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Mackenzie Waggaman
September view of Schoolhouse Garden.

NATURE’S TURN: Dig potatoes, sow cover crops, welcome gorgeous native and immigrant flowers

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By Monday, Sep 11, 2017 Farm and Table 1

September 11 – 24, 2017

…while July’s weather is golden, September’s is silver, the light slanting low, far more flattering to the garden. There is a poignancy in that light, for the beauty it reveals is a terribly brief thing. Its very clarity promises imminent frost, the end of many garden pictures, and the beginning of hysterical activity – first to protect the tenderest things for a little while longer, and then to take them up if they are to be saved for another season. Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, “A Year At North Hill”

Vervain, left; bergamot, right. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Japanese anemone ‘Berkshire Charm’ with bumblebee, foreground; heirloom phlox, background. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Mount Washington — Two days into September, we awoke to see the thermometer register 36 degrees. That was in the town of Mount Washington at an elevation of 1,700 feet. I have put aside my lament for basil in its prime that lost its vigor overnight and concerns about whether winter squash will ripen and cure and whether tomatoes, cucumbers and beans will continue to flower and fruit; I find the garden’s vigor expressed in a diversity of late-season flowers and their pollinators, in underground root crops about ready to harvest, and in the earth itself.

Blue-violet spikes of native vervain stand beside frilly-tubed, lavender-colored wild bergamot, both in the neighborhood of round-faced, white-to-pink Japanese anemone that blends into creamy-pink clusters of heirloom phlox. Spires of red, blue and albino cardinal flowers are in full bloom. Bumblebees, a hummingbird moth and fritillary butterflies fly into the masses of flowers, find a purchase, linger, sip nectar, lift and land again. The air is perfumed.

Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman

Nearby beds of mixed Asian greens, speckled lettuce, French breakfast radish and edible flowers–borage, nasturtium and garlic chives–contribute to the season’s most complete salads. A new, savory find for me this season, Rouge Metis, or red mustard, shows up as the slender, deeply indented red leaves that decorate the plate of salad in the photograph.

Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman

Most potato vines have died and dried to shriveled brown sticks. In a planting of many potato varieties, there are still a few fleshy, dying plants. Dig the former first. My harvest includes Adirondack red, Adirondack blue and Magic Molly–purple varieties that are difficult to distinguish from the earth around them–and Yukon gold.

The bare ground in the picture of Schoolhouse Garden is sown to cool-weather vegetables and herbs that may still be planted for autumn harvest and overwintering: 20- to 30-day Asian greens, radishes, spinach, corn salad, arugula. Right away, I’ll be sowing cover crops of winter wheat, winter rye and crimson clover.

Frost on the roofs of car and house, Sept. 2, 2017, at 1,800 feet elevation, Mount Washington, Mass. Photo: Judy Isacoff


Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, “A Year At North Hill”, Little, Brown & Company, 1995. Page 94, paragraph 2

https://turtletreeseed.org/product/164-rouge-metis/ and https://turtletreeseed.org/product/153-corn-salad/ and https://turtletreeseed.org/product/968-hard-red-winter-wheat/


Post Harvest Fact Sheet – https://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/Commodity_Resources/Fact_Sheets/

Opportunities to Participate

September 23-24 Farm to Fork Fondo Berkshires – bicycle to farms, chef prepared food featured
Experience a distinctive culinary movement in the Berkshires – where farms and restaurants have created a world-class food culture by long ago committing to using seasonal ingredients.

September 23-24 Hancock Shaker Village Country Fair – https://hancockshakervillage.org/whats-new/country-fair/

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One Comment   Add Comment

  1. judy isacoff says:

    Permit me to add more pollinators spotted enjoying the blossoms over the weekend: ruby-throated hummingbird, tiger swallowtail butterfly and honey bee. Also, the frost photo was contributed by myself but is the work of a generous neighbor.

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