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Seasonal Report from The Berkshire Edge Gardening Section

Mostly tender crops harvested Oct. 4, before 30-degree night in Western Massachusetts.

By Judy Isacoff Monday, Oct 21, 2019 Farm and Table

October 21 – November 3, 2019

Mount Washington — A week into October, yellow and red dapples appeared throughout the expanse of green canopy that breathes all around us during the warm seasons in the Berkshire Hills. By mid-month, leaf-turn had climbed the forested heights in a continuum of red oak’s soft russet brushstrokes intermingled with golden sugar maple and deep evergreen. At lower elevations, lush red and sugar maple crowns had already been ignited to vermillion, yellow and orange. The blue sky above was made for optimum complement. Spirits were high the week of the 6th. Everyone I met exuded excitement, buoyancy, unfettered exuberance. A brilliant charge pervaded the world. We were bathed in the light and warmth of the Sun. We were deeply experiencing the turning point in the season. We were immersed in and witnessing one of Earth’s great wonders.

Fresh harvested fennel, scallion and apple saute, Oct. 15, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

I am writing before the predicted frost then freeze over the weekend of the 19th. In the hill towns, all tender plants sailed through last month’s light frost on Sept. 19. Two weeks later, on the late afternoon of Oct. 4, anticipating a killing frost, I harvested tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers that were too sprawling to cover. Barrels fit over fennel plants and old quilted mattress covers over more peppers and fennel. The thermometer read 30 degrees next morning and, in addition to the limp yacon plants that were groomed for Halloween, my windshield was covered with a sheet of ice.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, FRIENDS. See Killing Frost & Company march through the garden. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Every day I eat from the garden basket (see photos) and more crops harvested on the 4th. Heirloom red and yellow Brandywine and striped German table tomatoes and San Marzano plum tomatoes continue to ripen in a cool room. They retain luscious, fresh-picked flavor, the former a favorite layer on sandwiches. Scarlet, orange and chocolate peppers, stored in the refrigerator crisper at 38 degrees, are still firm, although I will soon slice and saute them briefly before storing in the freezer. Yesterday the last lemon cucumbers decorated a fresh salad. I have pickled green beans, cucumbers and damaged green tomatoes.

Open-face lettuce and tomato sandwich. Brandywine tomato with Rouge Metis cover. Photo: Judy Isacoff

In advance of threatening frosts, I will harvest, reluctantly, all fennel and the robust green peppers that, given more warmth, would mature to their rainbow hues. These are the only tender crops remaining in my garden. Red cabbage will come in, too. A gorgeous late planting of Turtle Tree Seed lettuce mix and Asian greens — both include Rouge Metis mustard — will thrive for awhile, covered on freezing nights. Rouge Metis’ subtle, spicy overtones are one of my favorite salad ingredients.

Fresh from the frost-hardy autumn garden: sliced and chopped leek, carrot, Tokyo Market Turnip. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Now I leave you, dear reader, to heed the last call for sowing garlic and winter rye.


Turtle Tree Seed

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Plant Sale at Camphill Village May 25th

Plant Sale at Camphill Village

From 10am – 3pm on Saturday, May 25th we will be selling plant starts just waiting for your garden! Tons of tomatoes, peppers sweet and hot, squash, melons, watermelons, okra, flowers, physalis, tomatillos, ground cherries, cucumbers, and herbs!

Also, we’ll have a selection of seeds for May and June sowing–beans, corn, squash, and more.

Join us outside the lovely newly renovated Camphill Village Green Coffee Shop and Gift Shop. Stop in for awesome coffee, our famous cookies, breads, soups & salads or to browse the fine crafts made here in Camphill Village!)

Directions to the Plant Sale at Camphill are in the post below…

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Plant Sale at Camphill Village April 27th

Plant Sale at Camphill Village! – Saturday, April 27th

Come visit us and browse seedlings and plant starts for many different kales, cabbages, broccoli, asian greens, lettuces, and more! You also have the opportunity to browse our full selection of over 380 vegetable, herb, flower and farm seed varieties, ask gardening questions, and chat with Lia and Ian about your garden plans. Books and T-shirts will also be for sale. Special plant sale pricing on seeds!

Our Delaway Kale is doing well, and will be for sale on April 27th at the Plant Sale in Camphill Village

Click on the map description below for directions. Please keep in mind that we’re actually all the way up the hill–Google puts our address point a bit before you actually get to us. Just keep going–we’re there!


Save the date! Our 2nd plant sale of the season will be on Saturday, May 25th. Tomatoes, peppers, physalis, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, melons, flowers, herbs and more!


P.S. It’s time to get those tomato seeds started if you haven’t already! Click here to shop tomatoes:

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Tips for Growing Sweet Corn

Tips for Growing Sweet Corn

Nestled between the Taconic Hills and the Berkshires, with our rocky soil, abundant wildlife and short growing season, many crops present challenges. Two crops which are especially challenging are sweet corn and eggplants. Here are some of our best tips for growing sweet corn. A challenging but delectable crop.

Sweet Corn

            There are three major pests for sweet corn in our area: Crows, raccoons and corn earworms. We don’t have too many earworms, so we usually don’t worry about the few we have, but our organic farming friends in the area put oil on the tips of their corncobs after pollination but before the ears ripen, to keep the worms out. Here is what we do for the other two pests:


Crows are incredibly intelligent, and can sense when corn has just germinated under the soil, long before it pops up and is visible to us. They know that the seedlings of sweet corn are very, very sweet and tasty! I’ve seen crows checking on corn we’ve planted, and then coming back when it has just germinated and walking down the row, eating the seedlings one by one. The only way we’ve found to prevent this is to cover the seeds with either bird netting or rowcover as soon as they are sown. We like the bird netting because it lets us keep an eye on the corn and uncover it to do hoeing when the weed seedlings start to peep above the soil. When the corn is 4 or 5 inches tall, it is no longer in danger of being eaten by crows. There is a short window when the corn is relatively safe from most animals (except cows, goats or occasionally deer!) However, as soon as (or even before) the first corn begins to tassel, your will need to put up an electric fence. Moveable sheep fencing works well, either with a battery powered charge or with a solar unit. If you want to successfully grow your own sweet corn, at least in our area, an electric fence is essential.


Raccoons smell the ripening corn and will pull down all the best ears, discarding and destroying the unripe ones, and eating the ripe ears. If they start getting into the corn, even an electric fence will not deter them, so it’s very important to get the fence up early. Also, if you step over the fence and pull an ear or two to see if it is ripe, make sure that you take all the husks, silk, and cobs with you. If the raccoons smell the broken cobs, they will brave the electric fence to get at the corn. Once your fence is up, check that the battery doesn’t run down, or the raccoons will soon discover that they can get in.

Turtle Tree’s Tips for Growing Sweet Corn

Since all our sweet corn is open pollinated, and not the super-sweet hybrids, it is best when harvested a tiny bit on the early side—it will get starchy if left too long. If this happens, you can let it dry down and grind it to make corn cereal. Dried sweet corn is somewhat harder to grind than the flour corns, but will also be a little sweeter. Or you can sprout the dried kernels and use them for garnish—but be advised—they can be quite sweet! If you are in an isolated location in hilly land with no cornfields within 2 miles (or at least 5 miles on flat, treeless ground), and have grown at least 200 corn plants, you can also save some seed for next year—we recommend using the most beautiful cobs from the sturdiest plants, and taking the middle section of each of those cobs to use for seed.