Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Season's end - with disappearing melons

Middlebury College Organic GardenDespite an epidemic of late blight in the Northeast this summer, it was a very good season for our trial garden here in Vermont at the Middlebury College Organic Garden…and the season hasn't quite ended yet even though it's early December and we still have no snow cover! Although most of the garden beds are planted with cover crops, our plantings of Lacinato kale and Catalina spinach keep on producing. A nice balance of ample rainfall and sunny days keep them re-growing after each picking. They seem to get sweeter and sweeter with each frost.

Much of the Northeast was devastated by late blight on tomatoes this summer. Lush tomato plants would turn black and die almost overnight. We were spared late blight on our tomatoes -our micro-climate and topography helped a great deal. We are on a south-sloping, windy knoll with well drained (and very stony) sandy loam soil, situated far from any other gardens or farms that grow vegetables. When farms 2 miles away got 3 inches of rain in a few hours, we got 1 inch. Although we did get early blight which affected the lower leaves on our tomato plants, our Sungold cherry tomatoes still produced a fine crop.

endeavor pickling cucumbers harvestIt was a fine summer for Endeavor pickling cucumbers. In a year when so many people needed help from the food shelf, our pickling harvest was a favorite at our local food shelf. Some also went to Weybridge House, Middlebury's environmental dorm where the students had a goal of eating locally (food grown within 100 miles of the campus) for the school year. Summer nights were full of the smells and tastes of their preserving efforts. Besides cucumber pickles, favorites were "dilly" beans (using our Slenderette and Rattlesnake green beans), pickled Super Sugar Snap peas and even pickled green cherry tomatoes.

rainbow sherbet watermelons
The great mystery of this summer was the "disappearing watermelon". With great anticipation, the interns and I were really looking forward to enjoying our crop of sweet Rainbow Sherbet watermelons. As the melons neared perfect ripeness, they mysteriously started disappearing. We would arrive in the morning to find a melon missing from its spot in the patch and a neatly cut stem as its reminder.

This phenomenon coincided with the return of students to campus for the fall semester. Through the student grapevine, we heard that some students thought these tasty treats were there for students to pick and enjoy whenever they got the urge. So it was watermelon connoisseurs rather than vandals who took the melons!

middlebury college organic garden volunteers
We got the word out: we would have ripe melon available for each and every student who volunteered to work at the garden. Our volunteer numbers jumped up as we cut up the just picked melons at each day's break time. Those melons were the source lots of smiles and great discussions as we all ate together.

- Jay Leshinsky

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