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Judy Isacoff
Fennel, left; Hudson Valley Seed Tokyo Market Turnip with French Breakfast Radish, center. Sept. 19, 2018.

NATURE’S TURN: Autumn palate

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By Monday, Sep 24, 2018 Farm and Table

September 24 – October 7, 2018

Turtle Tree Seeds Asian greens mix: frilly Rouge Matis Mustard, Giant Red Mustard, Kyoto Mitzuna et al. Sept. 19, 2018. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Mount Washington — Stretching its small, sinuous body over the surface of seedbeds sown with winter wheat, a chipmunk is intent on digging up every grain. Within an hour of broadcasting the cover-crop seeds and carefully sifting a coating of earth over each plot, I caught sight of the striped ground squirrel taking possession of my garden, daring to harvest the grain for his winter food. My design – that the seed sprout and grow winter grass to feed soil organisms, build soil structure, prevent erosion and out-compete weeds – has literally lost ground.

Spring and late summer cover-crop sowings did not attract rodent predators: tiny clover seeds and phacelia blend in with the crumbly earth. Everyone has noticed the profusion of chipmunks this year. I have trapped offending chipmunks only to have another appear. Before I plant more wheat, and move on to winter rye in October, I will prepare a hot pepper solution* to spray on the finished seedbeds. A commercial pepper preparation is available at all local garden shops.

Autumn evidenced in aged leaves of pole bean plants; past, present and future perspectives in Renee’s Garden Glacier Star Morning Glory mingled with the Trionfo violetto – purple snap bean. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Our season with the high Sun is past. Autumn vegetables and flowers sustain us in the changing light and weather. Asters, Earth’s starburst flowers, shine in gardens and along roadsides. Morning glories bloom into the day. In the edible landscape, autumn color comes in the form of borage flowers, nasturtium, calendula, pansy, lavender and brilliant orange trumpeting squash blossoms.

In the garden and kitchen, we enjoy rouge matis and giant red mustard among the greens of frost-hardy Asian green mixes. Red radishes, the dwindling numbers of colorful tomatoes, lemon cucumbers and pendulous purple and purple-striped Rattlesnake green beans call us to harvest each fresh repast. Red raspberries keep coming. I am holding out for the winter squash harvest until zucchini plants give their last fruit. Taken from storage, All-Blue and Ama Rose potatoes, along with Redwing and Copra onions are welcomed by the palate.

Butternut squash. Sept. 19, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff


Cover crop choices and planting dates – https://www.highmowingseeds.com/blog/fall-cover-crops/
*Hot pepper spray – https://www.hunker.com/13405762/how-to-make-cayenne-pepper-spray-repellent
Chipmunk – https://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/centers/hefner-museum/educational-resources/natural-histories/eastern-chipmunk/index.html
Chipmunk traps – http://www.havahart.com/how-to-trap-chipmunks#baittrap
Calendula – https://chestnutherbs.com/calendula-sunshine-incarnate-an-edible-and-medicinal-flower/

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