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Judy Isacoff
Crimson clover flowers and seed heads with self-sown Johnny Jump-ups.

NATURE’S TURN: Sow crops for late summer, autumn and winter food. A new book inspires

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By Monday, Jul 1, 2019 Farm and Table

July 1 – 14, 2019

Mount Washington — I just received a note that read, “My friend is getting a late start on her garden. Is it too late?” Those of us who planted frost-hardy crops in mid-April are forging ahead with succession planting. Gardeners who are just getting around to preparing fallow beds may gracefully pick up the rhythm and join in the sowing of vegetables and flowers that will flourish until, potentially, mid-October. Check seed packets for “Days to Maturity.” For high-elevation locations, the most secure choices for a first or second crop are varieties that mature in 75 days or less. Mainstays include carrot, beet, radish, turnip, fennel, green bean and heat-tolerant greens. Purchase nursery-grown plants for a head start on cucumber, summer squash, long-season brassicas and herbs. Water seedbeds before they dry out and cover lettuces with shade cloth.

As I harvest beds of lettuce, spinach and Asian greens before they bolt, I am re-planting with all of the above or a summer cover crop of crimson clover, cowpeas or buckwheat. I left a few annual rye grass plants, grown as a winter-over crop, to grow to fruit. The photograph shows the stem of a flowering rye that surprised me one evening at sundown.

Winter rye grass flowering, June 26, 2019. Note droplets of rain on the beard. Photo: Judy Isacoff

I cut garlic scapes, the garlic plant’s flower stalk, yesterday. They keep for a month or two in the refrigerator, at-the-ready for stir-fries, pesto and added decoratively to pickles. In many area gardens, beds of early beets, carrots, turnips and garlic bulbs will be harvested between now and early August, challenging us to choose short-season and frost-hardy varieties for continuous planting.

Garlic scapes, foreground. Upper right corner, shade cloth floats over lettuce. June 28, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

In the heat of the day, I am enjoying a just-published book, “Carving Out a Living on the Land: Lessons in Resourcefulness and Craft from an Unusual Christmas Tree Farm,” by Emmet Van Driesche*. I find it invigorating to be immersed in a lively, relevant narrative that takes me to a coppiced forest of balsam fir trees at winter solstice time while I am gardening in my clearing at the summer solstice. The photograph of Emmet Van Driesche illustrates stump-sprouted balsam fir trees produced by coppicing, or cutting the trees above the first whorl of branches near the ground. An ancient method of tree farming, Van Driesche’s farm, the Pieropan Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield, has been described as one of the oldest of its kind in the world. But it is the viable, sustainable way to earn a living that Emmet and his wife, Cecelia, have created there that is the reservoir of treasure revealed in this book.

Emmet Van Driesche surveys many stump-sprouted balsam fir saplings, pruning saw in hand. Photo: Meghan Hoagland

Resources

Frost dates – https://garden.org/apps/frost-dates/Great%20Barrington,%20Massachusetts/
Sowing dates – https://garden.org/apps/calendar/?q=Great+Barrington%2C+Massachusetts
Cover crops https://www.plantguide.org/crimson-clover.html and https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/gardening-techniques/summer-cover-crops-zm0z14aszsto

*Emmet Van Driesche, “Carving Out a Living on the Land: Lessons in Resourcefulness and Craft from an Unusual Christmas Tree Farm,” Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, June 3, 2019
https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/carving-out-a-living-on-the-land/
https://www.pieropantrees.com/
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/coppice-farming-grows-christmas-trees-keep-giving-180971068/
https://www.recorder.com/Ashfield-home-to-one-of-the-oldest-%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8Bstump-sprout-Christmas-tree-farms-in-the-world-22139907

Opportunity to participate

August 9 – 11, Hampshire College, Amherst – http://nofasummerconference.org/


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