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What's Growing On


The hydrangea are in massive bloom all over the property, their long panicles fading to pink as the weather cools, and the chickens are loving perching on the rampant grape vines near the coop.  

Late Season Greens

We've begun to plant-out the fall lettuces this week, including Red Sails, Lolla Rossa, and Black Seeded Simpson.  For those of you who want to tank-up on nutrient-dense chlorophyll before Winter, this is your moment.


Tomatoes have kicked into high gear:  Foolproof Sun Gold dribbles down the fence in the orchard, while the un-earlthy Indigo Rose is as much eye as mouth candy.


To read past blogs from Stonegate Farm, go to the Farm News/Blog link on the website, or use these links

2009 Season
2010 Season

2011 Season
2012 Season
2013 Season



Author Sarah Rich and I travelled cross country to make this book last year, published by Abrams and available everywhere.  Get it at Amazon, and I'll sign a copy at the Farm.

My new book on garden photography is also out and available, at Amazon and elsewhere.  

Follow the Farm:  Link up with Organic Gardening Magazine to get the best and latest hands on inspiration for working in the dirt.   You can also follow the goings on at Stonegate Farm 
by following the Accidental Farmer blog

Sept 5, 2013


My own apple genius bar was set pretty high when I presumed that cultivating an organic orchard at Stonegate was even remotely doable.
The cooperative extension folks shook their Carhartt-capped heads at my callow ambitions; nurseries tried to sell me the same old dreary disease-resistant cultivars; and local farmers insisted that the Hudson Valley, with its centuries of apple production, had created its own Darwinian microcosm of adaptive pestilence that would do me in.

My 1852 copy of AJ Downing's Fruit and Fruit trees of America.

It seemed that without the regular puffing-out of vast clouds of synthetic pesticides, I was doomed to harvesting bushels of rotting, inedible muck.
Organic apples were truly forbidden fruit; a tired old trope for original sin.
So, of course – always one to succumb to a little biblical temptation – I planted them: Historic apples with seductive, suggestive names like Hidden Rose, Maidenblush, Pink Sparkle; those that sounded decent and honorable like Ashmead’s Kernel and Esopus Spitzenberg; or a few that reeked of high-born patrician plant-naming, like Duchess of Oldenberg, Devonshire Quarrendon, and Caville Blanc D’hiver.

Devonshire Quarrendon
, an antique English variety from the 1600s with a complex, vinous bite.

The choosing of varieties (and there are sixteen dwarf, spindle-trained apples trees in my orchard) was not entirely up to me. I have the ghost AJ Downing and his nineteenth-century tome Fruit and Fruit Trees of America to thank for much of the fussy decision-making.
Downing, who was the foremost pomologist of his time and had his nursery in Newburgh, just a few miles from my farm, is something of a legend in these parts. More than just a plant nerd, he was a prominent horticulturalist, landscape designer, architect, and author who cast a long and dazzling spell during his short life (he died at 37, drowned rescuing others during a steamship fire on the Hudson). When it came to planting an orchard at Stonegate, I wanted Downing's help.

An Historic apple harvest of Hidden Rose, Devonshire Quarrendon, Kerry Pippin, Keswick Codlin, Holstein, Maidenblush and Golden Russet ready for pick up at the farm.

I spent weeks on-line, obsessed, looking for rare and historic apple and pear varieties that Downing knew and grew more than 150 years ago, and stumbled across a quirky, cranky rare-fruit nursery on the southwestern tip of Michigan called Southmeadow Fruit Gardens–they even quoted Downing on the cover of their catalog! After cross-referencing varieties they were growing with one’s Downing had written about and praised, I put my order in.
With minimally invasive, organic pest management, the orchard at Stonegate has matured over the past five years, and the apples this season are the pay-out: flecked and pocked and full of a kind of organic indignation for what passes for fruit these days, these are apples to be reckoned with.

Dwarf apple and pear in the orchard, fronted by ripening blackberries.

We’ve just tasted the first fruit of that planting, with a bushel or more of Golden Russet, with its fine-grained flesh and bronze cheeks; Maidenblush, flaring red over tender, yellow skin; Kerry Pippin, with its spicy, aromatic tang; and Hidden Rose, its flesh faintly streaked with pink–the apple of my i.

They may not be the prettiest pommes out there, but they’ve got plenty of organic personality. And unlike the dull, synthetic supermodels at the A&P, these apples have so much to say.  –Mb 


Oeuffington Post

There will be delicious eggs through the fall this season with our late season share.

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All photos ©2013 

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Stonegate Drive
Balmville, NY 12550

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