With the exception of some possible day dreams, I know no one is thinking about fall – especially here in southeast Texas – but fall will be upon us before you know it. What that means to us at Angell’s Farmstead & Apiary is change. We are starting to cut, remove and till-under the spring/summer crops such as tomatoes, kale, sweet corn, cucumbers, squash, zucchini and the rest of them. It is what it is and “a beginning comes from some others beginnings end”. In fact, this Saturday will probably be our last farmers market until the fall. We will sweat in the morning sun, turn the soil and plant a very short term cover crop such buckwheat and/or some legumes (beans). Since we don’t use synthetic chemicals or fertilizers here, cover crops are a must. On a sustainable farm, they signify both beginning and end of a season. Believe it or not, the days are already getting slighting shorter.
In sustainable agriculture, cover crops are a necessity because they do a multitude of things for the agroecosystem (yes that’s a word). Cover crops address erosion, provide natural nitrogen, enhance soil quality, weed management, they add organic material, water management and much more. Ok, enough with the Texas A&M jargon. In laymen’s terms, cover crops make soil healthy and allow us to increase yields without being forced to spread synthetic fertilizers. Additionally, cover crops such as buckwheat grow flowers that our bees use for nectar and pollen. At a certain point, I cut the buckwheat down – after they have flowered – and the dead decaying matter gets tilled back into the soil. This creates something called “green manure” which provides even more micro-nutrients. These nutrients eventually find their way into our fresh, local vegetables.
I know what you’re thinking, “dude this is kinda agro-nerdy.” You are right. I’m not sure why I like this stuff but it interests me. To be honest, it’s not a bad thing to be interested in considering that the average age of U.S. farmers – those that grow your food – is 58. This number comes from the last Farm Census in 2012…six years ago. Additionally, among U.S. farmers only 6% were 35 years old or younger, while 33% were over 65 years of age. Even the Department of Defense has discussed this issue with politicians (insert bi-partisan eye role) on Capitol Hill since the ability of a nation to feed itself is linked indirectly to national security.
Um…what just happened here? I went from talking about cover crops to the DOD and Capital Hill. #Tangent Long story short, cover crops are awesome, lack of farmers bad. Anyway, let’s go into what I plan on sowing this fall. The meat and potatoes so-to-speak.
First on the list are various heirloom tomatoes such as German Johnson, Purple Cherokee, and Brandywine. They are delicious and aesthetically unique. Of course we plan on planting plenty of cherry tomatoes such as Juliet, and Supersweets. These bite sized jewels are always a favorite either by themselves or in a salad. My kids eat them right off the vine. Rounding out our tomato patch will be the usual BigBeef and Celebrity – great on ‘burgers, salads or whatever floats your boat. These specific tomatoes are very prolific and a corner stone of our season.
Next up is one of my daughter’s favorite – sweet corn. Specifically we will be growing American Dream which is a white/yellow bi-color variety that is also known as “super-sweet”. It’s not your normal sweet corn because it is so sweet. This spring, when me and my boys were harvesting some, my youngest just started eating an ear. We really didn’t even need to cook it.
Continuing on down the line without getting too specific, we will be growing radishes, arugula, more squash, bell peppers, potatoes, swiss chard, various kinds of Kohlrabi, cantaloupe, green beans, radishes, and watermelon. Once the weather cools down in October we will start growing cool weather crops such as lettuces, greens and snap-peas as well.
If you know of an interesting vegetable – one that you like – let us know. I’m always curious about new varieties.