Greetings from the Stony Point Center Farm!
As the end of August approaches, our regular harvests continue. Greens, squash, cucumbers, beans, carrots, and beets have been rolling in for weeks and the nightshade crops have finally joined them. That means eggplants, peppers (sweet and hot), and, yes, tomatoes. This year we’re growing several types of tomatoes including yellow Brandywines and Cherokee purple heirloom varieties. However, it has been the one-time harvests of potatoes and onions that have memorably defined our harvests for this month.
We planted three varieties of potatoes this season: red, white, and purple fingerlings. As July came to a close, the stalks of two of the three potato varieties (the reds and the purples) began to change from a robust and healthy green to a withering yellow and then a brittle brown. Once the leaves and stalks of a potato plant dies, the potatoes are ready to harvest. I can’t say why the white potatoes didn’t join their red and purple brethren for an August harvest, but it looks like they may hang on until next month. Stony Point Center had scheduled a Summer Institute Reunion for the first weekend of August, which ended up being the perfect time for the potato harvest. Three alumni from last year’s Summer Institute joined this year’s group in the Friendship garden to harvest the spuds. Digging up potatoes is always fun because it’s always a surprise to discover how large the harvest will actually be. After about an hour or so in the fields digging and laughing together, the Summer Institutes of past and present had harvested well over 100 pounds of red potatoes, almost double last year’s harvest.
A couple of weeks later, it was time to harvest the onions, indicated by the yellowing/browning and wilting of their once vigorous green leaves. We recruited a volunteer group who had come to work on the Arts Center to join us in the fields before breakfast to pull back our plastic mulch, collect all the onions in the field, and haul them into the second floor of the Arts Center to protect them from the coming rain. With the help of these volunteers, a job that would have taken the farm crew most of the day was finished before breakfast!
This year’s onion harvest was particularly satisfying. Unlike the red potatoes whose improved yield from last year to this year is seemingly inexplicable, our onion harvest can be traced back to our efforts in the winter. We seeded our onions during the last week of February with the help of some volunteers from Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack. As winter stubbornly refused to give way to spring in March, our farm crew repeatedly moved our fledgling onions from the greenhouse to the warmth of one of our lodges during the days and nights when temperatures dipped well below what is considered normal for that time of year. We transplanted those tiny onions in April, knowing that one of the most important factors in onion growth is simply the number of days they spend in the ground. The Summer Institute learned to distinguish between edible and non-edible weeds in the onion field, tasting wood sorrel and purslane for the first time while weeding the onions. Now, thanks to the help of many, our soon-to-be Arts Center is a temporary onion barn!
See you in the gardens!