I love September. I know most people think of spring and summer when they think about farming, but growing fall crops really does it for me! When September comes around, I feel the cool breath of fall right around the corner, and am energized with the anticipation of the cool farming season. By September, most of the summer crops are starting to look pretty ratty. All the lower leaves on the tomatoes are brown with blight. Still they grow, with green leaves at the top, but they sure do look ugly. The squash is covered in mildew, and the squash bugs have done their damage, leaving only tattered sad plants in the field. Summer is looking hot and sad by September, but a fresh start is coming.
The reason I love this time of year is that I get to pull all these ugly sad crops out of the ground and start fresh! Out with the old. In with the new. I yank those tattered tomatoes and squash out, and till the fragrant soil with new compost. Then, all the fun new seeds get planted, that just scream of cooler times approaching. I love the look of the fresh new rows with dark rich soil. I walk all around the farm every morning, looking for the first emerged plants. It does my tired summer soul good. Although we plant many of our fall crops in August, September is when it is the most fun. We replant anything that didn’t survive the heat of August, and finish up the rest of our winter season planting. The weather is perfect for germinating seeds, and the cool evenings are perfect for growing cool season crops. You don’t have to fight Mother Nature too much in September.
Some of the crops we planted in August, and nursed through the heat, are already starting to mature. The first to be ready are kale, mizuna, pac choy, and arugula. The third Saturday in September, we were able to bring a small amount of kale to the market, as well as arugula. Kale and mizuna have been going in our CSA bags, and everyone seems to be so happy to see these new leafy crops. Amazingly, beets and turnips are also ready in September. Beets are ready because, if you water them enough, they easily can germinate and grow in the heat. The white sweet turnips are ready because they grow at the speed of light. In only 45 days small turnips are ready!
Once our fall crops are up and growing, we lay a walkway of straw between the rows. This keeps the soil cooler, keeps weeds from growing in, provides much needed organic matter, as well as keeps the soil covered so soil microbes and worms are happier. I like it because it seriously cuts down on the amount of time we spend hoeing weeds. Interestingly, this year the wheat straw we bought seemed to have a lot of seeds in it, so now our straw walkways between the rows have wheat growing in them. I am trying to decide if I should leave it there, to be a winter cover crop between the rows, or if I should take some steps to get rid of it. My concern is that it might begin to outcompete the crop, or it might become so established I can’t get rid of it in the spring. This would be a problem. For now, I’m leaning toward just watching it and seeing how it goes. Maybe I have stumbled upon a whole new method for weed control and cover cropping.
September and October are the final months of our Summer CSA. To me, and I think to most of our members, it is a relief to move away from the summer tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, and on to the fresh leafy vegetables. Our summer CSA was totally sold out this year. When people asked about joining, I told them the best idea would be to join the Winter CSA, where there is normally more room. That also would give them priority sign up opportunity for the Summer 2015 CSA, because we allow our existing members an early sign up window, before we open for new members. This worked well, because now our Winter CSA is also sold out! I love that so many Charlotte and Union County families are committed to fresh and local produce! The more I learn, the more I am convinced the life and health of our families depend on it. I read the next generation is now expected to have a shorter life expectancy than the baby boomers! They are expected to die from degenerative disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These are all directly related to nutrition and lifestyle. I can’t say it enough: PLEASE hit the Farmers’ market, join a CSA, or grow your own, and let healthy local food replace the processed “food” that is too easy to grab.
Eat your veggies,