This week our babies arrived. Jeff Mast of Banner Greenhouses (the large greenhouses you see around mile marker 90 on I-40) brought about 15 trays of swiss chard and 15 trays of various types of kale. Banner Greenhouses uses Integrative Pest Management to grow their plants without synthetic fungicides or pesticides.We look forward to planting the babies and to growing yummy fall greens. I could almost taste them when I walked out into the cool, dry air this morning.
We also have baby vegetables sprouting in our greenhouse. Lettuce has poked its tiny head above the soil, ready to grow, grow, grow. It is almost a challenge to make sure it doesn’t grow too fast for its own good and become stringy. Still hiding under the soil are some cilantro and dill to spice up our food this fall.
Our tomato crop is suffering from tomato early blight. This is the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine by destroying the potato crop there. . A blight spore most likely landed on our plants way back in June during one of the frequent rainstorms. The blight is extremely common in tomatoes in the southeast because of our hot and humid weather. In fact, it is almost always of question of when and how bad, not if, your tomatoes will get the fungus. It shows up as blackened leaves starting at the bottom of the plant and working upward. Black lesions also appear on the stem and fruit. There are very limited options in both conventional and organic systems to slow blight. It is not curable, but we can slow its spread with an organically approved copper fungicide spray. We alternate with an organic bacterial spray. We apply it roughly every week and hope to prolong our yummy tomato harvest for several weeks.
Preparing for fall gardens
All week we have been getting ready for the fall garden. Out in the big field at Silver Creek Farm I mowed the cover crop (see last week’s newsletter). After letting it fry down for a few days I hilled up beds and tilled the tops smooth. Now we will wait a few more days before added our organic fertilizer and making a final shallow pass with the tiller. This will leave a smooth, mostly weed free, and fertile bed ready for our transplants.
At Bluebird Farm we added some composted horse manure to our beds and worked that into the top few inches. Then we raked them smooth and put out the irrigation tape. Just last night we were transplanting kale and Swiss chard. Unfortunately, didn’t finish until this morning because it is already getting dark so much earlier! Planting small baby plants is pretty difficult when there is not any moonlight.
Today we woke up to a downright chilly morning. Our thermometer even suggested it was below 60, maybe 59.5! The cool morning, and working at Bluebird Farm where it is shady until about 10 am, fooled us into not putting sunscreen on. We realized at about 4 pm when we were both turning an uncomfortable shade of pink-oops!
While we were busy burning our selves we were planting a variety of fall crops. We wanted to plant them about a week or two ago, but with the weather still so hot and dry decided it would have been a wasted effort. Most fall crops really prefer it quite cool, and all seeds need to stay moist. It is almost impossible to germinate lettuce when it is 90 and hasn’t rained for two weeks! But, now they are in the ground: lettuce mix, arugula, beets, and radishes. We hope for cooperative weather and a tasty fall crop. We hope to get some good harvests from the fall crops before the end of the CSA in end of September. Much of the fall crops will produce then and keep producing in October and November.
Fresh flavor! This is a great salsa, salad or pita stuffing.
1 medium cucumber, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced, remove as much of the spicy ribs and seeds as needed
1 bell pepper, diced
1 bunch parsley, finely diced
2/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup pitted kalamata olives
Juice from 1-2 fresh lemons
Combine all ingredients and toss well. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.