Oh my gosh, what happened to June. And most of July. I guess summer arrived and everything went crazy (the standard growing season crazy, as opposed to 2020’s personalized interpretation). That means there is a lot to update this journal on, but we can summarize most of it with: lots of planting; lots of weeding; almost everything is alive; almost everything that is alive is looking good!

Exceptions and Challenges:

  • White Yam and Ube (Dioscorea alata) are apparently the tastiest thing in the entire field. In a location that I’ve never experienced too much large animal damage, the true yams keep getting their vines chewed down. The good news is that I still haven’t needed to build a trellis; the bad news is the the plants aren’t big enough to need a trellis!
  • Moringa and Chaya are two tropical tree type crops with edible leaves, both of them are looking a little sad. This has been my experience with moringa in the past. It’s still relatively early and they’ll be enjoying this recent heat, so fingers crossed that they’ll start growing a little more rapidly soon.
  • I transplanted sesame really late in the season. There is still hope for it, but the plants are very small right now!
  • This is one of those seasons that I’m hoping for a late first frost….!

Below are some highlights from the field:

Bambara Groundnuts (Vigna subterranea) aka Bambara Bean

We are growing Bambara Groundnuts for the first time. They are an exciting crop because they are in the same genus as southern peas (Vigna unguiculata) but they form their seed pods underground in the same way as peanuts. The plants are quote small, but healthy and flowering. We have a number of varieties from the USDA and one great looking variety that came to us from Madagascar via Craig LeHoullier!

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True Potato Seed (Beautiful Flowers)

We are growing over a hundred potato plants from seed (original seed mix came from Cultivariable – wide diploid mix). The flowers are beautiful, plentiful and diverse. I’ll be saving a lot of true potato seed this year from the healthiest plants, and am very excited to start doing the tuber evaluations as we get round to harvest. It will be very interesting to see how diploid potatoes do in our climate. Here’s a great break down of tetraploid vs diploid potatoes by William Whitson.

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South Anna Butternut Winter Squash

We are growing a winter squash variety developed by Edmund Frost, an independent plant breeder in Virginia. He sells seeds as part of Commonwealth Seed Growers. This squash is a cross between the Seminole Pumpkin (known for its disease resistance) and the Waltham Butternut (with better tasting fruit). So far they seem extremely happy and are quite keen to take over my pigeon peas on the right and my okra on the left!

We have recently merged The People’s Seed into The Utopian Seed Project. We’ll be sharing more about The People’s Seed in the coming months, but a major aspect of their work that we will continue is spotlighting and supporting the work of seed and plant breeders in the southeast.

We have plenty more going on and will be releasing a video walk through soon.

I hope your gardens are growing well!