Seasonal Work- Summer
With the onset of summer, cool weather spring crops are harvested, ground is prepared for field crops, and garden plots are readied for hot weather vegetables and flowering annuals.
Field crops planted months before (such as winter wheat and oats) are harvested in June. Summer crops may include broom corn, pumpkins, maize, tobacco and cotton, as examples of crops grown on outlots surrounding early Salem and on nearby Wachovia farms.
Harvested vegetables, including cabbage, kale, carrots and English peas are among the spring vegetables found boiling in pots at open hearths in the kitchens of historic buildings where costumed Interpretive Staff prepare typical 18th-century Moravian meals using historic receipts (recipes).
As summer planting commences, the detailed and complicated planting plans formulated for each garden by Horticulture Staff during the winter are especially important. Crop rotation is essential for healthy soil and plants. In addition, because Old Salem grows open-pollinated heirloom plants, certain vegetable varieties must be located a minimum distance apart from each other to avoid cross pollination. This is important in Old Salem because seed is saved for future plantings, and for true seed to be produced, there must be no cross-pollination among different varieties.
Large compost piles of decomposing leaves are maintained by regular turning to promote rotting, and throughout the year each time a field or bed is prepared for planting, compost is turned in as an amendment. The Horticulture Staff believes strongly in healthy soil for healthy plants, and much energy is devoted to “feeding the soil” to ensure soil fertility, including use of cover crops.
Seedlings of heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers which were started weeks earlier in the Old Salem Greenhouse and hardened off in cold frames are then transplanted as young plants into the gardens. Other heirloom seed is sown directly into the ground, with successive sowings of vegetables continuing throughout early summer.
Old Salem gardens produce a range of summer vegetables, including varieties of squash, corn, bush and pole beans, cucumbers, peppers, watermelon, potatoes, field peas, peanuts, okra, sweet potatoes, and various summer greens. Tomatoes were not introduced to Salem until the 1830s, and because each garden is planted according to the period of interpretation for the lot, tomatoes may be found growing in later gardens.
Weeding and cultivating are daily activities during rapid growth of the summer season, and mulching controls moisture retention in the gardens. Flowers are dead-headed for maximum flowering, and vegetables and fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches and figs, are harvested as they ripen. Many are used for interpretive programs in the museum kitchens.
Water is essential to garden health and when temperatures are high and rainfall low, adequate water must be supplied. Newly planted trees must also be regularly watered. Concealed sprinkler systems and faucets provide water to the gardens, and since early morning watering is best, this chore is accomplished prior to the daily opening of the museum so it does not detract from the visitor experience.
At the Old Salem Greenhouse, Horticulture Staff and skilled volunteers grow heirloom plants for the public as well as for the museum gardens. From April through September, these locally grown heirloom flowers, herbs and vines may be purchased at The Garden Shop at T. Bagge Merchant in Old Salem.
Summer maintenance of approximately 42 acres of museum grounds includes mowing, trimming, brush removal, storm clean-up, etc. The context of the museum today is somewhat tidier than would have been the case in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when the town of Salem had dirt roads (or mud in wet weather) and a less manicured setting. Hard-working equipment is maintained in good order by Horticulture Staff.
Research continues year round at Old Salem. Current horticulture investigation includes study of primary documentation for clues about cultivation practices and varieties of vegetables and ornamentals favored by the Moravians in their earliest gardens.
Opportunities for the public to learn are presented regularly in the Garden Workshop series. Horticulture professionals and Master Gardeners share their knowledge in topics ranging from “Organic Gardening” to “Canning and Freezing Basics.” Gardens and Landscape Tours are also available to the public.
Throughout the growing seasons, many plots in Old Salem may appear forgotten, as they “go to seed.” This is intentional, as the Horticulture Staff is committed to seed saving. In time, mature seed is carefully collected, separated and stored for the next planting, thus ensuring a supply of locally adapted seed and promoting the retention of heirloom genetic material.
Fall gardens are planted in the heat of late summer, so seedlings of cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collards and celery are started in the shade of nursery beds in summer to await transplanting in August and September. This late summer period is also when the cool-loving fall plants of lettuce, beets, spinach, kohlrabi, turnips, rutabagas, mustard and kale will be sown directly into garden beds.