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From the Farm: Cucumbers, Eggplants and Summer Weed Control

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from the farmThe fourth of July is always an enjoyable time of celebration as an American, and we hope all of you were able to partake in grilled goodness, watermelon, fireworks and fun with the family. With everything that is going on in the world today, it is moving to see the collective display of pride in our nation and its independence.

We have experienced some really bountiful production out at the farm over the last few weeks, and we're geared up for a "harvest heavy" summer. We're up to our ears in cucumbers and after a month of steady production, the plants are still looking quite healthy. We have picked close to 5,000 pounds already from less than a quarter acre! So, if you are growing just enough for your family, be mindful of how many cucumbers you set out, or you might just find yourself in the pickle business!

from the farmOur eggplant crop this year is one of the best we have seen, and the plants are already 8-10 inches taller than our plants from last year (and still growing). The one downside to such a great fruit-set on our peppers and eggplants is that many of our plants were blown over from a harsh storm last week. You typically need some type of staking or trellising when growing peppers and eggplants, but we were late getting around to that this year. Since the storm, we have staked all of the damaged plants, which should keep them in good condition for the rest of the summer.

Although it has been extremely dry so far this summer, one of the upsides has been a reduction in insect and disease pressure. It's been a struggle for those who don't have sufficient irrigation, but for those that have a dependable water source, results from the farm have been mostly positive. Rainfall and high humidity typically create an ideal breeding ground for insects and plant disease. We think this is a big factor in the increased longevity we've seen with our squash and cucumber plants this year.

One plant that has shot up faster than a bottle rocket this year (much to our dismay) is Amaranthus palmeri, more commonly referred to as pigweed. While this plant was once cultivated and consumed by Native Americans, it poses a real threat when cultivating other food crops. In an organic system there aren't a lot of great options for weed control, so the best control method is typically diligent monitoring and mechanical or hand cultivation when the plants are still young. To alleviate pressure from these weeds in the summer, you can plant cover crops in areas where you aren't producing. Sunhemp and buckwheat are good "weed suppressing" summer cover crops. For those that have fought the battle and already lost this summer, look on the bright side...at least it's edible. If you can't beat it, join it!

Brad manages our farm operations, which include our certified naturally grown farm outside Madison and the Kelly family’s plantation in Leesburg, Ga, known as Rock House Farm. Rock House Farm produces grass-fed beef, heritage Berkshire hogs, and two varieties of heirloom corn, among other crops.