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    Organic Gardening Tips For The Northeastern U.S.

    Vegetable Garden

    Welcome to my garden at Sycamore Run Farm. This is our organic vegetable, fruit and flower garden here in the rolling hills of Virginia.

    Today I’m giving you a peek inside of our vegetable garden this July. There are a ton of crops to harvest as many of our spring plantings approach the end of their growing season.

    Take a look at what we’ve been up to…

    Above is a picture of part of our vegetable garden. When we first arrived we had to remove an existing barbed wire fence covered in honeysuckle and all kinds of briars. We replaced that with a nice 4 board wood fence, and to keep the browsing deer out, topped it with two rows of plastic wire held up with short metal posts. The white flags are to remind the deer not to jump over the wires. The bamboo tepee in the foreground is for the pole beans to climb on.

    cabbage
    We put some “cool season crops” in this spring and they are reaching the end of their season. “Cool season crops” are vegetables that do best in the spring and fall, like broccoli/cauliflower, cabbage, leafy greens, kale, etc. Growing these veggies can be frustrating because you don’t know whether or not the spring or fall will be cool enough for long enough, or if it will get too hot before they are ready to harvest. This was a pretty good spring for them.

    Broccoli

    kale

    When the weather gets too hot, the crops can shrivel up and the bugs come out and eat away at them, making them in edible. If the weather turns warm too quickly, try covering them up with a shade cloth, which can also serve to keep the bugs off. This spring was perfect for cabbage family crops such as kale, broccoli, green and purple cabbage, radishes, and collards.

    Tomato plant

    Our tomatoes are taking their time in turning red. Tomato cages are a must – you can’t believe how large they will get.

    Tomato blight

    The yellowing of the leaves at the bottom is the late blight that will eventually kill this tomato plant by the end of August, instead of letting the plant produce for us until frost. I could write a whole chapter about verticillium wilt and how to deal with it. But you can just make sure you choose resistant varieties – ask your local nursery or order resistant seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

    Blueberry bushes

    I have 20 blueberry shrubs, of several different varieties that produce in succession. If you can acidify your soil and keep the bushes watered, you can easily have your very own blueberries each year! They make a very beautiful landscape shrub as well.

    Blueberries

    This is what I picked one day in early July from 3 blueberry bushes. I have to pick blueberries almost everyday as the berries continue to ripen quickly.

    Summer crookneck squash

    I was gone for 2 days and when I returned, this is what I picked from 3 hills of squash. This is why we plant our squash in succession. Too much is too much! We also notice that the different timing makes a difference as to what bugs or diseases effect the vines. So, if we are lucky, the squash vine borer may not affect the later plantings.

    Summer squash plant

    This is what a very healthy squash plant looks like before the squash vine borer has attacked it. You can see a baby squash with the flower still attached. We cover all our pathways with straw over a layer of grocery paper bags or newspapers to keep the weeds down. A few stray grass seeds germinate and grow but they are harmless.

    Squash plant disease

    This is the squash plant after the squash vine borer has attacked it. The adults emerge in the spring and lay eggs on stems near the base of the plant, the newly hatched larvae bore into the vine stems, causing sudden wilting and yellowing. To control them, early in the season you can keep the plants under floating covers and uncover when the squash starts to bloom, for the pollination.

    Potatoes

    My potato crop is currently curing in the shade of the potting shed. This year was a good year because the voles did not eat any of the potatoes!

    yellow onions

    Here we have onions ready for harvesting and an example of what happens when you don’t cover the soil with a mulch to control the weeds.

    yellow onions

    Yellow onions, which I just harvested last week. You should always pull them on a dry day and then they need to dry out in the sun for a few days. Don’t let the rain get them! Onions in Virginia are a little tricky because of the wet humid summers. we had a short drought recently which was perfect timing for the onions; only a few succumbed to rot.

    horrible spiky weed

    Here is my least favorite weed, and don’t ask me the name of it! They have very nasty thorns on the stems and roots that go through your gardening gloves. If you see this culprit, take your shovel and dispose of it immediately, you do not want it to go to seed. If you have a lot of them, take a hoe and chop them at the base; they are an annual and won’t grow back.

    weed seedlings

    These are a few stray seedlings emerging after a rain on soil that was left bare. Keep your soil covered with mulch or hay – or you will spend all your time weeding.

    What’s next

    We’re looking forward to harvesting our tomatoes, melons and squash throughout the month of August. We’ll be posting more updates in a few weeks.

    You can also leave a comment below with any questions or thoughts you might have.

    2 Responses to Organic Gardening Tips For The Northeastern U.S.

    1. Laura August 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      Thanks for the useful info and tips! My question is what do you recommend planting now, if anything?

      • Robin Shirley August 4, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

        Hi Laura! That’s a really good question. Alexandra is going to work on a post on this subject. You still have plenty of time to plant fall crops … she is going to put together some information on that process and we’ll post it right here to this website in late august! xo, robin

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