Welcome to the September edition of the Seed Bin - High Mowing Seeds Online Newsletter!
September has arrived, and farms and gardens throughout Vermont and across the country are in their peaks right now. Farmer's markets are booming, with produce of every color and texture literally spilling off the tables and onto the ground; CSA baskets are getting heavier and fuller with each week; kitchens are working overtime as household pots are pushed aside after dinner to make room for canners; restaurants are offering more specials featuring the harvests of local growers; grocery stores are flush with the produce of neighboring farms.
With such incredible abundance surrounding us at this time of year, one becomes acutely aware of the joys and benefits of eating food raised by our own hands, or by the hands of our friends and neighbors. The concept of eating locally is one that has been gaining popularity rapidly in the past few years, and for good reason. Gastronomists can appreciate the quality of fresh vegetables, prepared only minutes or hours from harvest and close to the farm, and often from varieties selected for quality of flavor, as opposed to those selected for shelf stability and durability during transport. Health-conscious consumers enjoy food that is more nutrient-dense and less reliant on excessive processing and chemical preservatives, stabilizers, and additives required for food from afar. Environmentalists can appreciate the lower ecological footprint of foods requiring a much shorter trip from ground to plate and much less waste from packaging, and often from a sustainable or organic farm. Community leaders delight in the benefits shown to the local economy by keeping purchasing dollars within the community. Conservationists and state agencies enjoy the preservation of a beautiful rural working landscape earned by the survival of family farms. And of course, the benefits known to eating out of your own garden are known to all who have ever picked a tomato ripe from the vine! All in all, the benefits reaped from putting more local food on your plate are many, and simple to achieve. There are many organizations supporting the local food movement all across the country – so keep your eyes, ears, and mouth open and get involved!
Even as we enjoy the fruits of summer, we must remember that this a changing time of year, and as agriculturalists, our focus and attention must be attuned to what’s to come, as well as to what’s at hand. With this in mind, we present two articles on how to prepare for the coming killing frosts. The first, End of Season Management by UVM Extension Vegetable and Berry Specialist Vern Grubinger, will guide you in how to gracefully draw your season to a close and help stave off problems next year. The second, Planning a Winter Vegetable Garden by UNH Extension Vegetable Specialist David Kopsell, gives you some easy ways to keep the produce coming long after the nights have grown cold – or before they get warm again.
High Mowing Seeds Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith is still full-on in the fields, so the pathology report takes a holiday this month, but High Mowing Seeds Farm Manager Charlie Rowland will fill us in on the on-the-farm rundown for September. Speaking of goings-on at the farm, we will be hosting one more Field Day to showcase some of the work being done in our extensive trialing gardens, on September 20, from 5-7 PM; click here
for more info. In this month's Ask The Grower feature, Jodi will answer a question about dealing with mice in the melons. And finally, the tomato is in the spotlight for this month’s recipes.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Equinox!
In This Issue:
- End of Season Management: An Ounce of Prevention, by UVM Extension Vegetable and Berry Specialist Vern Grubinger
- Planning a Winter Vegetable Garden, by UNH Extension Vegetable Specialist David Kopsell
- On-The-Farm Rundown from HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
- Ask the Grower
- Web-Only Specials Page at Highmowingseeds.com
- Recipe of the month, and more!
End of Season Management: An Ounce of Prevention
By Vern Grubinger, Vegetable and Berry Specialist, University of Vermont Extension
The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is probably a conservative estimate. That sure is the case when it comes to managing insects, weeds and diseases on vegetable farms, and especially on organic farms, where the cures (read: organic pesticides) tend to be relatively few, and relatively expensive.
End-of-season pest prevention comes in several flavors: sanitation, crop rotation, record keeping, and soil stewardship. None of these may seem mouth-watering (because they don’t generate cash in the near term) but delayed gratification can be a good thing. Next year, and in years to come, you’ll reap the rewards of a good management menu this fall.
Sanitation means cleaning up the fields and greenhouses. Plowing, disking or otherwise incorporating residues to speed their decomposition in the field can limit the ability of many insect pests to over-winter. Sanitation can also reduce the amount of time that some insect pests have to store up winter food by feeding on crop residues. Removal or turning under rotting fruits and foliage can prevent some diseases from proliferating, too. If weeds are present, putting them down before they set seed makes good sense. Many annual weeds can produce tens of thousands of seeds per plant if allowed to mature.
In greenhouses and high tunnels, sanitation provides an added benefit. Not only can over-wintering sites for pests be removed, but a clean greenhouse does not leave any food sources for insects that emerge in the early spring when inside temperatures rise but annual crops are not yet present.
Crop rotation is a valuable cultural management technique for both insects and diseases, and to some extent, weeds. Start your rotation right after a crop is done in the fall by rotating into a cover crop. A winter cover crop does more than just prevent soil erosion; it can help suppress the growth of winter-annual weeds, and its presence promotes biological activity, which helps speed the decay of disease organisms while enhancing soil health.
Before this growing season becomes a distant memory, be sure to make a map of your fields and the location of your crops, so you can effectively move things around over the next few years. In my observation, crop rotation is one of the weakest areas of management, even among talented, experienced growers. It’s usually a seat-of-the-pants affair. Very few growers have a systematic plan for rotating their crops. Those that do often developed it in response to a serious soil-borne disease like Phytophthora
When planning your rotations, keep in mind that the distance between this year’s and next year’s location of the same crop can have a strong effect on how much insect control you get. While further away is better, even a short rotation distance will help in most cases compared to going back in a field with the same crop. Of course, that only applies to pests that overwinter, like Colorado potato beetle and European corn borer. Pests that fly in from afar won’t be affected by rotation.
When rotating for diseases, especially soil-borne diseases, greater distances between fields from year to year can help, too, by lessening the movement of spores via wind and water. It will be your job to limit the movement of soil and spores via machinery when preparing fields in the spring. Consider power-washing equipment in-between its use in well-separated fields.
While winter cover crops are important for soil management, they aren’t without a down side. If you are going to plant into cover-cropped field in the early spring, get the cover crop residue incorporated about a month prior to planting to reduce problems from seedcorn maggots. The adult of this pest prefers to lay its eggs in areas with high organic matter, and rotting vegetation in a freshly tilled field will be more attractive to the flies.
In addition to making a map of your fields and crops for rotation planning, it’s also a good idea to do some fall field scouting and make a weed map. A quick scouting can help locate and identify weed problems that may become expensive if they get out of control, and it can provide information that will help you design a weed management program for next year.
Sometime this fall, walk through all your fields and note the following information: How much weed pressure is there now, and was the pressure earlier this year? As you look over a whole field, note the location of weeds. High populations of weeds in the crop rows may be an indication that cultivation equipment needs adjustment, or cultivation needs to be done earlier or more frequently. What species of weeds are present – if you cannot identify them take samples or digital pictures and send them to an Extension specialist. Identifying weeds is key to designing a management strategy based on how they grow and when in their life cycles they are most vulnerable.
Weeds like yellow nutsedge, hedge bindweed, and quackgrass are spreading perennials, which have underground parts that can spread throughout whole fields. Because these weeds can be very damaging, and are difficult to control, they are worth nipping in the bud with aggressive and timely cultivation. The best time to control perennial weeds is in the fall. All perennial weeds have storage structures (tap roots or rhizomes) below ground that enable these plants to survive winter and regenerate the following year. Fall tillage of perennial weeds will kill top growth, which stops the production of winter ‘food’ by photosynthesis, and fragments the storage organs, weakening the plant. It may not kill the weed, so frequent tillage for a period of time may be required to destroy regrowth and prevent re-establishment.
In addition to perennials, keep an eye out for annual weeds that are new to a field or are suddenly increasing in numbers. Some annual weeds can be very difficult to control if allowed to gain a foothold. Hairy galinsoga, for example, thrives under cultivated conditions, and can become widespread on a vegetable farm rather quickly after arriving. Identifying it early and working to eradicate it while you still can, using hand-removal if necessary, is key to saving headaches down the road.
Planning a Winter Vegetable Garden
By David Kopsell, UNH Cooperative Extension Vegetable Specialist
Ripe, juicy tomatoes from the garden in January? Fresh home-grown salad and cooking greens from October ‘til April? With a little advance planning, not much extra work, and no greenhouse or other season-extending appliances, northern vegetable gardeners can eat “fresh from the garden” every day of the year.
Many veteran growers are already savvy to the secrets of tucking away a winter’s supply of root vegetables, a bushel or two of apples and a crowd of cabbages in a cool, damp root cellar. These are the folks with bags of homegrown onions and garlic hanging stashed in the pantry and a bushel or two of winter squash tucked away under the bed in an unheated guest room.
Here are a few easy ways growers can extend the summer vegetable garden:
Harvested just before the first fall frosts and stored properly, sound green tomatoes will ripen gradually, providing fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving dinner and well into the new year. The trick is to select only perfect, firm green fruit from late, dense-fleshed varieties. Set out plants for your storage tomatoes two or three weeks later than your main-crop seedlings. Water the plants sparingly from mid-August on. Just before frost, harvest all the sound, firm green fruits and place them in single layers in shallow cardboard or wooden boxes lined with slightly crumpled newspapers. The gradually-ripening tomatoes keep best in a moist, cool location (35 to 45 degrees F.) Check the tomatoes often, discarding or using any that begin to mold.
In early May, sow seed of frost-resistant crops of Brussels sprouts, kale, collards and leeks – even some varieties of extra-hardy “winter” lettuce. Check catalog or packet descriptions and plant varieties advertised as “super-hardy” or “frost-resistant.” [editor’s note: try any of High Mowing Seed’s Kales, American Flag Leek, or the Rouge de Hiver Lettuce] Sow the seeds directly (don’t use transplants). Give them plenty of space to grow and protect them from insect and disease attack. Though these crops will stop growing after a few hard frosts and you may have to dig them out from under a blanket of snow, most years they’ll “keep” perfectly well right in the garden most of the winter or until you’ve eaten them up, whichever comes first.
For a crop of gourmet greens you can harvest indoors all winter long, sow Witloof Chicory, also known as Belgian Endive, into rich soil in early May. Other than thinning and weeding, just let the dandelion-like chicory greens grow all summer long – they’re rarely plagued by diseases or insect pests. In late fall, dig the roots, cut the greens back to about an inch long and “plant” the roots in moist sand or sawdust in tall plastic buckets lined with black plastic garbage bags. Set the buckets in a cool, dry out-of-the-way place like an unheated cellar or an upstairs closet. “Water” your crop occasionally like a houseplant and feast on several generations of tiny, pale “chicons” that are selling at the local markets for $2.99 or more a pound.
Reserve a portion of your root crops for over-wintering right in the garden. Just cover a section of row or bed with five or six inches of organic mulch – fall leaves chopped by running the lawn mower over them a few times are ideal, but dry grass clippings, straw, pine needles, or even a thick layer of newspapers also work well. As soon as the mulch thaws out in early spring, pull it back and voila! Fresh crisp carrots, tender beets, firm onions, and sweet delicate parsnips will be ready for digging long before your spring crops even germinate.
In late August or early September sow salad greens that will be ready early the following spring: spinach, leaf lettuce, arugula, oriental greens. Thin the new plants as they germinate and cover with a heavy layer of fall leaves when the first heavy frost is predicted. As with garden-stored root crops, simply pull away the mulch in the early spring and the greens will spring to life again, giving you a head start on spring salads.
Finally, don’t forget to mulch your cabbage stumps! Harvest your summer and winter storage cabbages by slicing the heads off at the base, leaving the stumps in the ground. Pull a few inches of leaf mulch up around the base and sides of each stump – no need to cover it over completely – and watch them sprout a ring of little fist-sized cabbages around the severed tops as soon as the warm sun kisses the early spring garden.
On-The-Farm Rundown - September 2006
by HMS Farm Manager Charlie Rowland
So here we are in early September - the 11th to be exact - and the first frost hit this morning, with another coming tonight. I guess that means fall is right around the corner and the hard work is just beginning. Ahh yes, it is harvest time again, time to pick and grin while collecting our bountiful crops. We have already brought in all the dry-seeded crops, such as mizuna, tat soi, Pac choy, and arugula. All the cucurbits and beans will come within the next month or so. The tomatoes seem like they are being harvested constantly...It really is amazing how fast time goes by when you are busy. It seems like just yesterday I was pulling my hair out over the wet spring. Now I am thinking about bringing in crops and clean-up before the snow comes.
The trial garden is starting to slow down now. Corn has passed, eggplants are gone, and cucumbers are eaten and their plants pulled and composted. We do have some fall crops coming in - mainly lettuce, specialty greens, and all the winter squash. Most crops this year did well in the trials, and we got a lot of ideas about new varieties to carry (and ones not to carry). We have had a few Field Days now where folks came out and took a look at what we are doing, and tasted some of the veggies. Each event has brought in about 35 to 40 people - mainly local growers, but also some interested folks from around the area, curious in what we are doing. We have one last Field Day coming up on September the 20th from 5 – 7 PM, so come on out and bring a friend. We will be looking at squashes, soy beans, and a few other crops that can survive the cool weather.
Last week we had to lay off our best workers, the ones who just work, sun-up to sun-down, seven days a week, pollinating our crops. Yes, the bees left their hillside summer home at Rooster Ridge and headed back to their city dwelling in Morrisville. The move went alright; we lost a few on the drive. I wasn’t stung, but Chuck the bee keeper was hit a couple of times. I’ve always liked the bees; they are really cool insects, and very smart. I appreciate the whole communal living thing they’ve got going on, their strong work ethic, and just knowing we could not do what we do without them.
One other insect that has been high in numbers this year is the Monarch Butterfly. I have never seen as many as I have this year. I am not sure why, because I hear their numbers are supposedly down. But this year, I can see as many as 20 or 30 at a time as I drive the tractor; it is really quite beautiful. Hopefully they will be around in as great numbers next year; tune in and I will let you know.
We have had trouble from some of our big hairy friends, though. I am not talking about Tony in the warehouse, but bears. Yes, bears. No lions or tigers, just bears - more specifically, bears in the corn. At least they weren’t in the bee hives, but they have been quite active in the corn. These guys are treating it like an all-you-can-eat buffet off the highway. What can I do, though? They are bigger than me, and strike at night when I am resting from a long day. Also, the second coming of the wild turkeys are here, and they love the soy beans and golden rocky beans. I believe these guys are coming from the woods around the farm at Rooster Ridge, which is being logged heavily in all directions by different folks. I am not a hunter anymore, but maybe I should pick it up again...
Well, I’ll quit the rambling, as you’ve got things to do, and now have a good idea of what is going on around here. So ‘till next month, I will see you in the fields.
Ask The Grower
This month, HMS Plant Pathologist Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith answers the question:
I'm having trouble with mice (I'm assuming from the small size of the teeth marks) or maybe chipmunks chewing holes in my melons. They seem to prefer the Sivan :-( Any suggestions? I've put out traps but I'm not sure how big of an army I'm facing.
You might consider putting out sponges soaked in coyote or fox urine in the near vicinity of your melons. You can purchase the urine at a farm supply or sporting good supply place that sells hunting-related items. It’s only a few dollars and not much work, and should hopefully deter as big an army as you’re facing.
Best of luck!
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Recipe of the Month
This is the time of year when the gardens overflow with bounty, and one of the most anticipated and appreciated harvests in many gardens is the tomato harvest. Cherry, pear, grape, paste, drying, beefsteak, slicer, sweet, acidic, yellow, orange, red, purple, green – there is a tomato for palate, and a recipe for every tomato. We offer three recipies, each from a different part of the world, all easily prepared in your kitchen from the fruits of your vines. Enjoy!
Fresh Italian Marinara Sauce
There are two basic types of pasta sauce; one made with meat one without. Marinara sauce has no meat and the typical Italian Sunday Gravy does. Marinara means fisherman's style. When they were out to sea, the sauce without the meat would last longer without spoilage under their storage conditions. This is a basic Marinara that can be used with any dish that requires tomato sauce.
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 med. onions coarsely chopped
6 cloves chopped garlic
2-3 pounds of fresh plum tomatoes
A small handful of fresh basil or 2 clusters
A small handful of fresh parsley, remove bottom stem
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine (never cook with anything you wouldn't drink)
Hot red pepper seeds (optional at serving)
Fresh grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Regianno Parmeggiano)
Pasta - your choice
Prepare the plum tomatoes by blanching in boiling water, plunging into cold water, and pealing under a stream of cold water. Remove seeds and crush by hand in a large bowl.
In a deep sauce pan, on the heavy side, add olive oil and heat to med. Add onions half the garlic and simmer until onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes, S&P to taste and bring up to a low boil and then simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Keep stirring from the center of the pan; it will burn if you use a lightweight pan.*
Time for a taste test! Are the tomatoes cooked enough? Not everyone's stove or pans are alike. When they are done somewhat al dente (without killing them), add the wine, fresh parsley, the basil and remainder of the garlic and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes or so. **
Time for a 2nd taste test! Adjust flavors as needed.
Prepare your favorite pasta al dente and toss with some sauce. Garnish with cheese and pepper seeds (optional).
NOTE: * If it does burn a little you may still be able to salvage it by not stirring up the burnt part because the taste will kill the sauce.
** If you put the herbs in too early they will just cook out and you will find yourself adding and adding.
Variation: If you want to make a pizza sauce, replace the parsley, basil and onions with Oregano.
Spanish Gazpacho Soup
The Spanish always drink Gazpacho; it is an American twist to eat it like soup.
2 pounds fresh, peeled tomatoes of best quality
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, chopped
2-3 slices stale white bread, soaked in water and wrung out
1/2 cup peeled almonds
red wine vinegar
salt, pepper, olive oil
Dip tomatoes in boiling water to remove skins, but don't cook them. Remove seeds and set peeled flesh aside. Discard seeds. In a blender or a food processor, grind up tomatoes (in batches), onion, garlic and bell pepper. These should be adjusted according to your taste. Add bread and almonds to mixture, and continue processing until smooth. Add salt, pepper and vinegar to taste. Drizzle on olive oil and serve in teacups or small bowls garnished with cucumber chunks.
Mollie Katzen’s Fried Green Tomatoes
Tart, crunchy, and dripping with juice, fried green tomatoes are rarely considered a breakfast food. But picture a few slices -- coated with golden cornmeal -- on the plate next to your scrambled eggs or tofu, and I think you'll reconsider. They're also among my favorite quiche fillings. Serve these warm, not hot, as the insides of the tomatoes retain a lot of heat and could burn your mouth.
The tomatoes don't have to literally be green, as long as they're unripe and really hard. They soften up so much during the cooking process that if they're at all ripe to begin with, you'll have mush when you're done. Use a metal spatula for turning the tomatoes, and scrape the surface of the pan when you lift them. This ensures that you won't accidentally separate the cornmeal coating from the tomato.
2 large unripe tomatoes (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup cornmeal or polenta (rounded measure)
1/4 teaspoon salt
nonstick cooking spray and a little butter for the pan
freshly ground black pepper
1. Core the tomatoes, and thinly slice off the ends. Cut the tomatoes into half- inch-thick slices (you'll get about 3 or 4 slices per tomato) and set aside.
2. Combine the cornmeal and salt on a dinner plate. Mix until uniformly blended.
3. Dredge the tomato slices in the cornmeal mixture, pressing it into the cut surfaces of the tomatoes to create a thick coating.
4. Place a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat for several minutes. Spray the hot pan with nonstick spray, and melt in a little butter. After a few seconds, tilt the pan to distribute the butter, then add the coated tomatoes.
5. Fry the tomatoes on each side for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden. You might need to add a little more butter at some point to keep them from sticking.
6. Remove the tomatoes from the pan, and transfer them to a wire rack over a tray to cool. (This retains their crispy texture.) Wait at least 5 minutes before serving, as the insides of the tomatoes will have become very hot and will need to cool down a little.
7. Serve warm, and pass some coarse salt, a pepper mill, and if you like, some sour cream to spoon on top.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings (2 to 3 thick slices per serving)
Preparation time: 5 minutes, plus 20 minutes to cook
Variation: Fried green Tomatoes with Melted Cheddar:
Follow the main recipe with this adjustment: Preheat the broiler. Place the fried tomatoes in a baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese. Broil just long enough to melt the cheese. Serve right away.
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Let's Make it Better
This is your newsletter, not ours - we just write it. Just as your comments, questions, concerns, and field experience have helped to guide our business in every way, from variety selection to customer service, we rely on your feedback to guide the creation of a publication that is informative, inspirational, entertaining, and enjoyable to read. What would you like to see more or less of? Technical advice? Seed saving tips? Tools and techniques? Information about High Mowing Seeds? We want to give you what you want, so please let us hear from you! Write to email@example.com
with your comments, critiques, and questions.
Thanks for reading - and responding!
Vern Grubinger, UVM Extension Vegetable and Berry Specialist - Feature Writer
David Kopfell, UNH Extension Vegetable Sepcialist - Feature Writer
Charlie Rowland - Farm Editor
Jodi Lew-Smith - Technical, Pathology Editor
Jacob Racusin - General Editor