Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

A Prizewinner pumpkin grows large and orange-red as summer comes to an end.
It's time to get rid of the old to make room for the new.  Two hundred eighty-eight corn stalks were macheted at ground level, clearing a 20 ft. x 25 ft. space that will be our fall and winter vegetable garden.  The tiller evened things out, and any weeds quickly wilted in these sunny and dry days of late August.
Corn stalks dry after being cut.

The 2013 Farmer's Almanac calls for a colder than normal winter with above average precipitation for the eastern two-thirds of the nation.  Unseasonably chilly temperatures will reach as far south as the Gulf Coast.  Last winter was so warm because of a most unusual combination of a North Atlantic and Arctic Oscillation that pulled warm air up from the Southwest, and a La Nina that kept the jet stream far north.  Last winter was ideal for gardening year-round, but this winter looks to be different. So we are taking advantage of the remarkably cool August to get our fall garden in early.  Nine brussels sprouts transplants were moved to the garden under milk jug covers - not to keep the frost out, but to shield from hot sun and hungry insects.  Cabbage, broccoli, root crops and greens will soon follow.  Since grass mow is so thick, it will make an ideal mulch to keep weeds down around our new plants.
A bucket of compost went into
each planting hole

Superfreak pumpkins have an interesting appearance.
We have counted at least 50 pumpkins ripening in our patch, and more are setting daily.  We are almost ready to go through and cut everything orange from the vine.  A prizewinner giant is almost red; it really stands out among the smaller varieties.  These will soon be moved with hay bales under our front yard maple tree.

Brussels sprouts transplants underneath protective milk jug covers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20, 2012

'New England Pie' pumpkins curing in the barn.
Grass mow is thick, mornings are dawning cooler, and evidence of the changing season is seen in fruits of harvest.  Look closely, and there is even some early leaf color in the dogwoods.  Our apple trees have let us know that their fruit is ripe and ready to be tasted.  One of those late-evening walks out to the back of our property, so busy with dragonflies and jumping locust, came to a stop when we noticed several red apples had fallen to the ground.  Their fragrance was spicy-sweet, and a bite confirmed the fruit was dead-ripe.  We sprayed these trees until the end of June with a home orchard insecticide/fungicide and then left them alone to get washed in July rain.  Insects have not bothered them in the last half of the season.

A perfect 'Winesap' apple paired with ripe figs all from our orchard.
We are seeing more fruits than vegetables as summer winds down slowly but inevitably to the autumn, our favorite season of year.  We did harvest a bushel basket of tomatoes, imperfect, but tasty enough paired with peppers and onions for salsa.  A fall crop of red raspberries is producing heavily, reminding us of a seemingly long-gone June berry season.  We picked the last of our melons and mowed the patch to the ground.

Thursday morning dawned at 58 degrees F at our elevation.  Refreshing!  Sunflowers and pumpkins are a cheery pair as we begin to think about the impending garden clean-up.  If you did not have enough milk jug covers last spring, start saving them now to cover tender transplants that will be set in the garden in early September.  We need to begin thinking of cutting down our yellowing corn patch to make room for the fall and winter garden.
A cheery sunflower bows out as summer 2012 comes to a close.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

August is the month of sunflowers.
Our harvests are getting smaller, but often more interesting; for example, the handful of red raspberries we picked to eat with a honeydew melon and a nice fat fig.  These combinations would never be conceivable if we weren't growing them ourselves.  'Heritage' red raspberries, which are labeled "everbearing," are just getting started on their big fall crop; we don't have to cover these in bird netting like we did with our spring berries; birds are done raising young, which have fledged and focused on protein diet of insects before the winter.

2nd-year parsley, heavy with seed, bends to the ground.
The dog days of summer are over.  We received another 5 inches of rain this week, giving us a two-week total at 9.5 inches; I think it rained every day in the past two weeks and don't remember as significant a wet period since the summer it rained 40 days in a row in 2005.  Needless to say, we're about ready to pull up our soaker hoses and mow down the melon patch.  One of the most appealing qualities of the garden this time of year is its disarray.  Plants are overgrown, blowzy, and wild--and that's part of what keeps our interest.

Brussels sprouts seedlings through
the screen of an airy window.
Folks often incorrectly assume that spring and summer are the prime gardening seasons and that the beginning of fall brings an end to the garden's glory.  But as fall rains return and the lawns green up again, the nights are cooler and the sun seems softer, we have time to catch up on a crop of brassicas and greens.  Cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts perform just as well as in the spring.  Didn't get that crop of April spinach that you were hoping for?  Try it now.  Since the days are often hot, it will help to sprout seeds under a 2x4 laid directly on top of the ground, but check underneath every day.  Our brussels sprouts started from seed in early July will be ready to transplant out to the garden by the end of this month.  It's time to start cabbage and broccoli seed now too.

Seed-saving is in full operation as we select the best heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Pumpkins ripen in these warm and humid August days.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6, 2012

Our first ripe fig.
The hazy August time of summer settles in for the year.  Days of warm, dry idleness seem relaxing, compared to the busy pace of July.  But this time of year just drags.  Wafts of breeze, that we barely feel, skirt thin clouds through the span of sky at a turtle's pace; the air is torrid and wilting.  The sun swelters on until even nature's greenery, finished with its lush July growth, hangs spun out of energy, dull and plastic.  Some Augusts we don't garden at all.  Weeds and grasses have crept in; plants - many which we started from seed nearly half a year ago - are showing signs of advanced age.  Even the emerald green foliage of our fruit trees seems listless.  This is last chance to take a vacation before school days set in.
Fig, cut open to reveal its sweet center.

We picked 150 ears of sweet corn - these we blanched and froze whole - and left a few on the stalks to keep maturing.  The other steady producers continue to be tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, melons, and carrots.  Cucumbers may yet surprise us with something, but broccoli plants are ready to be pulled.  As soon as our melons ripen, we plan to pull up our soaker hoses and mow the entire patch to the ground.

A rewarding surprise this week was our first fig.  It was very sweet, soft, and fruity-flavored.  We've never had anything like it before and hope it continues to surprise us at a time of year when we are looking to enjoy something exotic.

New England Pie pumpkin curing.
We received 4.5 inches of rain last week; pumpkins continue to swell, though many New England Pie variety are already orange.  Hot weather turns pumpkins orange before they are truly ripe sometimes, and we solve this by covering the large ones with old rags and t-shirts to keep them shaded.  If we leave them on the vine too long bugs tend to bore in, but if we cut them too early they don't cure well.  Deciding that just-right time to cut can be tricky.  Generally, if a thumbnail can't pierce a pumpkin's skin by the stem, it's ready to cut.
The garden in August.
Our pumpkin patch is showing signs of crisping leaves; corn in the background.

About Me

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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 (