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Helpful Tips from Local NJ Farmers

Although summer hasn’t officially arrived yet, there’s no denying that New Jersey is now buzzing with the warm weather. And for local gardeners and farmers, lots of sun means the arrival of delicious, juicy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables. As farmers’ markets open across the state, you’ll have your pick of freshly-picked produce straight from Jersey farms.
One of the best parts of visiting your area farmers’ market? Chatting with the person who grew that bunch of Rainbow Swiss Chard you’re about to eat for dinner. For those of you not conversing with your farmer, we’ve started the conversation off for you. Whether you want to know how they manage their weeds or what’s in season right now, there’s no better way to find out then going straight to the source.
FarmersWhat advice would you give home gardeners for organic weed management?
“Prepare your planting area early and repeatedly. There’s a bank of seeds in your soil and as those seeds begin to germinate, weeds will pop up. Give it a good, deep tilling in early spring and repeat this process multiple times in order to deplete that seed bank in your soil. By the time you’re ready to plant, your seeds (or your transplants) will have a huge advantage over the weed population. Once you’re into the growing season, weeds can be controlled with several methods, including plastic sheeting, a layer of mulch, or you can do it the way I do at home and put my four-year-old daughter on the job! Be sure to pull from the base and extract the whole root while weeding. You’ll find this is easiest after a good watering or rain. Your soil is a living, breathing thing with trillions of microorganisms doing their part to continue the natural cycle. And besides, when you spray poison into the earth, it comes back in your food!” ~ Matt Pellerito, Good Tree Farm in New Egypt
Farmers“Get rid of the weeds before you even plant. The best chemical-free way to do this is to lay a dark colored tarp flat over the bed and keep it there for a few weeks (even a few months, like over the winter) until all of the vegetation underneath the tarp is dead. Next, rototill the area. Then, leave it alone for two weeks. This will allow any buried weed seeds to germinate. Either rototill or tarp it again to kill those new weeds. You’ll have a nice clean seed bed to plant into. If any weeds pop up in the future, make sure to cultivate before they go to seed.” ~ Jessica Isbrecht, Green Duchess Farm in Somerset
FarmersWhat about all those pests?
“Buy good bugs from gardens alive to eat the bad bugs. You can also use beer for slugs, copper wire strips to electrocute them, beetle bags, and fly bags. Another great tip is to plant flowers around the perimeter of the garden to attract beneficial insects.” ~ Elaine, Shangri La Farm in Howell
What’s in season right now? 
“Strawberries are the big thing on everyone’s mind in early June, but don’t forget some late asparagus, early peas, some spinach, and radishes.” ~ Matt Pellerito, Good Tree Farm

What’s your favorite way to eat what’s in season right now?
“Strawberries have countless uses, and for June-bearing varieties I almost always make a batch of jam to take full advantage of the bumper crop. It’s a good way to build up your canning skills, especially if you’ve already tried preserving easy things like peaches or applesauce.” ~ Matt Pellerito, Good Tree Farm

FarmersWhat’s the number one tip you would give to people shopping at the farmer’s market? 
“Besides looking for Certified Organic farms, I always take my time and talk to the farmer in person, if he or she is there. I try to offer preparation tips, nutritional information and offer a variety to my customers. I want people to know that I’m not just a producer or a manufacturer–I really toiled over this melon or squash or whatever, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed growing it.” ~ Matt Pellerito, Good Tree Farm

How do you know when a vegetable or fruit is perfectly ripe?
“Smell it!” ~ Elaine, Shangri La Farm

Hero (Top) Feature Image: ©  dream79/Adobe Stock
Additional Images (in order) Courtesy:
Matt Pellerito, Good Tree Farm
Green Duchess Farm
Shangri La Farm
Green Duchess Farm

ProfilePicMelissa Beveridge is a 200 hour registered yoga teacher, certified integrative health coach, aspiring gardener, and writer in Monmouth County. She’s passionate about sharing her lifestyle and combining her love of food, health, and wellness into her writing. Follow her adventures through New Jersey at MBeeWell.com.
You can also find her on Twitter @MBeeWell, and on Instagram @mbeewell.