From the Farmer

Week 12 – 8/7/2014

Fall in August

We thought this would be a good time to talk about what’s happening at the Farm these days.  August is a busy period – we have summer crops to care for and to harvest, the regulars like tomatoes, peppers, beans and melons, cukes and zukes and summer squash; we have our summer-growing, fall-harvested crops like winter squash and sweet potatoes to take care of, and, especially, to protect from disease and insect; and it is also time to plant our fall crops.  In August, you say?  It’s so hot.  How can you think of broccoli at a time like this?  Indeed it is true, August is planting time: broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts; carrots and beets (don’t sigh), greens radishes, turnips, rutabaga and parsnips. 

If you look around the Farm you’ll see several plantings of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and eggplants; you’ll see green beans (they’ll be back at the Farm Stand and CSA soon!) and dry beans, which we harvest in fall; you’ll see two more rounds of melons; pickling cukes; Tromboncino squash (the T stands for The Best Squash); and summer greens like Swiss chard, Malabar spinach, Egyptian spinach, Amaranth and a Quinoa trial (it’s having a rough time here in the humid lowlands).  You’ll also see a large sweet potato patch and a larger winter squash patch; these are some of our favorites for fall and for winter storage.  We plan to harvest them in early fall, late September or October.  There are greens and salad greens; Jerusalem artichokes; and potatoes still in the ground waiting for harvest.  And there is our own sweet corn, two late plantings that we hope to share soon.

Then there are crops that are just in and that we’ll see in a couple of months: newly sown carrots and beets, the first round of fall cole crops (the broccoli family) and, good god yes, next spring’s strawberries.  Special thanks to Charmaine, Elizabeth, Brian and Heather and Melody and all their collective kids for the great help planting last week.  Quote of the night: “now I know why strawberries cost what they do.”  We planted over five thousand plants.  It’s a big strawberry patch and its right near the barn and we look forward to harvest in spring. 

Last but not least we’re managing our summer cover crops and getting ready to plant fall-winter ones.  We try to drive our fertility program with these soil nourishing species, and they work best when we prioritize timely seeding, mowing, and tilling.  In summer we grow buckwheat, sunflower, cowpeas, millet, sunn hemp and sudangrass: they grow large, provide habitat for beneficial insects and as trap crop for not-so-beneficial insects and they also fix nitrogen and sequester large amounts of carbon in summer.  We use this time between July and late August to harrow weeds out of the ground and then plant our fall covers: oats and peas, daikon radish, crimson clover and hairy vetch, barley, wheat, triticale, rye and ryegrass, and others. 

You might get a sense of what all this means for us now: there’s the usual cultivation, trellising, irrigating and harvesting the summer crops; the planting, mulching and care for the summer-fall crops, and there is greenhouse work, field prep, planting and seeding, irrigating and covering of the new fall plants.  This in addition to each week’s harvest, chicken processing (220 more birds in the freezer last week!), turkey and chick brooding (250 more chicks came in the mail today!), and garden care.  Love us some August.

In Your Share

This week, more melons.  Also the very last of the spring-summer cabbage, carrots, a bag of tender and nutty arugula (great with goat cheese and fruit), potatoes, the summer goods of tomatoes and peppers (tomatoes are still slow this week, we’ll give you all we have), squash, zuke and cuke, and the herb of the day… surprise….

We are also very happy to give you the first of this year’s garlic.  We were twice scared this spring with disease and heavy weed pressure and had some small anxiety over the crop.  It pulled out very well and we are happy.  It has good, full flavor, some bite that should mellow when cooked, and the bulbs and cloves are of good size.  Not the biggest we’ve grown but since when does size matter.  Six to eight cloves per bulb, one to eat raw each day before going out in the world.

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Willowsford Conservancy

41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

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23595 Founders Drive, Ashburn, VA 20148

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