Summer Sun in Le Jardin du Chef

Howdy readers! Thanks for tuning in for another garden update. The sunny days of summer have peaked, and we are starting to head into *hopefully* some cooler weather. This summer, I grew many goodies featured on the menu in the Tasting Room. Below, I will explain the results of my 'no-till' farming experiment, how I manage summer pests, and what I look forward to this Fall. I will also share some tips with you on how to prevent greens from bolting and how to keep your plants alive on days when the scorching Paso Robles heat reaches temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I decided to grow fewer crops than I did last season. I was overzealous and overly ambitious the previous year. Which is okay, but I often felt a little stretched thin growing a million different crops requiring different watering schedules, care, and maintenance. This year, I chose to focus on a select few that Chef Paul and I loved. I have been growing Yaya carrots which have a great flavor and don't get too bulky. Out of all the varieties of carrots I have planted over the year, this particular one has had the best germination success. I have been growing a spicy salad mix with red mustard, mizuna, tatsoi, kale, and arugula. I love this blend, and it has performed well. I grew three varieties of summer squash: yellow crookneck, classic dark green zucchini, and light green Italian heirloom variety. The squash plants are some of the healthiest in the garden. They have been highly prolific this season. We harvest these as small as possible while keeping the flower on them. I have made a lot of stuffed squash blossoms this summer. So delicious! My tomatoes had a tough beginning, but they are making a speedy recovery and starting to produce flavor-packed cherry tomatoes. Basil, fennel, dill, and edible flowers have been a staple in the garden this summer, and no one is complaining. These crops have been so fun to grow and have helped attract pollinators. This summer I grew potatoes for the first time; I was surprised by how easy they were to grow. I managed to save a few plants, but unfortunately, the gophers thought they were delicious. By keeping the variety of crops minimal, I can focus more on the health of the plants and soil and not micromanage the garden as much.

If you have kept up with my previous blogs, you know that I converted ¼ of the garden to 'no-till.' The process of 'no-till' starts with cover-cropping the section, then mowing the cover crop when it gets to the right stage of growth, and finally covering it to help incorporate the crop into the soil. In a more conventional system, I would typically mow the cover crop and till it in to help integrate the crop into the soil and kill off any roots of the remaining cover crop. I was skeptical of the ‘no-till’ method and had doubts about it, but I am incredibly pleased with the results of this experiment. I planted tomatoes, potatoes, squash, beans, and corn. I haven't had to pull a single weed in this section this year because I did not till and covered the section with a tarp for a minimum of 6 weeks this spring. The tarp helped sterilize all the weed seeds present on the soil surface. This practice has helped me tremendously with time management. Time normally spent pulling weeds is now spent taking care of the garden as a whole! I am excited to expand 'no-till' into other parts of the garden to further improve soil health and manage weeds.

By keeping the variety of crops minimal, I can focus more on the health of the plants and soil...

I mentioned earlier in this blog that the gophers thought the potatoes were delicious, but I failed to mention that they also loved the carrots, tomatoes, beets, and pretty much everything else. Gophers, along with flea and cucumber beetles, have been a few of my biggest pests this summer. To manage gophers, I use a Gopherhawk Trap that allows me to set it quickly. I have had remarkable success with these traps. Patience is a useful tool in the fight against gophers. The flea beetle loves to nibble, while the cucumber beetle is great at spreading diseases to plants. I try to keep ahead of the insects by spraying an organic insecticide once a month. I also use some netting called Proteknet, which acts as an insect barrier when placed over crops. You can buy this product from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It is interesting how the pests change yearly, and how we manage them also changes. In my first year of farming, I used to go to each cucumber plant and squish every cucumber beetle I saw. This took hours, but it was worth it if I didn’t have to spray any chemicals! But as I have learned through trial and error, spraying is the most effective and efficient way to deal with these pests.

The summers in Paso Robles are no joke. It has been a challenge to grow high-quality produce in such extreme temperatures. The garden sits in a particularly exposed region on Halter Ranch. This means the sun is intense as soon as it touches the garden. Some tricks I have used to help mitigate this are planting taller crops on the western side of shorter, less heat tolerant crops to provide shade for these crops in the late sun. I also grow lettuce under a shade cloth. If I did not do this, getting the lettuce seeds to germinate would be impossible. They often go into thermal dormancy, which means the seed knows it's too hot to germinate! Keeping plants alive in the heat is hard, but I make sure to water the garden on an as-needed basis. I run my irrigation for about 2 hours to establish deeper soil moisture and stronger root systems. I do not water every day, even when it is hot. I do my best to deep water the day or evening before super warm days.

I look forward to cooler weather with Fall right around the corner. I think it might be my favorite season. I want to experiment with growing some microgreens to garnish the plates. I plan to grow some fun things including turnips, beets, different lettuces, parsley, cilantro, broccoli, and carrots. Check back with us this Fall to hear more about how the crops are doing and my Winter plans for the garden. If this blog piqued your interest in trying any of these vegetables, try them for yourself in Le Jardin at Halter Ranch, open Thursday-Monday!

Date Published: August 11, 2022

Category: Blog

 Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove, Estate Culinary Farmer