Welcome to the August lesson of Kitchen Garden School at Cornell Farm. Earlier this year, we set several goals for ourselves, and we're happy to report that we've made excellent strides towards a more biodiverse, self-sustaining, beautiful, and bountiful garden here at the Farm. We hope that you can say the same! As the harvest comes rolling in, there's plenty to keep us busy. In this month's lesson, we're following our lead kitchen gardener, Cynthia DuVal, through the display gardens at Cornell Farm as she harvests herbs, veggies, and fruits to create a beautiful — and delicious — harvest basket.
The Summer Harvest
It's one of life's great joys as a gardener to see the payoff of all our hard work when we get to pick the first fruits of the season. No tomato seems to taste as sweet as the first one plucked from the vine each year. (Even though we didn't have any ripe tomatoes at the time of filming this month's lesson, we can confirm, as we have since harvested our first handful of delicious cherry tomatoes.)
In the videos below, Cynthia walks us through harvesting a few of our herbs, veggies, and fruits, respectively, offering tips and tricks as she goes.
Different parts of herbs are used for seasoning food or for medicinal purposes, so it's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with which parts of the plant you are using before harvesting. In the case of dill, both the leafy stems and flowers are good to use, and we can even collect dried seed heads to start a patch of dill next spring. When harvesting, think about how you will process your herbs when deciding how much to take at once. Fresh herbs should be harvested on an as-needed basis, whereas dried herbs can be cut in larger quantities and hung to dry in a space with good air flow.
Apart from drying, other methods for preserving herbs include freezing, extracting (making tinctures by extracting herbal compounds with water, alcohol or oil), infusing vinegars and honeys, canning, creating syrups, and making cordials! There are far too many practices to dive into for this month's lesson, but check out our resources section below for Cynthia's recommended reading.
Harvesting Veggies & Preparing for Fall Successions
Picking most veggies is fairly straightforward, but it's important to note that some — like cucumbers — are best cut from the vine rather than pulled, as you can damage the tender stems. And as we harvest a few of our veggies, we're creating room for more succession plantings! Many cool weather crops can go into the ground right now, and some can even continue to be planted out well into October for harvest this winter. Just this week, we cleaned up our cool weather veg bed and planted a fall succession of watercress, broccoli, arugula, mustard, celery, and kohlrabi plant starts — as well as lettuce seeds!
Blueberries, blackberries, and more are ready for harvest, and we're keeping an eye on our ripening apples and pears, which may be ready to harvest as early as this month! Other fruits like figs and persimmons won't be ready until this fall, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to be done for them: It's always a good idea to watch your fruit trees for pest damage and make sure to stay on top of watering to help ensure good quality and quantity of fruits later in the season.
When your apples are ready to harvest, you will want to be careful not to damage the spurs of the trees when removing fruits from the tree. It's best to use one of the methods Cynthia demonstrates in the video, whether you opt to use clean pruning shears to cut the apple off at the stem, or use the twist-off method for a clean release.
Although the apples in this month's video aren't quite ripe yet, they are a bit crowded. Thinning out apples is an important step to ensuring healthy growth and abundant fruit production — especially on young trees like ours, whose branches may be damaged by the weight of too many mature fruits. By removing some of these apples as Cynthia does, you allow the tree to focus its energy on developing fewer, but higher-quality fruits.
Other Activities & Resources
Check out a few of the tasks you can undertake in the kitchen garden right now, along with the following "recommended reading."
- Read the August chapter of The Maritime Pacific Northwest Gardening Guide from Tilth Alliance (pages 78-75 in the second edition) to learn more about our "second spring" here in the Pacific Northwest. There is also a quick segment on at-home composting.
- Check out pages 246 - 273 in Plant, Grow, Harvest, Repeat by Meg McAndrews Cowden to read up on fall gardening. Keep in mind that the average first frost date in our area typically falls in November, but this varies greatly based on your location. (The Old Farmer's Almanac has an easy-to-use frost date lookup tool based on your zip-code.) This represents the time when we experience our first light freeze of 29° - 32°F, which kills tender plants.
- If you're interested in learning more about growing and preserving medicinal herbs, Cynthia has a bonus book recommendation: Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies by Maria Noel Groves. The first chapter is an excellent place to start!
- As more fruits and veggies come rolling in, there's no time like the present to try out a new recipe or two to make good use of these fresh ingredients — or consider ways to preserve your harvest via pickling, canning, or freezing.
- We'd love to see what you've grown this year in your kitchen garden! If you snap a photo of your harvest or harvest basket and send it to Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org, we might just share it — with your permission, of course!
Check out the host of plants that can go in the ground now that summer is here.
- As you harvest veggies from your garden, you are creating room for more succession plantings! Many plants can be sown or transplanted now for a fall harvest. Check out the The Maritime Pacific Northwest Gardening Guide or stop by the Kitchen Garden at Cornell Farm for more ideas! We've just received large shipments of broccoli, greens, and more.
- You can still add fruit trees and shrubs to your landscape, be sure to keep them well-watered their first two years in the ground — especially this time of year. A tree bag or watering donut like the one Cynthia demonstrated in last month's lesson is a great tool to help you water a new tree as it gets established.
Meet With Us in Person
Mark your calendars, because our next Kitchen Garden School Q&A Discussion is scheduled for Sunday, August 13, 2023 from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm. Our lead kitchen gardener, Cynthia, will be leading the discussion related to this month's lesson in the Cafe Pavilion just behind the yellow Farmhouse. Feel free to drop in to meet fellow kitchen gardeners and get your questions answered.
Plus, be sure to get future updates on in-person meetings through our Facebook Event. We can't wait to see you!
More Ways to Connect
If you have questions about edible gardening or would like help selecting plants, our knowledgeable team is always happy to assist you in the Kitchen Garden Greenhouse. Cynthia often gives informal tours of our display beds, so feel free to stop by for a quick walk-around! For help from afar, you can reach out to Cynthia and our Kitchen Garden team directly at email@example.com.
We are also excited to share that, for those wanting more individualized assistance with their kitchen gardens, Cynthia is also available for personalized 90-minute Garden Coaching Sessions held in your very own garden. She currently has availability on Thursday evenings.