We're in the last few days of summer, and this fall, I am hosting several very important events at my Bedford, New York home, so it's "all hands on deck" to get the farm ready.
I am traveling for work quite a bit this season, so before each trip, I create very detailed lists of all that needs to be done while I'm away. Supporting a working farm is a huge responsibility and a tremendous amount of work. In order for it to thrive, animals and gardens need constant tender loving care. The outdoor grounds crew has many projects including - pruning and trimming the trees and shrubs, weeding all the beds, planting new specimens and the next crop of vegetables, and most importantly, watering - we've had very little rain these last few weeks.
What are some of your late-summer chores? Let me know in the comments below. Enjoy these photos…
We had a brief thunderstorm earlier this week, but it wasn’t enough to give everything a good, deep soaking. Because of the lack of rain, we’ve had to do a lot more watering around the farm. Fortunately, I have two wells that I use for irrigation purposes and an elaborate underground irrigation system.
Meanwhile, Phurba is digging a hole for a young weeping willow tree. When I first planted this grove of weeping willows, I put at least 25 in a marshy area in one of the lower fields. Every year or so, I add to this collection.
Once the plastic container was removed from the root ball, this tree was rolled carefully into the hole and fed a special fertilizer formulated for new plantings. This helps transplants establish faster by increasing root mass and shoot growth.
Chhiring and Phurba make sure the tree is perfectly straight and then backfill the hole. The last step is to gently step around the root ball to ensure there aren’t any air pockets.
“Bare to the flare” is the general saying when planting trees – the top of the root flare should always be above ground.
Weeping willows are upright, fast-growing, deciduous trees that can grow up to 80-feet tall. Because of their massive root systems, they need a fair amount of room to grow. These trees are all so happy in this location.
After weeding the vegetable garden, Ryan positioned a sprinkler. Mornings are the best times to water – when water pressure is high, evaporation is low, and the soil can absorb the water before the sun heats up the ground.
Just outside the vegetable garden Chhiring sets-up another sprinkler to water the hydrangeas. Shrubs and trees may need up to three-inches a week of water to thrive without getting water-logged.
Another big chore we’re tackling is weeding all the beds. Phurba is pulling weeds from the new Stewartia garden across from my clematis pergola. I don’t use any chemicals in my gardens, so we do tend to get a lot of weeds during this time. It just takes patience and elbow grease to get them all out.
All the areas of my farm are checked on a regular basis to keep up with overgrowth and weeds.
We also keep up with the weeds in the Japanese maple grove. The trees are all doing well, including the newest group of young specimens I planted last summer. Chhewang is weed whacking all the weed growth one one end.
And Chhiring worked from the other. I always have young trees staked. Staking keeps the weed whackers from getting too close when the interior beds are trimmed and cleaned.
In the big paddocks, Chhewaing checks all the stakes around the trees to make sure they are all straight and secure. Here is one that had fallen over.
Chhewang uses a heavy iron driver to make a new stake hole.
All the stakes are made right here on the farm and painted my signature “Bedford Gray”.
Chhiring rotates the sprinklers and carefully tracks what is watered, so nothing is forgotten. During the summer, a good watering is done to a depth of about six to eight inches. An even, intermittent sprinkling is best for thorough, deep watering.
I like to use telescoping sprinklers – the height, distance and spray patterns can be adjusted to suit individual garden needs.
Over at the dwarf apple espalier, Chhewang is busy pruning and removing all the sucker growth. By removing the sucker growth, energy is sent into the main apple producing branches. Quite a bit was pruned off – this will help sunlight reach the lower branches more easily.
Carlos-2 checks and cleans all the outdoor lights at the Tenant House, where my daughter and grandchildren stay whenever they visit.
Sanu is cleaning all the glass door panes. We have a lot of events and gatherings on the calendar this fall, so everyone is busy getting the farm ready.
Down by the stable, my three Sicilian donkeys, also got a good cleaning.
All the equines are groomed every day – their hooves are picked of any mud, stones and debris, and their coats are cleaned, and brushed. It’s a time consuming task, but it keeps my stable residents healthy, happy and comfortable.
And, donkeys are happiest when with their friends, so all the donkeys are kept together where they can see each other.
Meindert watches the activities from his stall.
And, up by my Winter House, the gravel driveway is raked. This is also done regularly to keep the areas even and to pick up any debris along the way.
It is crucial to maintain gravel roads and driveways, so water can flow properly during storms. All four-miles of carriage road at the farm are dragged regularly, especially before big events – they always look so well-groomed after it’s completed.
It’s a lot of hard work to maintain a working farm, but seeing healthy, productive plantings, and the farm’s beautiful vistas always make up for it.