video tutorials, tried-and-true tips + our latest learnings to surround you with abundance all season long
Is a deceptively obvious question.
No matter our preconceived notions of color & shape, a tomato is ripe when its soft to the touch.
The best way to judge if a tomato is ripe is not by the color, but it's softness.
Touch your arm, squeeze it gently: Both firm and supple, your arm as well as your ripe tomato can be plied and is ready to bounce back instantly.
And yes, I am totally encouraging you to squeeze your tomatoes...!
Do your otherwise ripe tomatoes still have green or orange shoulders? Let’s talk.
First, know this: tomatoes photosynthesize sugars from the sun not only in their green leaves, but directly in their green fruit, as well. About 80% of the flavor in a tomato comes from the energy harnessed in leaves, the balance from the fruit itself.
Second: There are different levels of photosynthetic molecules and not all are equally powerful.
Third: The most powerful ones take the longest to ‘break...
If you're growing tomatoes in the Northeast, you're likely growing tomato diseases, as well.
Here is how to identify the four most common tomato diseases here in the Northeast and what to do next.
Blossom-End Rot is an abysmal disappointment that is both manageable and preventable. Affecting paste and roma types more than other tomatoes, blossom-end rot is mostly an issue with the first set of fruit, quickly disappearing once conditions shift for the better.
Remove fruits affected by blossom-end rot as early as possible (like the fruit on the right), since the next flush will likely not be affected.
Symptoms: black, leathery lesion at the blossom-end of the fruit, often visible when fruit is still green and quite small, becoming larger as the fruit matures.
Cause: Calcium deficiency. More accurately, it's a water deficiency. Here is how I visualize it: Calcium is a huge ion while others are small, so calcium needs more water to be absorbed...
Flavor keeps me coming back to the garden.
Keeps me coming back to myself.
Garlic and shallots, with their exquisite flavor and versatility, accompany me to the kitchen in each season.
For many years, I had no idea different varieties of garlic could taste to different. Several years back, we hosted a gathering of friends, chefs and food writers, garlic lovers and garlic haters alike. We sauteed and roasted 17 varieties of garlic (it's true), each one labeled. A feast we set out, each dish without garlic: roasts and quiches, olive oil and baguette, smashed potatoes and hummus. We then added garlic to each dish, one variety after another, attempting to characterize and articulate what we were tasting.
Italy Hill Porcelain is our favorite variety for making pesto.
The unanimous conclusion: We all know the apple varieties we like best. Surely you know if you prefer an Empire over a Granny Smith, for example. But in our rush to commoditize food, we've largely forgotten the...
As I look around the farm this final week of July, I see red tomatoes on the vine, seven-foot pole beans reaching for the sky and thousands of dahlias in full bloom. Abundance and beauty abound!
Amid the extraordinary bounty of summer, I'm sowing the abundance of autumn. This week, we're prepping beds and sowing carrots, beets, watermelon radish, more cilantro, the start of cool-season lettuces and (my favorite) dwarf peas. These are the seeds that will feed us in the cool months to come.
The right tool for every job: The tine-side of a rake picks out rocks while the flat edge levels the soil.
Here is the full list of seeds we're planting now, from the final week of July til the second week in August. They break down nicely into four categories:
Fall peas are the best peas, which you know as soon as you take your first bite. As cold turns starch to sugar, fall peas are the sweetest and easily the most tender. And, because the days are getting...
Friends, I garden not only for the beauty and abundance, not just for the smell of fresh lavender or the satisfaction of good, hard work.
I garden to be in awe of the world.
Today, lacewings are the embodiment of such awe for me.
What is a lacewing?
Chrysopa carnea (there's a clue!) is one of our finest beneficial insects native to the Northeast, very likely the most voracious insect in your garden. For breakfast, lunch and dinner they dine on your aphids, thrips and cabbage looper caterpillars.
Here are four reasons you want lacewings in your garden:
Adult lacewings are darling with their sweet lime green bodies, sparkling gold compound eyes and dramatic, sweeping wings like exquisite, translucent stained glass. Adult lacewings feed on nectar, pollen and the honeydew of aphids, like ants.
Lacewing adults are gorgeous as well as nocturnal, so they're rare to see. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
We've cultivated garlic as a species for six thousand years...
...so when you find yourself wondering when is the perfect moment to harvest your garlic, know you are not the first person to wonder this.
In truth, the 'perfect moment' is up to a week and sometimes more, depending on the weather.
Here in the Northeast, mid-July, that 'moment' is just about...now :)
Here is the one consideration to look for, demystifying the predicament:
Wait for at least two or three bottom leaves to turn brown before you harvest your garlic.
Each of the leaves above ground have a corresponding 'wrapper' around each bulb, becoming papery when cured. Once one third to one half of the leaves are brown and brittle, you have strong bulb wrappers awaiting you and your garlic is truly ready to harvest.
Nutrient deficiency or nearing maturity? If your leaves are fully brown, from tip to stalk and it's July, your garlic is almost ready to harvest.
Our gardens are a lush jungle in the hot, hot sun as baby birds learn to fly across the fields and our dogs find respite under zucchini leaf umbrellas.
As we harvest heads of lettuce, rows of beets, pull out peas and feed bolting cilantro to the chickens, we're sowing seeds so the abundance doesn't stop. Our season is short, so we've got to make the most of it! Succession sowing is the genius, seamless transition of one crop to the next, amplifying your abundance all season long.
In July, following our harvest of peas, carrots, beets, garlic and lettuce, here is what we are succession sowing, between dips in the pond:
You have so many options!
The good news: Greens don't require tons of fertility, so don't hesitate to plant lettuce where you just harvested lettuce.
The bad news: not all greens thrive in the heat, so be sure you're planting those that will. Nonetheless, options abound:
Colorado Potato Beetles! Arrived on our farm in early June and now are in full swing. Friends, I beg you: Squish them while they’re small.
The adults, outrageously gorgeous (they’re in the scarab family, after all), consume about 10 square centimeters of potato leaf each day; their red-brown, pudgy progeny consume 40 square centimeters daily. Unchecked, Colorado Potato Beetles will defoliate your potatoes in a matter of days.
And Friends, there is no finer way to control their populations than scouting for nickel-sized collections of bright orange eggs under leaves, their voracious larvae and escape-artist adults, squishing all you find. If you want to learn more and may enjoy seeing me cringe, here is a video tutorial about identifying them and what happens next.
We grow an acre of potatoes. We squish untold oceans of Colorado Potato Beetles.
And Friends, it turns my stomach to turn my hands orange-brown with so much carnage.
It turns my stomach so...
Garlic is one of our favorite crops to grow. Delicious in every season and marvelously medicinal, garlic is also easy to grow. If I had to pick only a handful of crops to grow each season, garlic would always be one. Always.
Garlic swells from the size of a dime to a full-size bulb in ~5 short weeks, from early June to mid-July. June is the time to give her all you've got :)
Small bulbs are most commonly the result of nutrient deficiency and weed pressure, so here are easy ways to ensure you have abundant nutrients and manageable weeds to optimize your garlic harvest this season!
Garlic is a heavy feeder, requiring lots of nutrients to grow large and store long.
Here are the best times and ways to ensure your garlic has full access to abundant nutrients:
- Add rich fertility when you prepare your soil to plant in fall. We love to add mature compost as well as our organic granular fertilizer.
- Mulch with deciduous leaves in fall, spring, or both....
In my father's organic garden, beans were one of the first seeds I sowed on my own. Large and undaunted by imperfect planting depth, beans are also more tolerant than most of the imprecise spacing of tiny, eager fingers, as were mine. I'll always be grateful for my father, his garden, the bold responsibility he gave me and those seeds that grew my love of organic food, cultivation and community.
Haricot vert or French filet-style beans like 'Tavera' are my favorite.
Sow beans in warm soil after frost. Here in Zone 5, that is often late May to early June. Pole beans we sow just once and harvest all season as they blossom and fruit up into the sky; bush beans we sow every 3-4 weeks to harvest sweet, tender beans at their peak til frost comes. Our final succession is generally in mid-July, though sometimes we squeeze an early variety in at the end of July, like Tavera, and hope for the best.
You'll find Tavera and dozens of other organic bean seeds for short seasons ...
For years we’ve been asked to demystify seed starting and here it is: Rise & Shine shares everything you need to start seeds successfully at home in 40 beautiful pages with easy-to-follow instructions and insightful tips for the novice and experienced grower alike.