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High Mowing Organic Seeds
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The Seed Bin - September 2010

Cold-Tolerant Varieties for Season Extension
Greetings from Tom
Trials Update - Preparing Garden Beds For Winter
DYI Seed Saving: Melons, Tomatoes, Peppers
Growing Tips: Garlic
Farmer Paul's Row - The Joys of Remay
Katie's Kitchen - Abundant Greens Savory Tart

Upcoming Food & Farming Events


Cold-tolerant varieties for season extension!


The seasons are changing, but you can continue to grow these great varieties, in hoop-houses or low tunnels, for a late season harvest.  You’ll need to add about 14 days to the days to maturity date due to lower light and cooler temperatures.
 
Sylvetta
Wild Arugula
High Mowing DMR
Salad Mix

Organic DMR Salad Mix
HotShot Spicy
Mustard Mix


White Beauty Radish


Greetings From Tom

 

Hello growers and gardeners!
 

Tom StearnsSeptember is already bringing cooler evenings and a little change in the foliage.  We did, however, just have yet another week of intense heat.  Many years, we never get those temperatures at all, let alone in September.  In a year with a very early spring and the hottest summer in recent memory, I am greatly interested in what this fall may bring.  So far, this season has meant less diseases on our crops and earlier harvests, both of which look to reduce our stress and workload this fall.

On our Annual Field Days (now Kingdom Farm & Food Days) on August 22nd, the weather wasn't as perfect - a little drizzle for most of the day.  That didn't seem to bother the almost 300 people who came for tours, tastings, a free meal and a bonfire.  I was struck, as I am every year, by what an age range there was – all the way from a few elderly gardeners trying to get around our field with walkers to toddlers, walking slowly and carefully in their own way.  Gardening and farming has returned to being of interest to a new generation and there were dozens of young farming families with their kids playing all over the place.  This event is a great collaboration between High Mowing Organic Seeds, the New England Culinary Institute and The Center for an Agricultural Economy.  The day before our Field Day  featured more events, including about 20 farms open to the public, a big localvore potluck at Pete's Greens farm in Craftsbury, Vermont and more.  Over 300 people were a part of that day too.  Thanks to everyone who came and shared in the excitement of our region’s agricultural revival.  We hope to see you for our 2011 Field Days in late August, or even sooner for our next Growers’ Walk coming up on 9/22 from 4-6pm.  See details below and we hope to see you there.
 

Sincerely,
 
Tom Stearns,
President & Founder



Trials Update: Preparing Beds for Winter - Heather Jerrett - High Mowing Organic Seeds' Trials Manager


Watermelon Taste TestSeptember in Vermont! In the High Mowing Organic Seeds trial gardens, it’s a time when all of our warm season summer crops like melons, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants and peppers are coming to an end and the late season crops like pumpkins, winter squash, gourds, leeks and onions are just around the corner. This year in Wolcott, it seemed like an endless summer, with day after day of hot, sunny weather. We were able to evaluate crops like melons, tomatoes and peppers with gusto, when usually we are lucky to see which ones will actually produce in our northern climate. The melon taste test spoiled our taste buds with sugary goodness, making us turn up our noses at anything less than perfect.

As we move into the autumn season we are turning in finished crops and preparing our fields for winter rest. There are many ways to prepare your garden or farm for the winter and for the following season, and many factors that affect what you need to do. In our trial gardens, once we are finished with a crop we disc it into the soil with our tractor and plant a cover crop. When the soil is warm, plant material can still break down easily and plant debris will not over-winter in the soil. If it is later in the season and the weather is cool, the plants may not be able to break down in the soil. In this case we pull the plants and incorporate them into the compost pile. We do not want plant debris to remain in the fields over the winter because if there is any disease on the plant material it may over-winter and inoculate the garden the following year. With this in mind, it is also good practice to turn your compost pile in order to make sure all plant material is breaking down. This is especially important concerning potatoes and late blight. The disease can only persist on living plant material. Dormant potato tubers, if left in the ground, become an excellent host and inoculum the next season.


Cover Crops We Use and Why
In our trial gardens, we use a number of cover crops for various reasons:
  • Organic Cover Crop - Oats and PeasWhen we remove summer crops we plant a mix of peas and oats. We use this mix in between wide rows as well. The oats act as a trellis for the peas. When oats begin to flower we mow down or incorporate them into the soil.
  • To cover bare ground left by crops that come out in the middle of the season, we use buckwheat. We choose buckwheat for this slot because there is not enough time for peas and oats to be as productive as we would like before the end of the season. Buckwheat also serves as a great smother crop for weeds and pulls minerals out of the soil for future uptake by plants.
  • Later in the season – August and September – we use winter rye. Winter rye is an excellent crop for over-wintering. Because it is a perennial and will begin to grow again in the spring, it is important to allow enough time for the crop to re-grow in spring and then incorporate before planting. For this reason, we do not use winter rye where any very early season crops are to be planted the following year (like onions, leeks and spring greens).

Choosing The Right Cover Crop
Choosing the right cover crop for the time of year and for your specific crop rotation is important. There are essentially three types of cover crop available:  grains, green manures and legumes. Each of these types essentially provide cover for your soil but can also be used for specific purposes.
  • Grains are crops that produce large seeds that are also commonly used for food. Some common examples of grains are oats, winter rye, and buckwheat. As a cover crop, they are used as a green manure and are not left to go to seed. Their main purpose is to cover the ground, provide structural support for other cover crops and add organic material to the soil in the form of cellulose that can then be broken down.
  • Green manures are crops that are grown specifically to replenish organic matter in the soil. Nutrients are released into the topsoil as they decompose. Most grow quickly and break down easily to allow nutrients to be captured for crop production. Many green manures work well as mixes with grains and legumes. Some common examples of green manures are Annual Ryegrass, mustard, radish, and millet.
  • Legumes are plants that provide nitrogen through Rhizobia bacteria that have a symbiotic relationship with the plants, feeding on the roots while supply nitrogen to the plant. Common examples of leguminous cover crops are vetch, alfalfa, field peas, and clovers.

For more information about cover cropping or winterizing your garden check out these helpful links:




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DYI Seed Saving: Melons, Tomatoes & Peppers - Megen Toaldo, Sales Associate  


Saving Organic SeedsCooler nights are settling in here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont reminding us all that the summer days are dwindling.  Many of us have been busy canning, freezing, drying, fermenting…putting by little bits of summer.  So why not take it a step further and try saving some of your own seed for next planting season.  Collecting and saving seed from certain fruits and vegetables can be really easy and rewarding. 

In our region, with damp weather, a short growing season, and sub-zero temperatures during winter, we have the best success saving seed from fruits such as zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes, peppers, melon, and others like these.  The reason for this is because the seed of these crop types mature quickly within our short season and the seeds remain protected from the elements inside the fruit, therefore you are more likely to produce higher quality, disease-free seed.

Let’s focus on the easiest of the aforementioned, which are tomatoes, peppers, and melons.  The seed produced from all of these crop types will become mature at the same time that the fruit is ripe and ready for consumption, therefore you can harvest the food for eating while at the same time scoop out the seeds and save them for next season.  Before you begin, though, there are a few things you might want to know. 

Without going into a whole lot of detail about genetics, I will suggest saving seed from open pollinated varieties as opposed to hybrids.  A hybrid plant will produce viable seed, but the genetic traits exhibited may not be the same as the plant they came from, whereas the traits from open pollinated varieties will be same in the next generation.  Next, you will have the best success if you have planted only one variety of each melons, tomatoes, and peppers.  For instance, if I only planted one type of melon), say Emerald Gem, (and my garden or farm is far enough away from my neighbor’s), then there is no chance that the seed will have crossed with another melon plant and the seed I harvest will be true-to-type (rather than an unintentional hybrid, or crossing).  If I planted three types of melons, there is a strong chance that insects may have cross-pollinated the varieties…resulting in mixed genetics and hybrid seed – which will produce a plant with any number of combined traits, maybe good, maybe not so good, but certainly unpredictable.  There is less of a chance for cross-pollination with peppers and even less of a chance with tomatoes because these are self-pollinated.  Cross-pollination would happen merely by chance instead of by design.

Just follow these simple instructions and you can begin to enjoy the art of seed saving.

Melon
Insect-pollinated annual. Unless hand pollinating, isolate different varieties by 1/4 mile to prevent cross-pollination. Tree lines, woods or buildings separating fields can allow for shorter distances. Harvest the melons when ripe for eating. Remove the seeds and pulp and rinse under water until seeds are clean. A light fermentation with a little water can sometimes help in the cleaning process. Simply add 1 cup of water for every cup of seeds and pulp and let sit in a warm place for 2-3 days, stirring daily. Then rinse under water and allow seeds to dry on a plate, cloth or similar clean surface. After they are rinsed, use a 1/2" or 1/4" screen to help with cleaning. Melon seed will remain viable for 4-6 years under cool and dry storage conditions.

Organic Tomato Seeds Fermenting Tomatoes
Self-pollinated annual. Different tomato varieties rarely cross with one another so isolation distances are not generally required. The seed is mature when the tomato itself is ripe. Squeeze the seeds and juice into a jar and add about the same amount of water. Allow this liquid to ferment in a warm place for 3-5 days, stirring daily, until the seeds have sunk to the bottom of the jar. Rinse the seeds and allow to dry on a paper plate or cloth. Use of a 1/8" screen can help with cleaning. Tomato seeds remain viable for 4-10 years under cool and dry storage conditions.

Peppers
Self-pollinated but can have up to 20% insect pollinated. 200-300 feet is sufficient for isolation between varieties. Peppers need to be red (or whatever color they ripen to) and can be cut open and the seeds dried on a plate or cloth. Use a 1/8" screen to help with cleaning. Pepper seeds can remain viable for 3 years under cool and dry storage conditions.

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Growing Tips: Garlic - Megen Toaldo, Sales Associate  


Organic Garlic Growing TipsAromatic, 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. 


 

Farmer Paul's Row: The Joys of Remay - Paul Betz, Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm in Woodbury, VT


I have this love hate thing going on with remay. I love what it can do for the farm, and I end up using a lot of it. From the early spring to the late fall, it’s everywhere. Granted, it’s a pain sometimes, like when it blows away and there’s only one person around to reset the row. Or when you are being really careful and you still manage to tear a new hole in the piece. And the shudder I get when it sticks to my chapped hands. But when you take a peak under the cover in early spring and see this beautiful growth, or in the fall when you come to the field that’s frozen in white and see undamaged plants underneath, that’s the love thing.

Remay on FieldsFor those who don’t know what I’m talking about, “remay” is a spun-bonded polyester fabric that has become indispensable on most farms. It’s available in various widths and lengths as well as weights, and different “flavors” have different applications. The higher the number, the heavier the weight, and subsequently the more frost protection will be offered. The flip side is that the increased protection reduces the amount of light that gets through. I use the AG 19 as a good overall grade. I also use hoops to keep the fabric off the plants. I use a 9 gauge smooth galvanized wire that I cut myself to around 72”. I place them every 10 feet or so in the row and then use soil to hold the remay in place. Quick and easy, and worth the extra work. I can get plants out much sooner in the season, and they like growing under there. I keep my basil covered all season, and it loves it. No bugs, no wind, and the quality of the leaves is excellent.

I like to use a lot of it in the spring, when weather is finicky and unpredictable. I also like to find parthenocarpic varieties for my earliest plantings. These plants don’t need to be pollinated to make a viable fruit, so I can leave the covers on. Partenon zucchini and Saber cucumber are two examples.

In the heat of the summer, the extra heat can be too much for some plants, so I switch to a lighter cover. I farm near lots of open fields, and when they are mowed all the Tarnished Plant Bugs (TPB) come calling and can destroy the place pretty quickly. I throw the lighter covers on and ride out the storm till the grass grows back and the TPB goes home again. The lighter grade is good for keeping out all kinds of insects, and is invaluable at keeping cabbage maggot out of radishes and flea beetles off arugula, mibuna, and other brassicas. Be sure to put it on as soon as you seed and bury the edge well.

Now that fall is here (soon any way) I am using the AG 19 again. When the temps get colder, I will put on two layers, extending its frost protection. While it’s rated at 4 degrees of frost protection, different crops have different sensitivities, and I use those numbers as a guide only. I figure each layer gives a few degrees, and I have gotten peppers through a 26 degree night by having three layers on. As a market grower, having certain crops later in the season translates into more income. A little extra work pays off.

Right now I am planting lots of lettuce in the field. I am covering it as I plant, in hopes that the extra heat from the remay will push it a little faster. We are losing a lot of light each day, but my plan is to get it to size and have it hold in the field. My favorite variety, Magenta, is pretty rugged, and can freeze and then thaw a few times without a loss of quality. A few years ago, I had a lot of it in the field and some heavy snow was forecasted. I took a shovel and dug up the heads, put them in a crate and took them to the greenhouse where they held until my market day. It was extra work, but it saved the work I already had in from being wasted.

Your row covers can last for three or more years if you take care of them. I stuff mine into a grain sack once it’s dry. If things are going well, I even make notes about the length and condition of the cover on the bag so I can know what I am getting next year. It’s better to know about that hole while it’s still in the bag.

Enjoy this procession to fall, and I hope things are going well for you and yours.


Katie's Kitchen - Abundant Greens Savory Tart   - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager


I had more misses then hits in my Hardwick community garden plot, mostly due to neglect (there’s always next year!), but the produce coming out of the High Mowing Seeds’ 3-acre trial garden has been nothing short of spectacular.  Jennifer, Heather, Tony II, and Caleb, along with interns Dean and Tim, along with the soil, sun, and rain, have turned our awesome seeds into an incredible array of deliciousness.  Twice a week they arrange a selection of produce near the exit door, so the rest of the staff can leave the building with armfuls and basket loads of produce. We also get to participate in more than a few taste tests of tomatoes, melons, and corn.  Since the High Mowing staff gets our produce needs met with a fraction of the harvest, most of the produce from the Trial Gardens goes to the Vermont Food Bank.  Like literally tons and tons of produce. Yay High Mowing Trials Team! And Vermont Food Bank for coordinating harvests and distribution around the state to make fresh food accessible to all. 

In the spirit of the late summer harvest, here is a simple and elegant recipe to help celebrate the abundance.

Abundant Greens Savory Tart (6 generous slices)

  • 1 unbaked pie shell
  • 1½ lbs greens (2-3 bunches; any variety or combo of kale, Swiss chard, or spinach works well here)
  • 3 large eggs (or 4 small eggs)
  • 1 cup grated cheese (parmesan, pecorino, swiss, cheddar, or whatever cheese you daydreamed about?)
  • Optional: a few cloves of minced garlic, a few chopped up scallions or an onion, sautéed in some butter until golden, some thyme or summer savory. Mix these in with your other ingredients.
  • This would also be very pretty with some sliced tomatoes artfully arranged on top before baking.

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Make your pie crust and place in a 9-in pie plate. I’m sure you could also make this is a square 8 inch pan, or double the recipe and use a large rectangle baking dish.

Wash your greens and then chop them up, removing any super thick stems. Put the greens in a large pan over medium heat and cover. Cook for a 5-10 minutes until wilted. Remove from the heat, uncover and allow to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, combine the cheese and eggs and optional ingredients. Stir to combine. Add the greens and stir. Pour this mixture into the shell. Bake for 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Or, bring this to a friend’s house and enjoy at room temperature.

Upcoming Food and Farming Events  


Look for us at the following fall events – stop by our booth to chat; let us know how your season went: which varieties performed well for you, which didn’t do so well; share your suggestions for improvements – we’re always happy to meet our customers!

Common Ground Country Fair
Booth in the Agricultural Products area
September 24 – 26
Unity, ME

Mother Earth News Fair
Booth 1015
September 25 & 26
Seven Springs, PA

(Note: we are looking for one or two volunteers to work at the High Mowing booth at the Mother Earth News Fair for four hours on each day of the fair (Sat & Sun) in exchange for an entrance pass and a gift certificate to High Mowing.  Please email info@highmowingseeds.com if you are interested.)

Northeast Animal-Power Field Days
October 15 – 17
Tunbridge Fairgrounds, Tunbridge, VT

Tilth Producers Annual Conference
November 12 – 14
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA





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