The Farm in Late July
The farm is taking a change. I couldn't wait until Friday to share a Homestead Update for these photos; lately my weeks are a jumbled mess and I tend to forget what day it is. I feel like all we have done for the past four months is go, go, go. I am glad for it! Truly! Now that we past the harvest of leafy greens and lettuce heads, I am able to pick our produce throughout the week over the day before a CSA pick-up or market. That makes for a stressful morning.
Lately my days have been filled with a small harvest in the morning of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, chard, and kale. Then in the evening I'll back track to the beans and squash, the flowers too. I picked all of our sweet corn yesterday and an entire row of red potatoes the week before. Things are really beginning to take a turn here. I am happy for the changes in produce, though I am missing having spinach. Good thing I can sow the seeds for more next week! Can you believe that autumn is really only a handful of weekends away?
The harvests remain plentiful. It wracks my nerves every week. I worry and worry that we won't have enough, as I haul a basketful of zucchini to the house. This is all I got?! And by the end of the week, after more baskets full of food, there is almost too much to share. Though I have noticed that our zucchini and other summer squash tend to need a week to reinvigorate their production. We'll have one week where we send our customers home with three of each variety, others with only one of each. I have to think that they need a break for the bees to help with pollination.
Problems in the garden still happen, though I am surprised that we have not had complete failure of a crop yet. It will happen, or maybe it will not. You just never truly know what will cause something or when it will happen, but you can use precaution to try and sway problems from arising. I am happy to report that while there have been no signs of tomato hornworms (thanks basil trap crop!) there have been plenty of tomato fruitworms and blossom end rot. From what I can tell, the fruitworm issue is just something that I am going to deal with a tomato-to-tomato basis. It's not bad enough to need a spray, and I really really do not want to use one! The only thing I am continuously shocked by is picking a perfectly ripe Roma tomato and finding the bottom has turned black and moldy - ugh! The only thing to do is deal with it. Thankfully it's a nutrient deficiency and not transmitted from plant to plant.
You can see a bit of the damage from tomato fruitworm in the photo above. Those tomatoes get shared with chickens, or I'll cut the yucky part out and save the tomatoes for canning. Be sure to read my post on what NOT to feed chickens. They cannot have tomato leaves, but it is okay for them to have the fruits.
While I cannot feel autumn approaching, I know that it will be here soon. The weather is looking to be cool this week, and I hope to get most of the seed I have started in trays or planted into the soil. For those of you in the same zone as we are, 5b, I planted our next round of radishes today along with rutabagas. I also have salad mix on my list of things to sow into the soil this week, so I hope to get that done at some point. The entire front half of our garden has been taken out, except for the kale bed, which will continue to produce all season long (and possibly into winter if I get a row cover for it). It has been surprisingly a lot easier to sow this second round of produce for fall than it was in the spring. The work can be divided more easily, with more space to breathe and relax in between. We were rushing with the planting so early on and then trying to defeat the weeds.
It feels a bit like a second chance. We bought some landscape fabric (the commercial kind for weed control) and plan to use it in the paths and in beds with transplantable plants like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. The beds that are direct seeded will be mulched more heavily and weeded; it will be nice to only have to worry about those over everything and the paths included. Having weedy paths is what really makes a garden or field look like a mess, if you ask me. They can just take over in a wink! I amended the beds with composted cow manure and tilled it in. The no-till has officially ended. We want a tractor; our operation is just too large for three people, especially when we cut out the next acre this fall for spring plantings.
The aronia berries are beginning to color up. My dad and I took a walk out to the bushes, something I have not done in weeks, last evening to see their progress. They're an odd crop, something trendy a handful of years ago that I hardly hear anything about now. The bushes were here when we bought the property, over 800 of them. We actually came to pick berries at this farm a couple of years ago ourselves and were surprised to find that they tasted positively awful upon tasting a few while out in the field. They're a superfood! The highest antioxidant count in a berry that you can find. You can read more about that in my post here. The only thing is that they're not a huge sell. It's why we took out over 300 bushes this spring, and we plan on taking out the rest in late October. Opinions on this go back and forth, but we just don't see a point in keeping them, especially since we don't even like them ourselves.
There were a few ripe berries on the bushes yesterday that I had my dad taste, as he'd never had a fresh one before, only frozen. The look on his face said it all - it's like tasting a dry wine. It must be an acquired taste for those that like them! I am thinking that they'll be ready to pick, some at least, in next two to three weeks. That is already so soon, but I suppose August is just around the corner!
We also saw so many pumpkins growing in our large patch. I hadn't even looked at those plants since putting them in a couple of months ago. They're doing great, and I am glad that I just left them alone to do their thing. I've seen squash of all sorts: spaghetti, butternut, mini white pumpkins, mini striped pumpkins, warty gourds, French blue Jarradales, and Cinderella giant whites. It makes me so giddy! Everything is still green now, but in another month we'll surely be picking.
July is one of my favorite times to see a garden in its full glory. You get a little taste of everything, and it's one of the best times to visit the farmer's market. So much bounty! I am really loving our cactus zinnias this week and all of the sunflowers that make their debut with each new morning.
What is your favorite find in the garden in July?