End of Summer Update 2014

 

As I sit here writing this, the rain is coming down in steady pockets; one after another. I

Red Head Quinoa in drying shed.

Red Head Quinoa hanging in drying shed.

checked my calendar, and we have had 28 rainy days (almost 1 month) since June 1st.  Probably not the wettest summer on record for Northern Indiana, but definitely one to remember. This has not all been bad. Given a well drained soil, excessive rain is manageable and can keep the garden lush and green. My soil is a bit more tricky. It ranges from heavy clay to clay loam, and the majority of my growing area is in a low area. All in all, my summer has gone pretty well. Some crops like Amaranth and Quinoa, which I expected to be a complete failure, given all the moisture, managed to ripen and produce quite well. I had to follow the strategy of cutting early and hanging in the drying shed for a week or two before threshing. This reduces the potential yield but ensures a quality, useable crop. I am not a risk taker and will opt for a smaller harvest -vs- losing a whole crop to mold and mildew or the seed germinating on the plant in the field before even being harvested. I will have seed for both the Redhead Quinoa and the Fercita Amaranth available for the next growing season.

Another success for a crop typically grown in more arid climates, is Teff. I planted out one

AL White Teff ready to harvest.

AL White Teff ready to harvest.

bed of the brown seeded Teff from last years harvest and it matured perfectly. I also trialed a bed of A L White Teff (the variety traditionally used to make injera) and it also did great. I followed a common sense approach and planted both crops in 4′ wide beds using transplants I had started in early May. Once the crop was a foot tall, I placed steel posts around the perimeter and began to tie up the Teff using twine. This ensured that the heavy rains did not flatten the plants (lodging) thus rendering them unusable. The other crucial key is to not wait for the grain to fully mature and dry in the field. I cut and bundle the grain and hang, to complete the drying process, in my drying shed.

Giant Lab Lab and Lima beans on trellis.

Giant Lab Lab and Lima beans on trellis.

Aside from the successes there are always a few complete failures and a multitude of problems to contend with. This summer had it’s full share of both. Five crops, that thus far, have not even flowered, are Blue Bonnet Rice, Chia, Kenaf, Adzuki and Lab Lab beans. The plants look great, but any hope of harvesting mature seed is past, unless frost hold off until Thanksgiving, which is unlikely. Another issue, tied into the excessive rain this season, has been an increase of mold in some of my dry beans. The trellised and half-runner types like Pinto and Christmas Lima Bean, fare much better than bush types, given the drying bean pods are usually suspended above the soil. In the case of bush varieties, a good portion of the beans are actually laying on the ground. Those types of beans, while suitable as fresh green beans, will rot inside the pod before full maturity, when grown as a dry bean. I also had some disease issues with some of the heirloom soybeans and common beans. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time culling diseased plants out. While a bit disappointing to pull plants that you have spent so much time caring for, it is also a plus, when you consider that the goal is to save seed only from plants that survive difficult conditions. Smaller yields -vs- a better quality seed stock! The cereal grains, like wheat and barley, also suffered with disease (fusarium) due to the wet spring. Although certain varieties were diseased so badly that I got no usable seed, a few of the trial varieties like, Banatka and Einkorn wheat, did great. I also trialed 9 heirloom barley’s. Most did horrible, but three, Gopal, Masan Naked 1, and Sumire Mochi, also did quite well. I will have a limited quantity of seed available for these grains this spring, and I plan to grow out larger plots next summer to increase my seed stock.

I still have a few crops yet to harvest. A little nerve wracking, when the news said it was going to start snowing in the Dakota’s last night, and it is not even the 15th of September yet. My peanuts need a good two to three more weeks to fully mature before harvesting. I have a large plot of Tennessee Red Valencia and two smaller plots of Schronce’s Deep Black and another heirloom variety, simply called, Black peanut. If the frost holds off until early October, I should have an abundance of seed for these three varieties (and a whole lot of fresh peanut butter for me and my wife this winter). I am also waiting till the last minute to dig my heirloom sweet potatoes. I had a good crop last season, but had to work out a system for growing slips. I think I’ve got it down and plan to offer slips in late May of this coming spring. If you have never had an heirloom sweet potato like White Queen, you don’t know what you’ve been missing!

On a final note, I finally managed to get my hands on a small scale, hand-crank, rice

Rice harvesting September 6th

Rice harvesting September 6th

dehuller. Just in time, as I have most of this years Duborskian rice crop harvested and only a couple of beds to go. If you’ve  ever grown rice, then you know that dehulling the grain is a big obstacle to overcome. I will have a lot more to share about this dehuller as we get later into the fall.

Once my field work is complete, I will have time to start plugging the new seed crop information into this website. I plan to begin offering seed for sale sometime in December.

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Overlooking the Quinoa bed.

caged millet

Proso, Hells”s Canyon and Japanese Millet

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Jerusalem Artichokes towering over a sea of Shinonome soybeans.

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Screening Hell’s Canyon Millet

front beds 2014

2014 A wet, but lush, green summer.

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