Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29, 2011

Howden Field and New England Pie pumpkins

Pumpkins are here!  If you're thinking, "It's just a bit early, isn't it?", Thursday September 1st is the first day of meteorological autumn when we traditionally begin to harvest our fall crop of gourds.  ("Meteorological 
autumn," the months of September, October, and November in the Northern Hemisphere, is when we traditionally recognize the fall season, although Friday September 23rd is the first official day of "astronomical autumn" measured by earth's relation to the sun when day and night are equal 12 hours - the autumnal equinox). 

Jack-be-Little pumpkins
It has been a hard year for pumpkins in our garden.  From Indiana to Texas to South Carolina, gardeners are upset with damage done by the vine borer, a wasp look-a-like moth that lays little brown-red eggs at the base of plants in the Cucurbita genus, including zucchini, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins.  These eggs hatch little worms that bore into the vine and eat the insides, causing sudden plant wilt and collapse.  In most years they attack one out of a few plants, but this year they seemed relentless.  Zucchini growers all over lost their plants to these pesky borers.  In addition to zucchini, we lost our two Prizewinner pumpkin vines; we replanted, but not in enough time.

It was not a complete loss, however, since we still have 'Howden Field', 'New England Pie', and 'Jack-be-Little' pumpkins.  Those that are ripe were cut from the vine using a sharp pair of pruning shears and set in the sun to cure.  (Curing removes excess water and hardens the shell for long keeping.)  By September 23 (autumnal equinox) we will feel more in the fall spirit and will be ready to dress up the yard with hay bales and corn shocks while posing pumpkins at their feet.  Of course, extra mini pumpkins that we cannot use will go up for sale at the annual Pumpkin Festival second Saturday of October.

We made an early trip to Sky Top orchard for Honeycrisp, Jonathan, and McIntosh apples and plan to make several trips more this Fall, perhaps next year also until our apple trees begin producing in earnest.  Even though days are still quite warm, mornings are cool, and grass in the footpaths between trees was drenched with dew.  There truly is a bumper crop of apples this year as their website advertizes.  While we were there, we also gathered some delicious Concord grapes.  We're still debating whether to enjoy them just as juice, or to make them into jelly.

We will be be marking our rows and transplanting brussels sprouts and cabbage this week.  Those milk jug covers saved from Spring will come in handy now, not as greenhouses, but as protection from voracious insects looking for a tender treat.  This week would also be a great time to sow seeds of lettuce and carrots.  In these hot days of late August, sometimes it helps to lay a 2x4 board over small seed to keep it cool and damp enough to germinate.  Check under the board daily, and remove when little green sprouts appear.

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (