Back in late July, two progressively demanding trends occurred to cause this blog to fall silent: my laptop hard drive started dying just as peak season kicked into gear. By the time my hard drive crashed in August, I had no free time to worry about getting it fixed quickly, and so the farming season swept me into a whirlwind of activity that has only just started to settle down — now that the bitter winds and blowing snows of winter are making their appearance.
I’d love to be able to go back and fill in all the gaps for you, but honestly, I don’t remember everything I learned in my last three intensive months at the farm. So in coming days I’m going to try to review some of the highlights, just to wrap up the year.
In August, most farmers’ markets are awash in color as summer produce hits its peak, so it’s no surprise that August proved to be a prolific and profitable month at the farm.
Heirloom tomatoes make up one of the three major crops at Dave’s farm, and he has collected and saved seeds over the years in order to have a rich variety of tomatoes over the season. Varieties shown above include German Pink, Cherokee Purple, Moskovich, Sunkist, Jolly, and Yellow Pear, but later in the season we also had pints of Sun Golds, flats of Amish Paste, and many sunrise-brilliant Hillbilly tomatoes.
The peppers — both green bells and Hungarian wax — got off to a slow start earlier in the year, but by August we were starting to harvest them.
Early heat in the summer meant that some summer crops, such as the two varieties of cucumbers shown here, produced early and vigorously, then tapered off in enough time for us to plant a second round. The second crop didn’t yield quite as much, but it extended the season and brought in extra income, so it worked out well.
A second planting of patty pan, yellow straightneck, and zucchini squash — even in a smaller field — added significantly to the season’s yields, and I harvested from these plants well into October.
I planted successive crops of beets throughout the season, adding new seedlings whenever old ones were cleaned out, so I would guess that this ended up as our most consistent, if not highest-yielding, crop.
The intense heat of August — with many days in the 90s — caused us to empty the greenhouse, despite the need to keep seeding flats for fall crops. Had I left flats in here, the seedling would have easily been fried, even with twice-daily watering! (It got to the point when I would take flats, potting mix, and seeds out under the trees and work on flats in a cool breeze — anything to avoid this heat trap.)
Instead, we set flats out on the picnic table (and, later, the deck) where we had easy access to water and could keep an eye on the growing seedlings. For fall, I continued to seed flats of beets, lettuce, kohlrabi, radishes, kale, and pac choi.
Our peak season continued into September, and I put in a very full Friday evening before Labor Day helping Dave harvest and prep for his big Saturday morning market. By that point, we had all of the aforementioned crops ripening, as well as onions, more potatoes, loads of basil, eggplant, and even pears. A busy time!
In my own gardens, August represented the trailing off of most summer crops, a superabundance of basil, the complete neglect of the bean and grain patch, halfhearted efforts at seed saving, and a complete panic about starting and planting seedlings for fall. In short, a mess.
When peak season hits, you just have to hang on — it may be downhill from there, but boy, will it speed along!