Despite drought conditions and one of the hottest July’s on record in Virginia, the garden at Mount Fair persevered and produced an abundance of vegetables and flowers this year. Summer’s organic harvest was rich with several varieties of tomatoes, a generous potato crop from a March planting, cucumbers, both pickling and slicing, and a sampling of hot and sweet peppers. Tasty Red Burgundy okra graced garden rows with it’s lovely foliage and the most opaque flowers of any vegetable plant. The beans proved to be a challenge because of browsing deer, but thanks to the installation of a small high tunnel, covered with an insect barrier fabric, we’ll celebrate a victory with a nice crop of beans this fall. The same method was used to keep the squash bugs at bay before the winter squash set flower. Once that happened, the covers were removed, so the pollinates could work their magic.
My favorite crop this year was the buckwheat planted on two large plots. I wanted a full year in the garden before I made decisions about what to do with these two sections, and planting buckwheat this summer gave me that time. It’s dainty white flowers and lush green leaves served two more important jobs. It provided a good cover crop to help with soil erosion and created a sub-ecosystem for honeybees and beneficial insects. The buckwheat swarmed with activity from pollinators, ladybugs and parasitic wasps. Despite their rather unpleasant name, the parasitic wasp did a great job taking care of the destructive tomato hornworms. Next year, these two plots will be filled with something fresh and new, but the buckwheat more than did it’s job this summer.
Time carves out the seasons, and as I start to feel the transition from summer to fall, delays in morning light, longer shadows casting over the browning vines, I’m reminded of September’s bittersweet days. I’ll miss the zinnia’s cheerful face, vine ripe tomato sandwiches, and squash and zucchini prepared just about every way imaginable- grilled, baked, stuffed, and sautéed. But sweetness comes with cooler days, putting fading summer vegetable plants to rest, and earth’s metamorphosis from green to shimmering reds and yellows. Yet with all the changes the garden brings throughout the year, there is one constant- Mount Fair’s soothing Blue Ridge Mountains who greet me every morning and bid me good evening as the sun settles deeper into the horizon.