Spring has arrived on Cumberland Island and we are savoring every moment. We love the foggy mornings in the garden — harvesting greens and roots in the crisp air while hearing the sound of waves crashing in the distance. Spring is also a season of promise, and we see signs of renewal throughout the island landscape. The live oak trees drop their leaves and push out shiny green foliage that brightens up the forest. The citrus trees are in full bloom, filling the gardens with their fragrance. Our honeybees are busy gathering nectar from the native flora beginning to bloom throughout the island’s vast wilderness.
Spring is also a great time to garden on the coast. Our main growing season here is from October through June. Our mild winters make it possible to grow throughout the winter, and the arrival of spring is a time of bounty when cool and warm season crops overlap. We will continue to harvest our cooler season crops like lettuce and carrots, while also beginning to harvest our warmer season crops like squash, beans, and tomatoes. We overwinter flowers that cannot take the heat of the summer and the flower field is in full bloom with Snapdragons, Larkspur, and Bachelor Buttons. We will soon be clipping on classic summer flowers like Black-Eyed Susans, Zinnias, and Sunflowers. As things warm up, the diversity of crops in the garden begins to dwindle until we are left with okra, eggplant, and peppers that too will eventually succumb to the harsh summer heat on the Georgia coast.
As in the gardens, spring is also a busy time for the Greyfield Apiary. We work with our mentor, Pete, to assess the strength of the remaining hives that made it through the winter. This year our apiary suffered some losses, but we were able to purchase new bees to go into the season with a full apiary. Just this week, we put on our first honey supers that will soon be full of capped honey for extraction in August.
As gardeners, 2017 is our third season growing on Cumberland Island and seventh year farming full-time. Gardening on a Barrier Island is surely one of the most challenging environments we have grown in. At times, the pests seem relentless, the sandy soil requires constant inputs, and of course the weather (like any place) is unpredictable. With all these challenges though, we are always pushed to learn, experiment, and adapt. We are always trying new plant varieties and experimenting with different growing techniques, which over time has made the garden a beautiful and productive space. Every year, we get a little bit better at growing in this environment and are looking forward to the season ahead — working and living on this beautiful island
Greyfield Gardeners, Maya Velasco and Ryan Graycheck
As spring turns to summer, the Greyfield Garden is bursting at the seams with ripe produce. Culinary Gardeners’ Ryan Graycheck and Maya Velasco are busy harvesting everything from heirloom tomatoes to fingerling potatoes, providing the culinary team with delicious ingredients used to feed the guests of Greyfield Inn.
Colorful swiss chard finish out the springtime harvest.
In early summer, the tomato plants start producing this sweet, juicy summer staple. By June these plants are filled with shades of reds and oranges in all shapes and sizes.
This variety of sweet red peppers includes Corno di Toro Rosso, Round of Hungary, Lipstick, and Jimmy Nardello.
Another summer favorite from the garden is summer squash and zucchini. Not only is the veggie featured in many seasonal meals, the blossoms can be stuffed with other seasonal ingredients.
From the June soil comes hearty fingerling potatoes.
Ice lettuce – these rare gems make beautiful garnishes on summer dishes.
Stay up-to-date on what’s growing in the Greyfield Garden by following them on Instagram at @GreyfieldGarden!
Tomatoes grow in a rainbow of sizes, colors, and flavors. Below is a description of how each tomato tastes based on its color.
High acid: red, green, purple, brown
Medium acid: orange, yellow, pink
Low Acid: white, larger bicolors
Red: Red tomatoes are often very acidic and are an excellent choice for canning or making sauces. They tend to be some of the juiciest tomatoes and can be used in the kitchen in so many different ways.
Purple and Brown: These tomatoes tend to be complex, intensely flavorful, and flat out delicious. The depth of flavors are sweet and earthy and are excellent for salsas and sauces or just eating plain.
Green: These tomatoes tend to be a bit sweeet with a very full, rich flavor and closely resemble the taste of red tomatoes. They are also great in sauces and salsas.
Orange: The golden-hued, sunny varieties burst with a sweet citrus flavor. They are excellent for use in gazpachos
Pink: These taste very similar to red tomatoes but are typically a bit milder and sometimes sweeter. These are also a great choice for folks who prefer a lower acid tomato.
Yellow: These tomatoes have a bit of a citrusy taste, with a hint of lemon and tend to have a low to medium acidity. They are great for salads or used to add color and a citrusy flavor to salsas.
Striped: These varieties are typically low in acidity and have a fairly high sugar content. They also tend to bear very large fruits (especially the German and pineapple varieties) and are a delight to grow and eat.
White: These are a great variety for folks that can’t handle the acidity. These are a great choice for fresh eating and are very mild. Due to their low acidity they are not a prefered tomato for canning