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Down on the farm with Over the Hoopee Farm

By Becki Clifton

Owner of Over the Hoopee Farm

“A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has his mind precisely against what is wrong with us.”

--Wendell Berry

Down on the farm, the garden is in full swing. The compost we built last year from the grass clippings and chicken, duck, and turkey bedding is now feeding the plants we started and transplanted in early spring.

It seems the hot summer temperatures arrive earlier every year. According to the calendar, we haven’t even reached the first day of summer, yet we’ve already had several 100-degree days. A couple of tips I’ve found helpful for growing when the weather hits these warmer conditions, 1) mulch & 2) avoid the harsh, hot morning sun & plant things where they will receive afternoon sun only.

With the hot weather, the pest pressure increases. In conventional agriculture and many backyard gardens, chemical insecticides are used to battle this issue. “This is considered almost holy work by farmers and ranchers. Kill off everything you can't eat. Kill off anything that eats what you eat. Kill off anything that doesn't feed what you eat.", according to Daniel Quinn from the novel Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit.

As bee stewards, it’s just not in us to spray something which may harm our beehives.

Rather than fight pests chemically, we opt to grow around the lifecycle of whatever pest we’re dealing with & plant extra. For instance, we start our squash plants early in the greenhouse and transplant them out so that we can get an early start on the squash bugs. By the time they finally arrive, we’re tired of seeing squash anyway.

When fighting pests chemically, not only are you harming the pollinators, but you’re also tainting the very food that you are growing to nourish your family and friends. Why go through all the bother of trying to grow nutrient-dense food if you’re just going to spray it with man-made chemicals which generally prove to be harmful to our health?

Despite the record heat, storms, and pest pressure, the garden has abundantly blessed us & many folks in the community. We’ve had far more squash, green beans, peppers, potatoes, & corn than we expected. We believe this is from the help of our little apiary, which has expanded from 4 overwintered hives to 10 hives currently.

We’re still adding new things to the gardens almost weekly. It’s important to remove all the dead and dying plants from your garden to reduce pest harborage and disease. However, you do not want to leave that soil bare, because mother nature is modest & she will cover herself, sometimes with beneficial, medicinal weeds such as dandelion or purslane or with grasses which make it hard to garden the next go-round. To battle this, we plant cover crops such as buckwheat and phacelia which the bees love and adds beauty to your garden.

What are we planting in the garden this time of year other than cover crops? Okra-which you can succession plant so as not to be overwhelmed by it when it starts making, peas, sweet potatoes, ginger, turmeric, and flowers such as sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos.

We’re also starting seeds for a late summer/fall crop of tomatoes and peppers. This year we’re going to try Florida 91 as our late tomato crop. According to, “It is a hybrid determinate variety known for its disease-resistance and ability to set fruit in the heat.” We’ve never had much luck with fall tomato crops but we’re going to give it a try.

So, how is your garden growing this year? We’d love to hear all about it. Send us an email at: Until next time, happy gardening my dear friends!

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