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Hop vines shooting up for the sky in June

It’s been a hot and humid summer in Washington County, Virginia, but we’ve made lots of progress out at Kelly Ridge Farm and also in Tom McMullen’s garden! While I haven’t been able to spend as much time in the hop yard as I would have liked, we’ve been able to make some headway there. One of the main tasks with the hops is training the vines to run up the strings, so they can stretch out and grow. They hide along the ground, but need a person to take each individual vine and wrap it clockwise around the string in order to get the vines to grow up, not out. As the season wore on, various vines liked to make their way into the walking and mowing paths, so it was our job to grab the best ones to send them up the vines. It’s almost time to harvest, so we’ll soon be pulling down the strings to harvest the hops!

Adjacent to the hop yard is the high-density orchard for the cider company, where also have spent a considerable amount of time this summer. One of the more arduous, but necessary tasks, was spreading compost around the base of the trees. By mulching and composting, they are hoping to work up a nice layer of soil for the apple trees to spread their roots. We shoveled the compost around the base of each tree while creating a small trench for water to collect and not run off. This was critical because it’s been a dry summer, and a lot of our time has been spent watering the orchard. We would fill up an 800 gallon cistern, which was placed in the back of Tom’s truck, and drove through each row to make sure each tree received 1-2 gallons of water. Luckily, we spent time at the end of July installing an irrigation system in the orchard to prevent the manual watering in the future. It was great practice getting to run the hose, poking the lines, and digging the trenches for the irrigation system.

Alena and Tom shoveling compost around the apple trees
here I am in Tom’s garden after digging up the red potatoes

It has been a good summer for Tom McMullen’s backyard garden although he says it hasn’t been as great due to the time we’ve had to spend in the orchard. Nevertheless, it’s been a necessary learning experience to see all the work that he’s put in – along with his wife and two sons – to make the garden tick. The care that has been spent on the tomatoes is quite impressive and has turned into a beautiful haul. Some patches of the garden have had their difficult spots though. The upper hill in the western portion of the yard struggled to get going, and some of the potatoes didn’t produce as well as they would have liked. That being said, there was a nice harvest of red potatoes, which initially appeared to have died off, but instead just finished sooner than expected and had a nice bounty overall. Snow peas had a nice year, as did the cabbage, broccoli, radishes, leafy greens, cucumbers, and sunflowers. The fruit trees didn’t as well, and with the mulberry tree not producing a lot of berries, the birds ended up attacking lots of other yummy stuff in the garden, which is unfortunate, but all part of the cycle of farming and gardening!

It’s been a great summer in Abingdon and Meadowview! Big thanks to ASD, Justen Dick, Tom McMullen, and Tumbling Creek Cider Company for all their help and support.

Thanks for reading!

John Fowlkes, 2020 FARM Intern
Kelly Ridge Farm, Meadowview, VA


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