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High Mowing Organic Seeds
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The Seed Bin - September 2009

Greetings from Tom
Events and Special Interests
Notes from The Fields
Life of an HMS Intern
Growing Garlic - Hints and Tips
Katie's Kitchen - Preserving Your Herbs: Flavor Bombs!

Time to order Organic Garlic!

It’s garlic time again! Order now as supplies are limited. Garlic ships in early to mid-October. We can only ship garlic within the continental US.

Greetings From Tom

Tom Stearns As I write, some of my neighbors have just had a touch of frost.  In August!  They are in some of the coldest corners of Vermont, where we indeed have one of the shortest frost-free periods in the U.S.  Add to that the fact that our June and July were very cold and wet and many of us are just beginning to get ripe field tomatoes. 

Widespread late blight on tomatoes and potatoes this season caused an additional headache – at the very least – and in some cases total crop loss for many farmers and gardeners throughout the northeast region and beyond.  There are some varieties that have shown tolerance or even resistance to late blight, and while we don't have anything to release yet, we are aware of and in communication with the different breeding programs working on this.  Here is where I could use your help.  If you have late blight this year, please let me know if you see any differences from variety to variety.  There are several environmental factors that can effect this of course, but I am keeping a tally of all the varieties that people mention showing some tolerance.  This will be really important, especially if we are going to be seeing more late blight around.

Growing food is hard work anywhere, but doing it organically and in somewhat marginal places is even harder.  The work of farmers in never done - others say that about their jobs too, but for farmers it is really true.  We take our work very seriously, which is good, but isn't it also good to play?  Waiting until the work is done before you relax is not a good idea.  Take care of yourself as you take care of growing food for your neighbors and you will find the balancing effect will make you a better farmer.  So, before summer is gone and the school year has gotten into full swing again, take a day or two to recharge.  Good luck wrapping up your season, whenever it happens.  At least up here, we can look forward to it happening very soon."

Tom Stearns, President & Founder

Events and Special Interests

Summer Growers’ Walks at HMS Trial Gardens

Our Summer Growers’ Walk series continues!  The next walk will be: Wed, Sept. 2nd from 5 – 7 PM

This walk will focus on MELONS, WINTER SQUASH and PUMPKINS.  For details and full schedule, visit our Grower's Walks page.  These walks are targeted towards professional vegetable growers; new growers and apprentices are welcome! Although each session is focused on specific crop groups, there will also be time to tour our 3-acre trial and vegetable breeding garden with over 800 seasonal varieties. This is an opportunity to connect with other professional growers and with High Mowing staff to share tips about growing specific crops, handling pests and disease for those crops, and looking at what new varieties may soon be available organically.  We will be soliciting feedback about varieties YOU would like to see us carry!  All Growers' Walks are free of charge, and held at the High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials & Showcase Garden in Wolcott, Vermont.


September Field Days!!! - Sunday, September 13th

We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, September 13th for our annual September Field Days, a celebration of local food and agricultural in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and a chance to visit High Mowing Organic Seeds’ two acre Trial & Showcase Garden! The Trials & Showcase Garden features labeled displays of over 800 vegetable, herb and flower varieties, and provides an excellent opportunity for growers to see a wide range of side-by-side variety comparisons which highlight the key traits and performance characteristics of many popular and some yet-unreleased varieties.

This year, High Mowing has joined with the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick and Montpelier’s New England Culinary Institute to put on this fun-filled event. In addition to guided tours of the Trial & Showcase Garden, the September Field Days offers workshops (topics include seed saving and soybean growing), an array of locally produced food from Vermont farms and businesses, an evening bonfire and a Young Farmers’ Mixer (an opportunity for young farmers from across Vermont to meet and trade farming ideas and challenges). This is a free event!  For a schedule of events, directions and more information, visit our Field Days Page.

Field Days - Sept. 13th, 2009

Chef Emeril at High Mowing Seeds!

Chef Emeril is coming for a visit! Discovery channel's Planet Green crew is coming to film a series of episodes this September in the Hardwick area & will be stopping by High Mowing Organic Seeds! From the Planet Green website..." Something exciting is happening in the small town of Hardwick, Vermont. Young agricultural entrepreneurs are creating a sustainable farming community focused on keeping food local and citizens healthy. Join Emeril as he visits an organic seed purveyor, a family farm making organic cider the traditional way, and an award-winning eco-brewery."The episodes are set to air in a few months - we'll post the exact dates on our website when we know! For more information about the visit, check out an article featured in our local weekly, Seven Days.

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Notes From The Fields - Heather Jerrett, Research & Development Trials Manager


Well, it finally stopped raining and we have had some wonderful summer weather just in time to encourage our plants to grow and to hold back late season diseases as long as possible.

Harvesting BrassicasWe have harvested a number of Brassica crops already and are expecting better than usual yields, especially on our Rosalind broccoli, on which we have been perfecting our production skills for some time. One of the challenges of producing Brassica  seed crops in the Northeast (or any other wet region) is the fact that the pods, which serve to protect the seeds, are also delicious sugar-sweet lollipops for fungal and bacterial diseases. When fully mature, the pods dehisce, or shatter, scattering the seeds. This is a great mechanism if you are a plant and want to spread your seed, but not so great if you are a small seed producer in a wet climate! We have to carefully monitor these crops to harvest them before they shatter, then dry and send them through a thresher. All of this for the love of seed! Some other Brassica seed crops we are producing this year are Yukina Savoy, Ruby Streaks, Shanghia Gree pac choy and Te You flowering Brassica. 

This year, we are harvesting our tomatoes later than usual. Even though we were able to plant a few weeks earlier this year, the fruit was just not turning. We are finally beginning regular harvests of Crimson Sprinter and other early season slicers. Although it arrived here later than most other places around the Northeast, we have been seeing late blight in a number of tomato crops and have bumped up prevention from a bi-weekly spray of Sulfer to regular sprayings of Storox and Copper. We have managed to keep it in check for about the last ten days. Since late blight is not a seed-borne disease we are working diligently to hold onto as much of our tomato crop as possible. Aside from tomatoes, our peppers are doing just fine with a good early fruit set and we are expecting a fine crop of King of the North, Black Hungarian, Hungarian Hot Wax, Ancho Poblano and our latest HMS exclusive, King Crimson – a dark red, blocky OP bell bred in cooperation with Cornell University. Keep your eyes peeled for this stellar variety in our 2010 catalog.


August and September are the best months to be in our trial gardens because everything is ripe and ready for evaluations and best of all tasting. It is also the time of year when we keep our fingers crossed that disease does not wipe out the precious crops that we have been doting over for months.
In the last Trials Notes I mentioned what a difficult time we have had growing field melons. Well, we have just picked our first melons on August 22 and the plants look like they are in good shape despite powdery mildew. We do have a number of varieties with very low fruit set, however, which may be due to the cool temperatures of July when the bees were waiting for it to warm up, which did not happen until almost August. We are making notes and checking past years’ trials results to conclude whether the low fruit set on certain varieties is a varietal trait or a seasonal one. Because weather is variable we like to grow out promising varieties for a number of years in a row in order to decipher between genetic and environmental performance.

Our eggplants look great and have nice size fruits and we will have had our first harvest in late August. Our eggplants did get hit with Colorado Potato Beetles and we were able to get under the row cover and spray with Entrust to quickly eliminate them each time. I was surprised that the CPB actually found our eggplant amidst the 800 varieties that we grow, many of which, including the egpplant, are under row cover, but where there is a will there is a way and the CPB is one determined creature. Over the years we have been very concerned with CPB becoming resistant to Entrust and take every precaution we can to avoid spraying. We also time our applications carefully in order to reduce the need to spray twice per hatching. We will be removing our light-weight row cover to inspect our pepper crops up-close this week. Since any fruit that sets at this point will not ripen in time for us to enjoy its fruits, we are not concerned with keeping the Tarnish Plant Bug at bay any longer.

Our early lettuce plantings took a very long time to mature because of the cold weather and our second and third plantings were very close behind. A few trials that had been put in the cold frame too early and became stunted in the field. These plantings matured at the same time as the third planting which was seeded three weeks later. A true lesson to the subtleties of hardening-off correctly.

Weeding LettuceDue to the difficulties of finding staff to water the greenhouse on the weekends, we tried seeding a lettuce nursery outdoors. We seeded directly onto a raised bed and used a tarp lean-to to shade the plantings and create the best temperatures for germination during the summer months. The seeds germinated successfully and swiftly and we were excited about this new method until my crew started transplanting them out. Upon transplanting they found that there is a bit of recovery needed even if conditions are perfect. We also felt it took longer to organize and space the trial correctly. However, in the end we were successful. This is a useful practice for growers who are not as concerned about precise numbers of plants, timing, evaluation or keeping everyone separate, but it may have been just as easy to have someone swing by to water on the weekends. Overall, our succession plantings have been very useful in the trials allowing us to find slotted preferences for many varieties and crop types while getting a chance to experiment with cultural practices. 


The Life of an HMS Intern - Madeline Smerin

Maddie SmerinDear Seed Lovers,

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler here in Vermont, so my internship is drawing to a close. I’m not sad, though, because I have landed some winter work in the warehouse that will allow me to stay here at HMS as an employee. I’ve learned so much and had so much fun here, they just can’t get me to leave!

For the last month or two, the trial fields have been getting more lush and prolific each day despite the difficult rainy weather. Heather and I have been snapping photos of all the beautiful, colorful varieties for the catalog. However, disease issues have popped up here and there throughout the fields.

To most, plant diseases might be depressing, but since my internship is focused on pests and diseases, I get secretly excited about them. I’ve gotten to observe the full life cycle of many different diseases on many different crops, ranging from minor but common fungal infections on lettuce and cucurbits, to the more sinister late blight that has struck our potatoes and tomatoes.  The culmination of my disease focus will be the High Mowing Seeds Plant Pathology Guide, a binder full of my observation notes and research regarding the more common disease issues that afflict the HMS trial fields. I’m proud to say my disease knowledge has grown from absolute zero to being able to walk the fields and identify nearly every disease issue present, along with its likely causes and solutions.

As if studying fungal infections on countless vegetables hasn’t been fun enough, my internship has brought me tons of gardening confidence, photography skills, good friends, and possibly even an appearance on the 2010 catalog cover! I’ll miss the exciting life of an intern, but I’m looking forward to my first Vermont winter as an HMS employee. Thank you for reading the intern report, and happy fall harvesting!

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Growing Garlic - Megen Toaldo, High Mowing Organic Seeds Sales Associate

Aromatic, flavorful and healthful – there are hundreds of garlic varieties, but they all fall into two basic categories: hardneck or softneck.   Softneck varieties are best grown in warmer climates.  They tend to have a stronger flavor, a larger number of smaller cloves per bulb, and a longer shelf life.  The stems are more pliable and are therefore more suitable for braiding.   Hardneck varieties, categorized by their hard, woody stem, tend to have a milder flavor, with larger, but fewer cloves per bulb.  Most hardneck varieties don’t store as long, but are hardier in colder climates.  While these tendencies are a good guide, there are exceptions to the rules.  For instance, if you are in a cold climate, looking for a robust flavored hardneck variety with good shelf life, our German Extra Hardy is an excellent choice.  If you are in a warm climate, and would like to try a hardneck variety, you will find your best success with our Chesnok Red.

Once you’ve chosen your variety, you will want to figure out how much to plant and when to plant it.  Garlic bulbs generally yield anywhere from 4 to 8 times their weight at harvest, but vary based on the variety and growing conditions.  When to plant depends greatly on where you live.  In northern climates, garlic is best planted in the fall.  The cloves should be given enough time to develop a root system without producing top growth.  In southern climates, garlic should be planted in early spring, although the seed garlic must be chilled first in order to break dormancy.  It is planted in late February or March after the threat of winter cold damage has passed. 

Now it is time to prepare your soil for planting.  Garlic prefers loose, loamy soil with lots of organic matter.  The bulbs should be separated just before planting, leaving their protective papery layer in tact.  You will want to plant your largest cloves, while keeping aside the smaller ones for fresh eating, drying or pickling.  If you are planning to mulch, plant each clove 2 inches beneath the soil with its basal root end down and its pointed tip up.  Without mulch, the cloves should be planted 3 to 4 inches deep.  Allow for 4 to 6 inches between cloves and 18 to 24 inches between rows to produce the largest bulbs.  Some folks have success with tighter spacing.  This tends to yield a larger number of smaller bulbs equaling a higher total weight per square foot of garden space. 

While it is not recommended in wet climates, mulching your garlic can be very beneficial. This is especially true in cold climates where a good, thick layer of mulch will help protect your garlic against winterkill.  Most people use straw, hay, or plastic mulch.  The mulch helps to moderate the soil temperature through freezing and thawing, and also helps conserve moisture, while at the same time keeping the weed competition low.

In the spring, your garlic tops will poke up through the mulch and begin their growth spurt.  If it is a cool spring, and garlic is off to a slow start, you can remove some of the mulch, but be sure to leave a decent layer in order to preserve the mulch’s benefits.   Hardneck varieties will produce a tall, curling flower stalk called a scape.  These scapes should be cut to encourage the plant to concentrate its energy into producing a larger bulb.  Scapes are edible and delicious and can be enjoyed steamed or in stir-fries. 

Garlic does best when soil moisture remains fairly even, but prefers a dry spell for 2 to 3 weeks prior to harvest.  Too much moisture towards the end will encourage mold.  Once about half of the bottom leaves have died down, usually mid-late summer, it likely is time for harvest.  You may want to inspect a couple of bulbs first, as browning leaves are a good indicator, but only an approximation of maturity.  Harvest your bulbs by loosening the soil with a shovel or fork and pull the plants up by hand. 

For fresh eating, enjoy your garlic any time after harvest, although, if you plan to store your garlic, it must be cured first.  Cure garlic in a dimly lit area with plenty of airflow for 2 to 3 weeks after harvest.  After the curing process is complete, you can braid your softneck garlic or trim the stems of your hardneck varieties to about an inch above the bulb.  Store your garlic where it continues to have plenty of airflow with optimal temperatures being between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 65-70% humidity.  Well-cured and well-stored garlic keeps from 6-12 months depending on the variety, so that you can enjoy your harvest all winter long. 

Check out High Mowing Organic Seeds' selection of Organic Garlic !

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Katie's Kitchen  - Kaite Lavin

Preserving the Herb Harvest for Fresh Flavors in Winter: Flavor Bombs

Preserving HerbsWith the onset of fall lurking just around the corner, I know that the snippets of fragrant leaves I add to all my food during the warm months will soon be an abandoned luxury. If your garden or CSA share is abundant with herbs, consider pureeing and freezing them for future use.  This preservation method is simple, and really knocks down large amounts of herbs into recipe-ready flavor bombs.  I find this technique especially kindred with parsley, dill, cilantro and basil.  I usually process my herbs singularly, but do what you want in terms of combinations.  

If you lack time or a food processor, you can freeze whole sprigs of these herbs.  Wash and pat dry, and then loosely fill a quart or gallon size plastic bag.

However, I strongly advise pureeing in a food processor (and it doesn’t take any time at all).  I use just herbs and olive oil, which keeps open my options for which recipes I can later add the herbs to.  After processing into a gooey paste, spoon the goo into an ice cube tray.  If you tend to cook smaller meals, only fill cube space half-way up.  Stick the tray in the freezer, then, when frozen, pop the cubes out and put in a plastic bag.  The cubes are pretty concentrated so one is usually good to flavor a pot’s worth of soup. This recipe is basic and applies to all four aforementioned herbs.  Except for basil, they keep a green color, too.  (My good friend Patrick taught me how to keep basil green by blanching fresh leaves for 30 seconds in boiling water; I was scared – boil basil? – but tried it and was very pleased with my bright green basil pesto!)

Dill—use in potato soups, beet recipes, frittatas, or thawed and added to cream cheese or goat cheese for a yummy dip.  I also like to make a dill-tahini sauce for roasted roots.

Cilantro—Excellent added to black bean soup, lentil stew, and any other Mexican or Indian-inspired cuisine.  

Basil—Add to jarred tomato sauce, garlic spaghetti, boxed macaroni and cheese…it elevates your “dollar dining” to a higher level.  I also use Thai or cinnamon basil to add to coconut curries.

Parsley—Parsley is ubiquitous in many recipes.  Using a flavor bomb will translate parley’s fresh attitude so much more the dried version.


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