It’s officially autumn now with the autumn equinox this week. We’ve finally gotten temperatures in the 80’s instead of the 90’s, but it still feels very warm for end of September. It’s also really, really dry. We had a 1/2″ of rain this week, which was our first rain for many, many weeks and so needed, but not nearly enough. Still, we are in gratitude for all moisture that finds its way to our farm land.
With autumn comes the final days of vegetable harvesting. I’m still picking raspberries every other day, and the heirloom tomatoes are continuing to produce well, but the cucumbers and summer squash have slowed to almost nothing to pick. The same is true for peppers. I will have a lot of volunteer squash and gourds this year that came up on their own in our recycle soil pile. They’re not quite ready to harvest, but it won’t be much longer.
In the greenhouse I’m picking salad lettuce, red robin tomatoes, strawberries and carrots, all of which are being grown in fiber box containers this year to facilitate an ongoing harvest of food throughout the winter months. I could have left the strawberry boxes outdoors, but there was room on one of the benches in the Plant Barn, so I brought them in early.
These are Kakai hulless pumpkins, which I grew for the first time in my garden this summer. They are a small pumpkin, appropriate for containers if your container is decent sized (at least 20″ diameter). The seeds do not have hulls on them, so when I cook up these pumpkins I will simply wash the seeds and then roast them in a cast iron skillet with just a touch of butter and coarse sea salt. They’re going to make a most delicious snack!
This summer I grew several different kinds of heirloom tomatoes in my food garden, as I always do, but this year I mostly just planted my favorites. You can see them here.
The pillowed red and orange striped large tomatoes are Striped Cavern. They are semi hollow inside and perfect as a stuffing tomato for chicken salad and such.
In the very front of the brown bowl is a pinkish red tomato, which is German Pink Heirloom. I always grow these every year, as they are probably my most favorite of all the large tomatoes I’ve grown through the years. These get huge and early. I usually start harvesting them around the end of July, which is pretty early for big sized tomato fruits.
The medium-sized red and orange striped tomatoes are Tigerellas, another favorite I grow each year. These have wonderful flavor and are the perfect size to chop into salsa, add to salads, top pizza with, and so forth. The plants are heavy producers and I always have loads of harvest to put in the dehydrator so that I can have these to use all winter as dried tomatoes.
Finally, the cherry tomatoes that are deep purple are called Black Cherry tomato. They are sweet as anything and pretty large as cherry tomatoes go. We used to say that sungolds and white cherry was our favorites, and those are really yummy, but this one has become our most favorite cherry tomato right now. The plants get huge and wily, so you have to plan to give them a good amount of space in the garden, but your reward for that is bowls and bowls of black cherry tomatoes, and I’m talking large bowls!
As summer comes to a close and vegetable plants are beginning to get tired and worn out from producing so much harvest, the aphids always tend to arrive in mass. I don’t worry much about them, because by this time of the season they really aren’t going to cause very much harm and the plants are nearly done producing anyway. I leave the birds to do our IPM work (Integrated Pest Management) in the outside gardens. These little Wilson Warblers were thrilled with the job at hand and were foraging aphids on the black cherry tomato plant. These sweet little yellowish-green birds were so intent on eating aphids that I was working around them as I was picking the tomatoes off the plant. They were so busy eating bugs that they didn’t give me a moment’s consideration of whether or not to worry about my being there.
One of the reasons we encourage wild birds to live and visit this farm is for this very reason. They are a lot of fun to watch, it’s true, but in addition to that they eat a boat-load of bugs. Because of this we rarely have to intervene and treat for insect pests ourselves. Rather we just let the birds and toads and beneficial insects do what comes naturally. They eat the pests and our plants and ourselves are quite happy with the result of that.
We received our shipment of clay pots yesterday, so one more thing gets ticked off the list of tasks and supplies to be done in preparation for the spring busy season. Lizz got all the iceplants and other succulent stock plants potted up, which was quite a big task done. We pruned away at shrubs that have been overgrown and ignored for as long as possible, so that was nice to have done too.
I’ll leave you with this view of dry lake in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We ate our lunch there last Sunday afternoon after a brutally steep hike up the trail to the lake. It was worth the view though, and we had the place to ourselves (probably because the trail is so steep, no one else wanted to hike it Sunday:)). It was quiet, colorful, warm and beautiful.