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The Seed Bin - August 2010

Quick and Cold-Tolerant Varieties for Fall Planting
Kingdom Farm and Food Days
Greetings from Tom
Breeding and Production Report - Sweet Corn, Squash & Zucchini
Pesky Disease Corner - Powdery Mildew
Customer Profile: Promoting Family Gardens in Ethiopia
Katie's Kitchen - Tomatillo Salsa



Quick and Cold-Tolerant Varieties for Fall Planting


Even though summer is winding down for some of us, there's still time to get in a fall crop! Try out these varieties that deal well with cold weather and mature in a shorter time than other varieties!



Corvair Spinach

German Extra Hardy Garlic


Kingdom Farm and Food Days - August 21-22, 2010


Come to the Kingdom Farm & Food Days – August 21-22nd – hosted by High Mowing Organic Seeds, The Center for an Agricultural Economy, and The New England Culinary Institute.  A free, fun-filled event in celebration of good food and Vermont agriculture!  This is a chance for growers to see High Mowing Organic Seeds' newly-released, exclusive varieties (King Crimson pepper and Midnight Lightning zucchini), along with labeled displays of over 800 vegetable, herb and flower varieties.  The HMS trials garden serves as a rigorous testing ground for selecting stand-out varieties to make available through our annual seed catalog.  Visitors will learn how data is collected to accurately describe and assess variety characteristics independently and in comparison to other varieties.

Saturday will feature area farm tours – including a scenic bike tour led by the Craftsbury Outdoor Center – and an potluck at  Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury.

Events on Sunday will also include workshops on seed saving and pest and disease identification, a Local Food Showcase prepared by chef Jeffrey Ferrell and students at the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), live music and an evening bonfire.

More information, updates and directions can be found at The Center for an Agricultural Economy website.

*We’re still seeking volunteers for shifts lasting three to four hours on both Saturday and Sunday.  Volunteers will receive a t-shirt, a “thank you” bag filled with goodies from local producers, and the warm, fuzzy feeling of helping to put on this great, free event!  Contact elena@hardwickagriculture.org if you are interested in volunteering. 



Greetings From Tom


Hello growers and gardeners!

Today is another hot day of summer.  Crops to check on, cover crop seed to get together for our fertility trials, melons and sweet corn to taste-test, brassica seed crops drying and ready to harvest...  I find that during the longest days of the year, time seems to move the fastest, so they don't really seem that long after all.  One of the big joys for me about being part of a seed company is all of the interesting tasks that we get to do related to trialing, breeding and growing seed - that most people have never even thought about.  Many gardeners (and also most farmers) don't get to see their crops grown out for seed, and in some cases it can be a very different looking crop.  There are a whole host of disease issues specific to seed crops, trellising and staking needs, day length considerations and tricky maturity questions when it comes time to harvest.  Most of the time I think about them as totally different crops than their familiar vegetable stages.  New staff in the field are often quite curious about it all, and even if they have worked on veggie farms before, a lot is different.  The other thing that has caught my attention this week is how small a seed crop usually is compared to the land that it takes to grow it.  We just harvested Ruby Streaks mustard green - a beautiful spicy, salad mix variety, and we got a pretty good seed yield.  But it all fit in two 60 lb. bags, despite the fact that it took almost 1/4 of an acre of land.  We could have easily harvested hundreds of more pounds of salad crop if we had cut the greens.  But then again, 120 pounds of seed is enough to plant many acres and no amount of greens can do that.  These concentrated and amazing little seeds have enough potential to impress me even after all these years. 
 

Sincerely,
Tom Stearns,
President & Founder


Report from the High Mowing Breeding & Production Fields: Our Current Breeding Projects - Jodi Lew-Smith, Ph.D - Director of Research & Production


Organic Sweet Corn TrialsOrganic Sweet Corn
Last year was the start of our sweet corn breeding project.  We began by making test crosses between finished inbred lines from the University of Wisconsin sweet corn breeding program to determine which combinations would produce a superior hybrid offspring. This year we grew out all those test crosses and also the inbred lines once more, and were awed by the power of cross-breeding in corn: the hybrid offspring of the test crosses are truly magnificent. They’re not only huge and vigorous, but the crosses with the earliest inbred females are also really early to tassel and silk. In fact the first of them will be ready to harvest and taste the first week of August. (In good conscience I have to confess that they’re this early in part because we grew them on black plastic, which is our easiest method for everything in the breeding plot). We’re hopeful that after this season we will have an early-season and later-season selection for both bi-color and yellow sweet corn hybrids.

Organic Squash
In another of our breeding projects, for squash, we are very pleased with this year’s material and the number of pollinations we’ve been able to get with all the good weather we’ve had. The butternuts are looking excellent so far, and we’re especially pleased with the bi-color butternuts from Cornell, all of which germinated well (unlike last year) and then flowered and set fruit just on schedule with everything else. Last year the mid-sized bi-colors were particularly slow and late, only flowering after everything else was nearly finished. I’m not sure whether the difference is due to the greater heat we’ve had this year or whether the small number of fruit we were able to finish last year then gave rise to plants that were selected for greater earliness. Now the question is just whether these lines will be early enough on a year that doesn’t have the wondrous heat that we’ve had this year.

Organic Zucchini
For zucchini, we’ve completed the work on a hybrid medium green zucchini we’ll release next year as “Cha-Ching F1,” and now we’re working on development of both PMT and spineless lines. We’ve got some good material in the plot and I’m hopeful these will come right along. We’re lucky in being able to work with zucchini without the bacterial diseases that make it difficult to work with further south. We’re also working on some yellow summer squash material, but in truth even the commercial hybrids seem so ill-behaved (i.e. spiny and multi-branched) that I don’t feel particularly excited about that material. Our preference would be to license glabrous (i.e. spineless) material from Brent Loy at UNH, whenever that becomes available.

The Pesky Pest & Dreaded Disease Corner: Problems with Powdery Mildew - Megen Toaldo, Sales Associate  


Powdery MidlewAs it consistently does year after year, powdery mildew travels north with the wind from the southern states and finds its way into your garden. The warm days and cool nights of late summer provide an ideal environment for the growth and spread of the spores that are responsible for this disease. Caused by the fungus Podosphaera xanthii, powdery mildew can affect just about any type of plant, and is easily recognized by a powdery looking growth on upper and lower leaf surfaces.  While the effects are mild for many types of plants, others such as cucurbits, onions, artichokes, apples, pears, and grapes can be damaged more seriously, causing reduced yields and early death of the plant.

Fortunately, there are early measures that one can take to prevent and control powdery mildew.  Prevention is easy by using proper plant spacing with good air circulation, along with choosing resistant or tolerant varieties.  Although – rest assured – there are several ways to control an infestation should one occur.  Spraying your plants with a solution of baking soda and water (1 tsp: 1 qt) raises the Ph, which creates an unfriendly environment for the fungus to grow.  Another solution (albeit one that we haven’t tried ourselves) was discovered by Wagner Bettiol, a scientist from Brazil: spray your plants with a combination of 1 part cow’s milk with 9 parts water.  Along with controlling the disease, it also acts as a foliar fertilizer, boosting the plant’s immune system.  While raw cow’s milk has proven to have the best effects, it seems that any cow’s milk will do its part in helping to control powdery mildew.  Try using a sticker such as ThermX-70 or Crocker’s Fish Oil; otherwise both these applications will need to be repeated after rain.

Now that you are in the know, you can enjoy helping your garden grow!  Tune in next month for information about late blight in tomatoes and potatoes.


 


Customer Profile: Promoting Family Gardens in Ethiopia - Dennis G. Carlson of The Kossoye Project


Editor’s Note: Every so often we get a letter from one of our customers or donation recipients, telling us about their project and how our seeds were used.  A few months ago, Dennis Carlson contacted us and offered to write an article for our newsletter on his organization’s community gardening project in rural Northern Ethiopia. 

Kossoye is a rural community of 8,000 people who live at almost 10,000 feet altitude and follow traditional farming methods of cereals and legumes. Almost no vegetables have been part of the traditional diet, other than potatoes which were introduced in the 1990s. Vitamin A and C deficiencies are common. Because of the desperate and increasing lack of necessary food, the Kossoye Project, a small development program working as part of the University of Gondar, shifted its top priority to promotion of widespread family gardening, as well as continuing home based health services.

A bit of historical context: Northern Ethiopia has an agricultural history going back 6,000 years which has been much the same throughout the centuries. The main ingredients of diet have been cereals, pulses, legumes with a small amount of cultivation of hot peppers, onions and garlic. Ethiopia has suffered severe drought and acute famine every ten years for at least 700 years. In the Famine of 1983-1985 more than a million Ethiopians (out of 50 million) perished. Though satellite surveillance now speeds international responses, more than 12 million Ethiopians depend on food from international sources from abroad this year.

In addition to acute food shortages there is now chronic under-nutrition in calories and proteins that affects more than 50% of rural children, especially in the north and central Ethiopian highlands.  Progress is being made in controlling communicable diseases such as diarrhea, intestinal parasites, and trachoma. However nutritional conditions have become steadily worse, particularly among children and women.

The Kossoye Project began focusing on vegetable gardening in 2007 when less than 1% of households had vegetable gardens. A few town people began planting vegetables and all 12 community health workers were required to develop their own home gardens. By November 2007, there were 35 vegetable gardens in the town. In December seed distribution was “moved to scale” by collaborating with the local elementary school to distribute packets of seeds, (beets, cabbage, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, and local beans and potatoes) to all 1000 students, along with tools and instruction manuals written specifically for local conditions. 

A year later in November 2008, there were 440 gardens which is about 30% of all households. Annual prize giving ceremonies were started for the best gardeners as part of a Health and Nutrition Festival. Students were urged to work with their parents in creating their gardens, particularly with their mothers.  Current emphasis is on establishing a seed bank to purchase locally grown seeds and distribute them freely through the schools. Six schools now collaborate. Many chard seeds are being raised, purchased and distributed. Carrot seeds are difficult to grow because young children have discovered how sweet early carrots are and eat them before they mature and go to seed. We anticipate further diffusion to other neighboring elementary schools and communities and eventual spread throughout the Amhara region which is the nation’s most severely effected population.

The Kossoye Project began purchasing open-pollinated seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds in 2008 and found the staff to be very helpful and supportive. However we hope all essential seeds will be grown in Kossoye within a few years. If that happens growing of vegetables will play an important role in promoting good nutrition and health for thousands of people.

For further information about progress of the Kossoye Project please consult our website: Kossoyeproject.org, or, write to The Kossoye Project, 480 Robinwood Drive, Bainbridge Island, WA, 98110. Andrew J Carlson and Dennis G. Carlson (the present writer) have co-authored a book about the area called  Kossoye: A Village Life in Ethiopia published this year by the Red Sea Press.

Katie's Kitchen - Tomatillo Green Salsa - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager


Tomatillo SalsaBefore I worked at High Mowing Organic Seeds, I worked on a diversified vegetable farm in upstate New York.  Long days harvesting turned into long nights of preserving.  There was so much food! Sweating in my August kitchen, stirring a bubbling cauldron of tomatillo salsa, next to a canning pot full of hot water, I thought, “Why? Why am I doing this?” Fast forward to a snowy January morning. After popping open a jar of bright salsa verde, flecked with colorful pieces of red and orange bell peppers, I answer my August question.  “So I can mix this delicious tangy sauce with my eggs before I go play outside in the snow!”

I know some people do not follow exact directions for tested recipes when it comes to canning. That makes me very nervous. Please follow these recipes as listed with the ratio of vegetables to vinegar or lemon juice. Just say no to botulism!

Tomatillo Green Salsa (I often double the recipe)
from New Mexico State Cooperative Extension Service
Yield: 5 pints

5 cups chopped tomatillos
1 1/2 cups seeded, finely long green chiles chopped , or a mix of red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers
1/2 cup seeded, finely chopped jalapeños
6 cloves garlic, shopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin*
3 Tbsp oregano leaves *
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup bottled lemon juice
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle hot salsa into pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner 15 minutes at 0–1,000 feet altitude; 20 minutes at 1,001–6,000 feet; 25 minutes above 6,000 feet. Note: You may use green tomatoes in this recipe instead of tomatillos.

*Optional



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