The temperatures have dropped a little as we’ve moved into September, but the farm is still going strong with peppers aplenty, okra still blooming, and the kale getting ever taller as we harvest it. We still have one more watermelon to ripen, and the seedlings in the new bed are coming along just nicely. But we are thinking about the coming end of the season, so there are some specimens tagged for seed collection.
We’re also seeing some of our plants wind down — including the cucumbers, which looked too sad to photograph. Also there is evidence of a lot of pests and afflictions, including the tomato plants which continue to succumb to blight, nasturtiums covered in aphids and surrounded by morning glory, as well as pepper leaves pocked from some unknown nuisance.
But this is all part of the growing experience. And since not all insects are problems, let’s leave with this bee pollinating away on these flowers:
In the last few weeks, we’ve been getting ripe tomatoes, green beans, and ever more cucumbers and kale. Our eggplants and peppers and still heartily producing as well. It’s been a great growing season so far, and we’ve already planted some crops for fall in one of our new raised beds — beets, carrots, radishes, and more greens to come! We lost some tomato plants to blight, but luckily our new-this-year pest committee, also known as the Aphid Avengers, have been on the case, and we hope we won’t lose too many more plants.
Our first tomatoes are ripening, eggplants are getting big, and the couple of okra that were small a few days ago suddenly were gigantic. Plus we’re going to have so many hot peppers. It looks like it’s going to be a very productive year at the farm, and our harvest piles on the table are becoming more varied — not just green veggies now!
We’re trying to get better at succession planting so we pulled up some bolted arugula and lettuces too tall to stand upright, as well as what was left of the snap peas and put in some brussels sprouts for a fall harvest. We also got soil for the new beds this week and are planning what to put in there — probably some root veggies to make use of the deep, rich soil!
Knowing when to harvest is easy with some plants. Tomatoes aren’t usually a problem, and green tomatoes are usually more of a fall gardening issue, but we had a couple tomatoes that were knocked off a plant before they ripened. Someone recommended pickling!
Working off this recipe, I scaled it down a lot, as these two tomatoes were only about 3 ounces total. They fit in a 8 ounce jar perfectly.
Green Tomato Pickles
3 oz tomatoes
1 small garlic clove
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp black peppercorns
pinch red pepper flakes
½ tsp bourbon
- Slice the tomatoes, either into ¼-inch thick slices, or halve them and cut into 8-10 wedges. Pack the tomatoes tightly in each jar, and place a few slices of garlic and a few fronds of dill in each jar.
- In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add bourbon.
- Pour brine over pickles, filling jar to within ¼-inch of the top. Make sure all of the tomatoes are fully submerged. If they start to float, wedge a few more tomato pieces in there to keep them firmly packed.
- Screw on jar lid and refrigerate for at least 3 days to allow pickles to fully pickle, and after that pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Slice the tomatoes
Place in jar
Make the brine
Pour the brine over the tomatoes
Refrigerate for 3 days
On the other hand, it was harder to tell if our first watermelon was ripe or not. Cutting it open revealed white flesh, with just a blush of red beginning to form. Unripened watermelon tastes strangely similar, it’s just that none of the sugar has developed, so it isn’t sweet at all. I took to the internet again and found several good ideas
I went with a White Watermelon Spritzer:
- Puree the watermelon flesh and strain out the seeds.
- Muddle some mint leaves in a glass with about a teaspoon of powdered sugar, and add some crushed ice.
- Pour in the watermelon puree, optionally add a shot your alcohol of choice (I went with a jasmine liqueur I’ve been experimenting with), and top it off with seltzer. It’s a light, refreshing drink and not too sweet!
It’s been hot and humid without a lot of rain, so we’ve been working hard to keep up with plenty of watering. We are just starting to get some ripe tomatoes with so many more to come, though some tomato leaves have started to turn yellow — our pest committee is investigating as a possible attack. There are so many cucumbers, I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of any of them hiding in and around the fence. The okra is the one plant loving this weather, and it never seems to look wilted. The watermelon in the straw bale is doing great, though we weren’t sure how to tell when to harvest them. The seed packet indicated they were ready when the underside turns yellow, so we picked our first one based on that tip. Unfortunately it wasn’t ripe yet! But we have another one far along on the vine (and more little babies), and I did a search for recipes to make use of underripe watermelon. More to come on that topic!
Picked our first watermelon — spoiler! It wasn’t ripe yet
Lush tomato beds
Another watermelon on the vine
Farm member Jo went on a little journey through our Facebook photo history and made these before and after pictures from the farm’s early days compared to today. The transitions are made more extreme as the before photos all look to be from early spring work days compared to the lush summer days of 2017. As founder Tom Angotti replied, “What a difference a community and the summer make!”
Looking up the hill in 2010 compared to 2017
Along the fence, 2011 to 2017
How the beds have changed, 2011 to 2017
Fruit trees being planted in 2013 and today in 2017
It’s been a busy couple weeks at the farm, and everything is now really coming alive. Most of our plants have seen explosive growth just in the last few weeks. We’re just now getting our first cucumbers, and there are tons of tomatoes we hope to see ripe soon with more flowers blooming. The fence is on its way to being lushly covered in nasturtiums, green beans, and cukes.
Busy work day
We also recently got a shipment of lumber and soil from GreenThumb, which we used to fill up our herb beds and build a couple more raised beds. Though we are committed to improving our soil (as talked about here), our concerns about lead tests results have encouraged us to do some raised bed gardening in the meantime. This will enable us to consider growing some of the root veggies we’ve avoided out of safety — like carrots, beets, and radishes! We are still waiting on another shipment of soil to get going on planting the big beds. In the meantime, our construction team used some of the wood scraps to build two benches for our lounge area up on the hill.
Thanks to everyone who has come out to help with this project, especially our farm newcomers!
It was hot and steamy this weekend, but there were farmers out early Saturday to tend to our beds and stake plants. Everything is growing well, including the weeds! We are trying our best to keep up with them all.
We have two work days scheduled on our calendar this week:
- Tuesday morning we’ll be receiving soil and lumber from GreenThumb and can use help from 8:30–10:30am to help move everything in the farm. Some of the soil will be going into empty beds.
- Saturday we’ll be continuing the project by constructing a new raised bed with the lumber and then fill with soil and level it out. We usually have a small group of farmers working on Saturday mornings, but we’ll need a good crew to get this project done.
Please come lend a hand if you are able to!
True summer is only a few days away now, and we’ve been having plenty of storms to help keep the farm well-watered. We’re seeing more signs of the harvests to come (aside from the plentiful greens we’ve been enjoying) — our first snap peas and lots of bush bean blossoms were most seductive today. Almost all our tomatoes are flowering now, so it won’t be long until we have ripe veggies to share.
The green beans we replanted late popped up quickly, and there are some lovely white onion flowers up on the hill, a beautiful organic variety one of our composters saved from the bin. Overall the farm is starting to fill up with greenery.
On July 1st, in addition to our usual Saturday tasks, we’re getting a bunch of soil and lumber to fill and build new raised beds. Anyone interested in lending a hand should come between 10 and 11am.