Abundant August – by guest blogger Sarah Smith

Oh August… you are so intense!  Just like last year … you are a month packed full of change, surges of activity, excess and heat!  Oh, the heat, the growth spurts in the garden, the abundance of giant harvests of wild berries, multiple preserving projects and the energy of the long days filled with sun and work!

Harvest is just beginning with many things that had a slow start now bursting forward.  The first tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, green beans, sunflowers and all sorts of herbs like basil, sage, oatstraw, various mints, bergamot, borage and calendula are coming into the kitchen to either be eaten, dehydrated, made into pesto or pickled.  And berries!  So many berries.  I’ve been exploring around my property and adventuring further and finding so many magical spots.  A huge blueberry field over looking the Northumberland Strait, a Saskatoon Berry orchard near Little Shemogue Harbour, a crazy blackberry patch on the forested land next to my place and Elderberry bushes everywhere.  Thanks to all the friends who help me find these spots.  Foraging is wonderful.  Not only for the experience of going into nature to explore and observe but also because it is heartening to know that these special, giving plants are close by and doing well.  The delicious taste and medicinal benefits are the reward for the work of searching and labouring to collect, clean and “put up” berries and other wild harvests.

This weekend I dug out all the garlic and hung it up in bunches, to dry from the rafters in the barn.  The tomato plants in my make-shift greenhouse are heavy on the vines and hidden under thick leaves.  I trimmed away quite a lot of the lower foliage in order to let more air through and expose the fruits to a bit more light so they can ripen.  I’ve never grown this many tomatoes before and they are awesome!  I’m excited about a variety called Mystery Keeper from Mapple Farm, that is supposed to ripen very late and keep well over the Winter.  It would be wonderful to be able to include tomatoes in the Winter CSA.


Photo Credit: Sarah Smith

In the field the crops that were seeded in June are getting noticeably bigger.  I was careful to watch the small plants during this long dry spell that we’ve had this year.  My irrigation system is simple with many hoses that connect to many garden sprinklers, snaking down the pathways and out into the field.    I think I’m aided a lot by the water retaining nature of the clay soil here and also my laziness around weeding.  There are a lot of plants besides vegetables in the rows and pathways.  All of the extra plants helped the ground stay cool and moist.  In bare pathways, it’s easy to see that dryness caused cracking in the earth, and you know nothing is going to be able to grow there.  I’ve seeded a thick carpet of dwarf white clover in most of the pathways, making it nicer to walk in bare feet.  And, all of the beds that I didn’t plant right away were covered, either with a thick layer of decomposing hay or with a cover crop like Buckwheat, Oats and Peas or Red Clover.  These practices helped mitigate the effect of the lack of rain we’ve had this season.  These wonderful ideas are all coming to me from Eliot Coleman’s books, Jean-Martin Fortier’s field preparation system and books by Nikki Jabbour and Ben Falk.  An enormous help, this season, has also come from Richard Smith’s “The Vegetable Gardeners Bible”.

Happy growing, harvesting and foraging to everyone.  If ever you’re feeling low, spend some time with the plants.  Also, registrations for the Winter CSA are trickling in.  I don’t ever want to remind anyone of the coming Winter too prematurely …  But you can always sign up early:  www.sweetsoilorganics.com

Sarah Smith owns and operates Sweet Soil Organics Farm. Learn more about Sweet Soil Organics: www.sweetsoilorganics.com

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