on the end walls of our hoophouse. Not sure when we last did that – maybe 7 years ago? We’ve worked two mornings so far (our garden shifts are in the afternoons now that fall has arrived). We’ve got the old plastic hanging, detached everywhere except around the end bows. Tomorrow we’ll get the new plastic on. I think battening the new plastic will be easier than de-battening the old plastic! I’ll probably write more about that next time, and hopefully I’ll have some photos too.
Last time I looked there were still some tickets available for each of the premium workshops except Peter Hatch’s tour of the vegetable garden.
The Heritage Harvest Festival is a lovely event, promoting and celebrating gardening, sustainability, local food, crafts and the preservation of heritage plant varieties. This is the 8th Annual HHF, hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in partnership with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. There are food booths, music, a beer garden, events for children (last year they were splitting fence-posts and making split rail fences). There is also a seed swap, so bring what you have to offer and take home something different.
If you can only come for one day, come for the main event on Saturday, with booths where you can watch crafters, buy seeds, plants, tools; taste more varieties of tomatoes than you knew existed; attend various free workshops and tours of the Monticello vegetable garden and woodland walks. Adult general admission for Saturday is $10 until September 11, $15 At the Gate. Child tickets and family tickets are also available. It’s a fun day at a fair price. Lots to see and do, and a beautiful setting.
Ken Bezillaof Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is offering his workshop Fall & Winter Veggies: Zero Degree Gardening for free at noon on Saturday at the Vegetable Gardening Tent. So if all the $10 tickets for my workshops are sold out, or you can’t make it on Friday, go to his workshop on Saturday! Or just to hear a second opinion!
On Friday, after my book signing and hers, I’m zooming off with Cindy Conner of Grow a Sustainable Diet fame, up to Pennsylvania for the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs. No, it wasn’t our idea to have both events on the same weekend, but we’ll make it work!
A weekend pass is only $25 (and you’ll need to find accommodation). It’s only $15 if you hurry up and pre-order! Food is available at the Fair, but bring something in case the lines are long. The Fair website has links to hotels and campsites, and there are some rooms at the Seven Springs resort itself. It’s a huge event, with row upon row of vendor and exhibit booths, and 12 workshop locations offering a series of 4 workshops on Friday afternoon, 6 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. That’s 180 workshops for grown-ups. And there’s a kids’ program too.
I’m presenting Crop Rotations for Vegetables and Cover Crops. I’m doing this one twice, 10 – 11 am on Saturday at the Seed Stage and 11.30 am -12.30 pm on Sunday at the New Society Publishers stage. The blurb says: “We will provide ideas to help you design a sequence of vegetable crops that maximizes the chance to grow good cover crops as well as reduce pest and disease likelihood. We will discuss formal rotations as well as ad hoc systems for shoehorning minor crops into available spaces. The workshop will discuss cover crops suitable at various times of year, particularly winter cover crops between vegetable crops in successive years. We will include examples of undersowing of cover crops in vegetable crops and of no-till options”
I’m presenting Fall Vegetable Production on Saturday 1-2 pm at the New Society Publishers stage and again on Sunday 4-5 pm at the Storey stage. “Learn how to optimize production by choosing a suitable combination of warm weather crops, cool weather crops and cold-hardy crops. Hear seasonal tips on dealing with hot weather, followed by information on dealing with cold weather, as well as advice on scheduling late summer and fall plantings, thoughts about season extension and an introduction to winter hoophouse growing.”
I’m also doing a book signing on Saturday 2-2.30 pm at the MEN bookstore.
Meanwhile we are getting a sudden spell of hot weather and have started catching up on tilling raised beds for fall crops, and in some cases, oats as a winter cover crop. We have decided to stop harvesting watermelons for eating at 531. I wrote about our decisions about how many watermelon to plant and to harvest in 2012. We’ve had a banner year! We had the biggest melons ever – some were hard to lift! And the flavor has been delicious! And the foliage is still in good shape, not diseased. A big success. We harvested about 40 so far for seed, and will do one big bulk seed harvest round on Wednesday. Next year you can grow our Virginia Select Crimson Sweet watermelon! Buy the seed from Southern Exposure.
Last week I gave a workshop on late fall, winter and early spring vegetables for some of the growers for the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA. The goal was to help local growers of sustainable produce to grow more vegetables for late fall, during the winter, and again in early spring, so that Local Food Hub can supply this good food to more people locally. Here’s a pdf of the slideshow I presented. We also had worksheets for the five priority focus crops they had chosen: bunched carrots, bunched beets, romaine lettuce, spinach and cooking greens (kale, collards, chard and Asian greens). I enjoyed meeting the other growers and came away with some ideas myself.
<iframe src=”http://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/35667593″ width=”427″ height=”356″ frameborder=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”border:1px solid #CCC; border-width:1px 1px 0; margin-bottom:5px; max-width: 100%;” allowfullscreen> </iframe> <div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/production-of-late-fall-winter-and-early-spring-vegetable-crops” title=”Production of late fall, winter and early spring vegetable crops” target=”_blank”>Production of late fall, winter and early spring vegetable crops</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>
I’ve started to take bookings for fall workshops. So far, this is where I’ll be:
Meanwhile, at home in our gardens, we’ve been dodging big rainfalls to get our garlic harvested. Not as much as last year – we lost quite a lot to the cold wet winter weather. But what we have got is now hanging in netting in our barn to dry and cure for a few weeks.
Also on our “very pressing” list of things to do is to cut our seed potatoes and get them planted. I wrote previously about our June potato planting. Most of the garden looks very good. I’m especially noticing that our recent corn planting has few weeds – it was last year’s watermelon patch and had the biodegradable plastic mulch. I had heard other growers say the biodegradable mulch reduced weeds in future years. It’s very gratifying to see that with my own eyes. We are uncovering various cucurbits that are now flowering, so that the pollinators can get o work. (We had them covered to protect the small plants from striped cucumber beetles.) The watermelons look pretty good. the second cucumbers were full of weeds, but we are working our way along the row.
Many of the raised beds look very weedy, but nothing a big round of rototilling won’t fix! Our nine pea beds need to go. It’s a happy bit of timing that our first green beans are ready as soon as the peas give up! That way we don’t have to pick both at once.
Talking of weeds, I enjoyed a recent post by Margaret Roach on her blog A Way to Garden. In particular she mentions mugwort, which we have as an escapee from a previous deliberate planting. She also has a nice photo of galinsoga, one of our worst summer weeds in the raised beds, and links to various other weedy pages.
The September issue of Growing for Market is out. For this issue I wrote about our efforts to find a sustainable method of growing strawberries. We now use landscape fabric with holes melted in it, and keep the plants for two years. We are rebuilding after some years when the weeds overcame our previous beds, which had organic mulch (newspaper and hay). Our plan is to have two patches, and till in the two-year old one after harvest (after removing the landscape fabric and drip tape of course!), and make one new patch each summer. We’re a bit late this summer, but the system has promise, and I am optimistic!
In the past we have tried buying dormant plants in the spring (disadvantage: needing to weed the plants the first year and getting no fruit until the following year); buying plugs in fall (disadvantage: expensive) and various methods of propagating our own plants (mixed results).
We have tried keeping the plants for four years (disadvantage: way too much weeding); keeping the plants for two years (better); and accidentally keeping the plants for one year only (disadvantage: expensive).
We have tried organic mulch (disadvantage: lots of weeding); black plastic (disadvantage: unsustainable use of fossil fuels, and disposal was a pain); and now – landscape fabric. You can read all about how we do that in GfM.
As for the various methods of propagation, our current favorite is to grow our own plug plants from runner tips, using a home-built mister/fogger system. Our traditional method of propagating was to prepare new beds in late summer, then dig up runners from the paths or beds of the established plants and move them directly to the new beds. Success with these “Fresh Dug” plants relies on two weeks of intensive watering after planting. We also tried a method that worked well for me in England – pegging runners (still attached to the mother plants) down into small pots of soil for a few weeks until they had rooted, then snipping them from their mother plants and setting out a new bed. This works in rainy climates, or with overhead irrigation, but it didn’t work for us once we switched to drip irrigation. What a lot of trial and error!
In my article, I mentioned cutting “runner tips.” These are small unrooted runners, that need potting up and keeping alive for 4-6 weeks to grow into plugs. Here are instructions for the 6-8 week method we use when we propagate our own plants:
July 1-7: Fill 50-cell plug flats with screened compost. Water to activate the soil
July 8-14: Harvest runner tips or young runners, using pruners. Clip with ½” of the runner attached, to act as an anchor for the young plant. Choose runner tips with
2 or 3 open leaves 2½-4” long (not more, not fewer, the researchers say).
“Pegs” or nubs of developing roots, or roots up to ½” in length.
Large diameter crowns – pencil thickness if possible. Large = more flowers next year.
First or second position on the runner, not more distant from the mother.
Clip off any secondary runners coming from the daughter plants.
Sort the tips by size, planting that same day in 50 cell plug flats with like-sized tips, for best results.
Put the flats in a coldframe, water well, cover with thin white poly sheet (bin liner type), lightly perforated. Add shadecloth. Keep moist by watering daily as needed.
July 15-21:Continue daily watering. Remove shadecloth. Count live plants, harvest and pot more as needed.
July22-28: Continue daily watering. Remove plastic, replace with rowcover. Harvest and pot more as needed.
July 29-Aug 4: Continue daily watering. Remove rowcover. Harvest and pot more if needed.
Aug 5-11: Continue daily watering. Harvest and pot more if needed. Remove shadecloth, plastic, rowcover from later harvested plants when appropriate.
Aug 12-Sept 1: Plant two staggered rows with plants 12” apart in all directions. Choose the biggest healthiest plants – it makes a lot of difference to the yield!
I reckon in our climate mid-September is about the last date for planting out new strawberries. If we miss that date, we should probably wait till February and lose a year’s production. Sad thought.
I want to explain how the 1/2″ of runner acts as a peg to hole the runner tip in the soil. No-one explained this to me when I first tried it, and at first it made no sense. Push the anchor at about a 45 degree angle into the soil in the plug flat. When the anchor is all in the soil, press down with your thumb on the side of the crown of the plant opposite the anchor and turn the plant to stand it up. When you get it right it’s a wonderful thing – quick and elegant.
And I should say that propagating from unpatented varieties is fine, but propagating from patented varieties, even for your own use, is annoying illegal.
Meanwhile, I’m preparing my presentations for the Heritage Harvest Festival. If you are anywhere in central Virginia, consider going to this lovely event at Monticello, near Charlottesville. The weather forecast is very pleasant, the setting is delightful. Saturday 9/7 is the day. Click the link to read about the schedules, the vendors and the fun events. On Friday at 9am I’m doing a presentation on Asian Greens (there’s still some $10 tickets available for that one) and on Saturday at 10.30 I’m doing Succession Planting. That one is sold out. I’ll also be doing book signings at the Monticello Store after each of my workshops.
After the weekend, I’ll post my slideshows on SlideShare.net, and probably embed one in my next blog post, for those who miss the live show, and those that want to watch it again.
I’m just back from vacation. It’s a very lucky farmer who gets two weeks away in the height of summer – one of the benefits of living in community. (See the Twin Oaks website for more on that). The rest of the crew took care of things, and I missed the hottest week of the year (so far). Here’s some of the jobs I missed:
A much delayed planting of the summer potatoes on 7/18 (a whole month later than usual). Our smaller tractor was out of commission for a month, and when it came back, people were lining up to use it. We bought some new furrowers In June, but I missed seeing them in action. Our previous equipment didn’t make deep enough furrows, leading to potatoes popping up above the soil and turning green. We mulch our summer potatoes immediately after hilling, which is immediately after planting, so there is no chance of hilling again later. We like to mulch (with hay) to keep the soil damper and cooler in the hot weather.
I also missed the harvest of the spring potatoes. We had hoped to do this earlier too, but mowing the tops was delayed and so the skins didn’t thicken up till 7/22. The potatoes are now safely in the root cellar, and I’m opening the door at night to cool them and to provide fresh air. Newly harvested potatoes are still live plants, still respiring and so still need oxygen. I learned this the hard way years ago, when I didn’t ventilate the cellar enough. The potatoes died in the centers (the condition is called Black Heart). A very disappointing waste of good food. Later the potatoes will go dormant, and won’t need daily air exchanges.
We follow the spring potatoes with the fall broccoli and cabbage, a slightly hair-raising fast turnaround. We have composted and disked the patch, set out driptape, stakes and ropes, rowcover and sticks to hold it down. Because of Harlequin bugs, we need to cover the new transplants for a few weeks until they have the strength to withstand the bugs. So we plant rows 34″ apart, under ropes on stakes. One piece of 84″ rowcover will form a square tunnel over two rows of brassicas. The rowcover is held up by the ropes.
This evening will be the first of many transplanting shifts. Because we are late, the transplants are larger than ideal. Ironically, this year the first sowings germinated very well, grew very well, and the bugs didn’t get under the ProtekNet. Fabulous transplants and they’ve had to wait and wait. Hopefully we can make up for some lost time by really putting our shoulders to the wheel and planting efficiently. having driptape really helps. We turn it on while we plant and so the plants get a drink as soon as they are in the ground. Watering is not a separate job.
While I’ve been away, the eggplants, pickling cucumbers, cantaloupes and okra have all started to produce. We are trying some West Indian Gherkins this year for the first time. I’ll let you know how the pickles turn out. They are strange things, like miniature prickly watermelons. Very prolific, disease-resistant and heat tolerant. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, though.