Late Summer Garden Update

The moderate summer is coming to an end and the height of the 2017 season is over. Although cooler than last year, this summer’s harvests were large and plentiful. The tomatoes are starting to wind down and the pepper’s are currently peaking. Honeybees buzz among the buckwheat while large carpenter bees dance around the smartweed.

Richard and Andrea prepare beds for spinach planting. Rutabaga and lettuce in the foreground.

In the Lower Garden, seven piglets are being rotated through the former potato patch. They are fed anything spoiled in the field (the tomato, melon, and pepper patches are a couple steps away) and act as our kitchen’s garbage disposal, helping to reduce food waste. As the pigs are rotated through cover crops are planted behind them (sunn hemp earlier and rye and vetch later in the season). Sunn hemp is an excellent summer cover crop. Drought resistant, a powerful weed suppressant, and fast growing. It can reach ten feet tall within eight weeks and adds a bounty of organic matter to the soil after it is cut back.

Mandar and Jaime have been managing the pigs in the garden. Sunn hemp can be seen in the foreground. In the background you can also see the hoophouse and the dairy cows in the pasture.

Just today we harvested all the dent corn. This corn has been carefully bred for suitability in our climate and soil by Richard for the past five years. Each year he saves seed from all good specimens. More seed is saved from the best specimens and fewer seeds are saved from the merely mediocre ears. Virginia White Gourd seed and Tennessee Red Cob varieties have been bred in at different times to augment desired traits. Richard aims to maintain a wide gene pool and is meticulous about selecting the kernels for saving each year. All the corn that is not saved is eaten. Richard, who regularly cooks community dinner once a week, enjoys making delicious corn tortillas from nixtamalized dent corn. Nixtamalization increases the nutritional value as well as gets rid of mycotoxins, among other benefits.

PT holds one of the better dent corn ears.

Carrots and a bed of chestnut and hazelnut trees that will be transplanted this winter and spring. The main garden shed, the ‘Red Shed,’ can be seen behind the Jerusalem artichokes

One great joy of late summer is fresh watermelon on a daily basis. Just about everyday someone brings a watermelon in to the serving counter and cuts themselves a slice. Although many of the melons are massive they are typically all eaten up within the hour. The watermelon varieties grown this year were: Crimson Sweet, Shooting Star, Orangeglo, Ali Baba, Moon and Stars, Quetzoli, and Strawberry. All these different varieties mature and ripen in different ways. Richard has worked with them long enough to know all the small clues necessary to observe in order to harvest the watermelons at their peak ripeness and is happy to teach anyone curious and willing to help with the harvests.

Richard slicing up a crimson sweet on the serving counter in RB.

Most of the fall crops are all in. Carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale (Lacinado, Vates, and Red Russian) and rutabaga outside and zucchini, cabbage, and tatsoi in the hoophouse. Carrots have been thinned and there looks to be a bounty for this winter and spring. Thank you to everyone who labors in the garden and a big thanks to Melissa, Anthony, and everyone else who held down the garden while Richard, PT, and Andrea were mountain climbing in Colorado!

Tomato trellises, dent corn in the back left, sunn hemp cover crop in the back right, and an inkling of the peppers to the right (beyond the trellises). The tomato paths along with the rest of the garden paths are mowed on a weekly basis. Barnes Mountain Orange was the standout orange, meaty, slicer this year. Thank you Sycamore Farms for the heat tolerant breed, East Wind is sure to plant a lot of this variety again next year. The Lower Garden was very aesthetically pleasing this summer!

Fall carrots to the left and buckwheat cover crop to the right. Honeybees love buckwheat!

Post and pictures by Sumner



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