Late Summer 2020

I thought people might be interested in this chart of TJMS yield last year (blue) and this year (orange) cumulative yields by date.
August 2020
Winter/spring crops: This year’s early donations were due to overwintering collards, broccoli, chard, lettuce, spinach, and other cool-weather crops. Our students direct-seeded those crops in early November as we were closing the garden, and I “replanted” them in late February (many had been washed out of rows by winter rains). Last year, our “early season” was mostly due to Arlington House gardeners using our space to plant their leftover cabbage and cauliflower later in the year (during spring break). AH gardeners planted very densely, in a patch rather than in rows, so they got a large amount of produce out of just two linear rows.
Summer crops: Later in the year, we saw a bump from tomatoes (about the same amount as last year) and peppers (much more successful than last year). Right about now, we are seeing a lot of okra starting to come in. Okra has thrived in a wet patch in our garden that hadn’t previously been cultivated. It’s been very disease resistant. We have really struggled with tomatoes this year. We have spent many hours cutting off yellow leaves, fighting off vermin/birds (with mylar streamers and water sources), and harvesting tomatoes early. We had a volunteer tell us that she saw a couple of people harvesting our tomatoes last weekend when we canceled our workday due to rain– that’s the first time (that we know of) that people came into the garden to glean without our knowledge. Our peppers have been much better off this year than last year, though we have seen a lot of sunburn and some wilt. We have had our peppers covered with landscaping fabric for about a month, which has helped, but we also stopped trying to get them to turn red on the vine. We have had extremely bad luck with our cucurbits (squash, zucchini, pumpkins, butternut squash, watermelons). We have picked exactly three cucumbers this year, total, from our entire cucurbit plantings. Here’s some of what we’ve been dealing with: late frost, then when we replanted after that, we were struck with a really intense striped cucumber beetle infestation. We’d never seen cucumber beetles in the garden before, and they ate our second crop within a few days before we could get into the garden with Neem and diatomaceous earth. (Note:  we expect having an on-site MG will help with this next year, because we will have a faster diagnosis and treatment plan.) Then we had difficulty because most of our cucurbits were planted in “new” garden areas– our cucurbits hated being planted in hills. We had reasonable luck with butternut squash in hills last year, but we struggled a lot with water issues in hills this year and lost another batch of cucurbits from that. Then we decided to plant the next round in our regular irrigated rows. They are doing much better, but we are not seeing much pollination and we are still fighting off squash vine borers. We are hoping for a late harvest from squash and zucchini that have started to bloom in the last week or two but have not yet started setting fruit.
Right now: We are doing two things right now. The first is trying to extend our summer season by cutting our tomatoes back hard and fertilizing them with “worm tea” and planting more squash/zucchini in areas of the garden where they are being more successful than our original locations. We don’t yet know if this will get us another flush of summer vegetable yields, but we are hopeful. The second is that we have started direct-seeding for fall crops. We have planted mesclun, broccoli, (we think) kohlrabi (or possibly more broccoli; planted by a volunteer), radishes, and a few beets. We are planting root crops in our raised beds since our onions did not do well at all in the ground last season. We’ve been enthusiastically aerating our rows since Kirsten suggested it earlier in the season. I’m not sure if that’s what is helping our tomatoes, or if it’s the cooler weather, but we are seeing a bit more healthy new growth in the last few weeks.
Projecting out for the rest of the season: You can see that we got a huge donation bump in October last year. That’s when we were harvesting green tomatoes as we closed the garden. Unless we get another flush of healthy tomato growth this fall, that is unlikely to happen this year. We are seeing our produce (tomatoes, especially) taper off in August this year (due to disease and heat damage) rather than ramping up like last year. Hopefully, our okra will boom in September and make up some of the tomato deficit. If we actually get a fall broccoli harvest, that has the potential for boosting our donations late in the season as well.
Projecting out through the end of the year to next year: I think we need to focus on soil improvements between now and next spring. We have crimson clover to plant as a cover crop, and I think we still have some vetch seed left from last year. We didn’t have much luck with buckwheat last year, so we will probably skip that this year. We might try to plant some daikon radishes in the We mentioned to David last week that he’s welcome to store the manure he sourced at TJ. We have an area of the garden that is currently fallow and could be used to store it. It would need to be moved to that location in the garden (for example in buckets or bins) since we are expecting 5 cubic yards of mulch and 5 cubic yards of gravel any day now (knock wood). We could use some Master Gardener advice about timing in switching from fall crops to cover crops, and about how to overwinter cool weather crops while also planting cover crops. We could also use some advice on our crop rotations for next year.
Major projects: We currently have two major garden projects in the works. The ADA compliant wheelchair path has been submitted for BSA Eagle Scout approval, and we are waiting for sign-off and gravel delivery to start that. The compost system has not yet been submitted for approval, but we have begun tearing down the old compost system and have raised the school’s half of funding. Hopefully, that will be built this fall. We have one more potential Eagle Scout show interest in a garden project, and we will likely either ask him to continue on with wheelchair accessibility by building raised garden tables or help build TJ’s outdoor classroom capacity.