Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rocking so hard, the The rain came



Welcome Back to another episode of Lost in the Farmers Market, where we discuss aspects of gardening from an angle you might not have seen coming. To be honest half the time we have no idea what angle we’re coming from; but then that makes each episode more fun than if it had been scripted. For today’s topic I’m going to answer a common question asked about the test gardens and by extension settle a long standing quandary of sustainable gardening.

So the one question I get most frequently comes after I run through the yearly harvest numbers. Visitors to the gardens, market or during the talks given as part of Sustainable Neighbor’s own events often ask me what I do with all that produce. The obvious answer is that by bulk most of it does quite literally get consumed on premises. After all if one went through the trouble to grow produce, then it makes sense that it should be consumed by the person behind it provided there is not some amount of surplus. It should be said that when one harvests several ounces of say cherry tomatoes it’s not as plausible to eat them all before they start to go bad since the plants will just keep producing as long as I keep picking and providing for their needs. So this brings the conversation to other means to enjoy the harvest and extend the useful life of a given harvest.

I notice it’s often at times hotly debated if canning or freezing your produce is better, and indeed most gardeners actually should be using both methods. The fact is canning and freezing both have their strengths and weaknesses as well as processes that need to be observed to produce better final product. Canning in common context refers to the preservation of produce under glass using mason jars. Typically the food is stored with a bit of preservative liquid or broth and once sealed is generally held to last for a few years if all processes including sterilization of materials were completed properly. It should also be said that any food canned and intended for long term storage should be fully cooked to prevent the unwanted growth of fungi and bacterium inside the jars. More often than not you will know a canned batch has gone bad because the pop-up section of the internal sealing lid will bulge out and the jar may leak around the rims. A bad smell may come from a poorly canned batch of produce. With that said the chief strength of canning is the longevity of your product, it needs no refrigeration, it is largely temperature insensitive and can be as safe as store bought product with the advantage of you knowing precisely what all the ingredients are.

In respects freezing is the high nutritional value cousin of canning. The net advantage to freezing foods is that you need less preparation, sterilization and depending on the food little or no cooking. For instance when it comes to most fruit you can literally wash it, cut it to size and freeze it. Once thawed frozen fruit can be used in a given recipe and since it’s been frozen it’s still in whatever shape it was when you stored it. This makes freezing the great alternative for storing acidic foods, and is viable for storing bullion made of herbs or broth concentrates. The down side to freezing comes with unintentional thawing, if the power is out or your refrigerator should malfunction you may be in some trouble.

Personally I use both methods but with a slight modification. Produce from the test garden in late spring through late summer is frozen and anything else is canned. The intention there is to create a stockpile of ‘fresh’ food supplies to add to dry storage foods during the winter. As a trick for this the canned goods are in broth, and that broth is vegetarian base with extra garlic, oregano, basil and rosemary to increase preservative effects. Admittedly if I can get it I often include Perilla with ginger to assist the shelf stability of the canned produce.

That said as some of you might know, I have significant fruit crop harvests and that goes directly to the freezer for use either in baked breads or cakes during the winter or it ends up as a component in brewing. Take for instance this year’s Blueberry harvest, we had a LOT of rabbit eye blueberries to the tune of two and a half pounds frozen, and then some wild picked blue berries came into the picture and this was the result.

Six pounds of blueberries total produced this color, so hard-core!
I’ve no idea what this will end up as, but then it’s all just a fun experiment, and you don’t see many blueberry wines out there either. Who knows this could be 2014’s slammin-ultra-sensation-libation! Ok…channeled Macho Man Randy Savage a bit there….apologies in advance if that blew some of your minds up. But hey how does LITFM follow something that cool up in this post? I know pictures from the field those are definitely gonna finish up the brain-splosion effect.


Adenium obesum – Desert Rose
A Desert Rose in bloom in July, certainly a fitting thank you for all the fuss I put into caring for this fine specimen. For note the desert rose is a caudiciform, or a succulent with a fat trunk that has evolved to store nutrients when the environmental conditions are not ideal.

Aloe hybrid – Silver Ridge Aloe ‘Rare Flare’
For once the foliage isn’t the focus as this aloe is a summer bloomer and in a shade of red-pink that is worthy of note. I sold smaller potted plants from this mover plant last summer and it may return for the summer houseplant season this year. Also some red Gomphrena (annual flower) and Blue African Basil has sort of crowded into the picture.

Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum 'Dark Opal ' – Blue African Basil

In reading the long Latin name above yes blue African basil is a cross between Dark Opal basil and Camphor Basil and bears both of their best traits. This mature specimen is the source of all blue African cuttings I sold this year and has proven to be the fastest rooting plant in the gel propagation tests short of chocolate mint. Because it produces so many flowers the mason bees and other similar insects love this plant.


Aloe deltoides – Checkerboard Aloe
At the corner of the block-row beds, is my Checkerboard Aloe specimen plant. But alongside you can see Aztec Gold African Marigolds and yet more red Gomphrena. The combination gives some good color, form shape and drought tolerance.


Miribilis jalapa – Four ‘O’ Clock & Gomphrena globosa – Globe Amaranth (Purple)

In the bed that had the lupines I planted a number of gomphreana to hold the soil and keep weeds in check then sowed four o clocks and cosmos to begin the perennialization of the bed. For note Four O Clocks are actually perennials in our climate as is the lupines the globe amaranth and cosmos will self-sow.


 The treatment of Squash stem Borers.
"He's an ugly little spud isn't he?!" - The Ghostbusters
  
Yeah my volunteer gourds got the borers so I went on the offensive. In the cases of stems I could move I cut the borers out. Note that where a borer enters he’ll make a gross looking plant seal around the entry hole composed of its dried feces. Usually the borer isn’t far from that so you can see the entry hole plug in the first picture hanging off the stem. Inside is a grub about 1” long that’s all white except its head which is either black or red. In the case of picture one I pried the ugly thing out and killed it. In the case of picture two where I could not move the stem I waited until night and shined a bright LED lamp under the squash stem until I saw a dark mass inside then drove three old sewing pins through the borer to stop it from doing any more damage. The next morning I used a small but very sharp 2” folding knife to cut the now very dead border out of the squash. Needless to say squash borers are little bastards and utterly devastating when your squash is encouraged to grow up on a trellis. On the ground the squash will root at intervals making the borders less effective. If this is a regular problem try butternut squash…no hollow stems plus the borers hat butternut squash for some reason.


Plumbago ariculata – Cape Leadwort
The word Plumbum comes from the Latin word for Lead, Plumbum, which is seen on the Periodic table as Leads short hand Pb. It got the name because of the plants sap creating lead-like stains on the skin leading to the ancients Greeks and Romans to believe it was a cure for Lead Poisoning. The blue flowers also somewhat resembled the color of lead under certain circumstances also. Now keep in mind I got this from the distressed plant bit at Lowes and this type of plumbago is a hardy perennial. It’s already responded to its new home quite nicely.


Amorphophallus alba – White Voodoo Lily (left)
So in the category of odd Latin names Amorphophallus comes from the ancient Greek words Amorphos and Phallus or literally misshapen Penis.  Yes the guys who named plants totally had sex on the brain ALL. THE. TIME. Now why is it in the test gardens? Well for one it’s the white voodoo lily and that makes it kind of rare. The foliage as seen goes well with the Barlowe Double Columbines and has come up thicker this year than any prior year. The flower resembles a Calla lily sort of but the ‘petals’ are more cup like and the actual flower, that thing in the center called a Spadix is sort of well man-bit shaped. It’s one of the few members of the Arum family that can grow around these parts with no special provisions for care. When this blooms…oh how the innuendo will fly.

Hibiscus coccineus ' Texas Star' - Scarlet Rosemallow 'Texas Star'
 I've had a member of this particular breed in the test gardens for years and as some have you have heard the little old lady used to think it was pot and would call the police on me for "flagrantly promoting drugs!" Well now there's a pair of them in the crescent garden and both are blooming, but the flower is so nice I had to snap a picture of it. It's like the tropical hibiscus but with all the native hardy durability so it's literally the best of both worlds. Did I mention the huge red flowers that bear nectar that can attract humming birds?

But with all the garden silliness and funny names being tossed about it’s easy to forget that the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market is open on Wednesdays from 2pm to 6 pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 1 pm. The market is located at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum and runs all year around. There is plenty of parting and there are both bathrooms and an ATM on site within the museum. With every week we get new vendors and the market grows and now we have a food truck that specializes in burgers. So not only can you get your fresh produce but you can now get fresh ice cream lunch and keep up with the best and latest info about the Agriculture scene. But below you can check out the plant offerings this week at the market.

Southward Skies: A northern guide to southern Gardening
This is the second edition of my book, which was published using data compiled from several years of test garden operations. It’s written to aid gardeners of all skill levels in successful garden methods that are targeted for the south east but had proven to be a valued resource for gardens across the eastern coast. It’s certainly a good gift for that gardener you know or for yourself if you’d like to have a reliable field guide. The book costs $25.00 and we do take checks for this item, you can even have it signed.

On Sale: (3x for 5.00)
1x Pepper, Jalapeno, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Pepper, Habenero, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Pepper, Sweet Banana , 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Pepper, Carolina Wonder, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Brown Berry, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Tomato, Martino’s Roma, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Rainbow Cherry Mix, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Red & Yellow Currant, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Reisotomate, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Eggplant, Casper , 3.5” pot ($2.00)

Vegetables
3x Cucumber, Armenian, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Cucumber, Poona Kheera, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Fruits
3x Horned Melon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Vine Peaches, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Herbs
3x Basil, Genovese, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Thai, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Cinnamon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Red Rubin, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($5.00)
3x Lavender, Hidcote, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Oregano, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Rosemary, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Sage, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Thyme, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Toothache Plant 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Ornamental:
1x Passion Vine, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Baloon Flower, White 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Nicotina, Flowering Tobacco, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rudbeckia, Irish Eyes, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rudbeckia, Golden, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Well this concludes another fine and yet somewhat disorderly episode of LITFM, and there’s just one thing to mention here. In terms of precipitation and not counting the total rainfall on Thursday, we had 1.2” of rain spread across two rain events. This is fantastic and a tad ironic because it poured on Monday right after I used the hose to irrigate. But we need the rain pretty bad and T-storm rain waters your plants….LIKE A BAWSSS! *


*If you don’t get that joke look up the lonely Island song Like a boss on youtube, somewhat NSFW. LITFM does not endorse bombing the Russians flying into the sun or for that matter doing anything with sewer fish.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Consumer Considerations



Welcome back to another episode of Lost in the Farmers Market, this week’s topic is the same as every week; garden and sustainability stuff. Before we delve into the main topic I do have to talk briefly about safe shopping for organic and GMO-Free products .

So on this web log we often talk about what it means to be organic from the context of growing a garden but not from the perspective of what it means to buy organic at the store. Indeed there are a number of existing misconceptions about what Organic means and what genetically modified organisms (GMO) has to do in relation to the term organic. For instance, something that is GMO-free may not be organic, and something that is organic may not be GMO-free. The term organic only means that the ingredients used in the product in question were grown and processed in an organic fashion by the standards set down by either the USDA or some other organizational body. I make that distinction because the growing standards of the USDA are not nearly as stringent as those of the Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI) or for that matter the standards of the Oregon Tithe. Just being declared organic without listing without listing whose standards you’re running under is a little like intended deception these days.

The common packaging in the supermarket doesn’t distinguish and the best protection a consumer has is to read the package carefully and then read the ingredients label to verify.  As a case in point, RW Garcia’s Big Bag of yellow Corn Tortilla Chips says it’s made of organic yellow corn and is Non-GMO project verified. When you actually read the ingredients information on the back it says the following.

Ingredients: Organic stone ground yellow corn, sunflower oil or non-organic corn oil, sea salt, water, trace of lime.

So the corn, being the main ingredient is organic, that’s good it’s hard to find GMO-free organic yellow corn these days but that part about the oil does worry me. If the non-organic corn oil is on this particular bag…is said corn also GMO-free? The only good news I can find is that this product was certified by guess who? The Oregon Tithe, who are one of the most ardent organic supporters out there so I can only hope I didn’t get the non-organic tainted bag and even if I did the oil isn’t GMO. For note I sent an Inquiry to W Garcia a bit before this post went up and am still waiting for a response. Admittedly I’m of the view that if a single ingredient in a product is tainted by GMO’s or is non-organic the entire product may as well not be certified as free of both. But pending the response from RW Garcia in this case I’m also withholding a judgment on the product. The point of all this is to remind you the reader that you should carefully scrutinize what you buy at the super market even if it says organic. You are the ultimate gatekeeper of your own health and it is your task to ensure that what you put in your body is at the quality level that you decide.

As it turns out this weekend is set to be pretty nice, with a low chance of rain moderate humidity and lots of sun. With such nice weather the farmer’s market is bound to be packed and as you regular readers out there know I’ll be down there this Saturday and the following Wednesday manning the booth with plants a-plenty. For those who don’t know about the market the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market is located in downtown Fayetteville at 325 Franklin Street in the parking lots of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum. Parking enforcement down town takes the weekend off so you can part on the street or in the municipal lots nearby without problem and shop at the market for as long as you like. As always below is Saturday’s plant list for the 19th of July.

Southward Skies: A northern guide to southern Gardening
This is the second edition of my book, which was published using data compiled from several years of test garden operations. It’s written to aid gardeners of all skill levels in successful garden methods that are targeted for the south east but had proven to be a valued resource for gardens across the eastern coast. It’s certainly a good gift for that gardener you know or for yourself if you’d like to have a reliable field guide. The book costs $25.00 and we do take checks for this item, you can even have it signed.

On Sale: (3x for 5.00)
1x Pepper, Jalapeno, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Pepper, Habenero, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Pepper, Sweet Banana , 3.5” pot ($2.00)
4x Pepper, Carolina Wonder, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Brown Berry, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Tomato, Martino’s Roma, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Rainbow Cherry Mix, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Red & Yellow Currant, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
1x Tomato, Reisotomate, 3.5” pot ($2.00)
3x Eggplant, Casper , 3.5” pot ($2.00)
2x Eggplant, Louisiana Long Green, 3.5” pot ($2.00)

Vegetables
3x Cucumber, Armenian, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Cucumber, Poona Kheera, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Pepper, Lemon Drop, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Fruits
3x Horned Melon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Vine Peaches, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Herbs
3x Basil, Sweet, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Basil, Blue African, , 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Thai, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Cinnamon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Red Rubin, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($5.00)
4x Lavender, Hidcote, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Oregano, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rosemary, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Sage, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Thyme, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Ornamental:
1x Passion Vine, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Nicotina, Flowering Tobacco, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rudbeckia, Irish Eyes, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Rudbeckia, Golden, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Coming Soon:
Muscadine, Copper
Red Egyptian Onions

With the plant list posted and the topics discussed this brings to a close another episode of LITFM. If you have any questions about our content feel free to post a message via this blog or stop by the booth at the farmers market.

Friday, July 11, 2014

July; a month that clearly has no idea what it's doing



Welcome back to a shortened episode of Lost in The Farmers Market. As some of you out there may have noticed there was no episode last week. We decided due to workload that it was a wise idea to take that week off and do a ‘half’ post this week for the same reason. Normal episodes will resume next week and this brings us to the current topic.

As you’ve noticed we had a long stretch with no appreciable rain, the latest thunderstorm on Thursday dropped 0.8” on the test gardens and spread that across a few hours. Some would consider a thunderstorm that takes several hours a bad thing however for the purposes of irrigation and replenishment of ground water a slow rainstorm is actually better than a heavy fast one. One of the obvious reasons a rainy day beats a series of short heavy down pours is that rain over time tends to produce less flooding problems. Now to be fair several days of heavy rain will still cause floods just not of the same sort where water is raging though neighborhoods from a torrential downpour that’s also tossing hail.

I’ve said before that thunderstorms are good for the garden and agriculture in general because with the rain comes a slight dose of atmospheric nitrogen. This nitrogen does not stay but it is there just long enough to green everything up for a few days. I might add if this nitrogen is applied over say a few hours…there is a greater chance for your plants to capture and use more of it, also the slow rain ensures that the soil is moistened to a deeper level than might be possible in a short downpour. In fact a short storm poses a greater chance to increase soil loss by the movement of water. What you have is a debate on how much is enough. The test garden rain barrel water levels were at 50% before as the recent and frequent waves of random thunder-showers have done much to keep the irrigation water supply full.

There is the subtle effect of water passing through the soil structure that we must be wary of. Nutrient loss is a common problem in sand-heavy soils that comes from a lack of organic matter and the tendency of sandy soils to lean towards the acidic side of the pH scale. The varied degrees of Acidity in a given soil will allow or prevent your plants from accessing certain critical nutrients. For instance at a pH of 4.0 Nitrogen, Calcium, Molybdenum, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Manganese and Boron are limited in their availability to your plants and yet at the same pH Iron, Manganese Zinc, Copper and Cobalt are fully available to a potential that may be toxic.  Ironically your ambient soil pH if kept between 6.0 and 7.0 will auto balance what nutrients it has with exception for any generally low nutrient where the pH is not affecting it’s accessibility to your crops.
On a local Level I have talked about how calcium deficiency causes blossom end rot in tomatoes in general but is especially problematic in paste tomatoes. In this case the regular rains are somewhat of a mixed blessing. On one had regular rain means good growth and fruit formation, but on the other hand with every rain my responses to blossom end rot are being washed away.

The quandary here is that the quickest acting materials at hand are reduced in effectiveness by drenching rains. The slowest acting ones are too slow to do anything in the short term. So the response is simply to increase doses of the short term solution (calcium carbonate) and couple it with a median response material (crushed eggshells) and apply a long term solution (agricultural lime). All three things are organic, all three things have the same effect over time and all three leave no lasting side-effects on the local environment. Rain or not, sometimes it takes a creative and multiple stage strategy to defeat nutrient problems in the field.

But enough about the battle against nutrient deficiency,  as always the conversation shifts from plant information to the activity at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. This weekend weather wise is set to be quite nice with temperatures in the 90’s and modest humidity but a very low chance of precipitation. I would say that is rather fortunate as it makes for some good market weather. The Fayetteville Farmer’s Market is located at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville. The market is open on Wednesdays from 2:00 pm through 6:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am through 1:00pm. I might add I maintain a table at both market days and my plant selection varies a bit between so, I can assure you it’s always interesting. I might add this week there are some new selections and this is just the start, as I mentioned a few times before, once we hit mid-July through August the strange plants start appearing at the booth including rare and unusual houseplants. The plant list for the Saturday Market is below and there may be some random extras not listed that make it to the table.

Southward Skies: A northern guide to southern Gardening
This is the second edition of my book, which was published using data compiled from several years of test garden operations. It’s written to aid gardeners of all skill levels in successful garden methods that are targeted for the south east but had proven to be a valued resource for gardens across the eastern coast. It’s certainly a good gift for that gardener you know or for yourself if you’d like to have a reliable field guide. The book costs $25.00 and we do take checks for this item, you can even have it signed.


Vegetables
3x Cucumber, Armenian, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Cucumber, Poona Kheera, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Eggplant, Casper , 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Eggplant, Louisiana Long Green, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Lemon Drop, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Pepper, Jalapeno, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Habenero, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Sweet Banana , 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Carolina Wonder, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Tomato, Brown Berry, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Tomato, Martino’s Roma, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Tomato, Rainbow Cherry Mix, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Tomato, Red & Yellow Currant, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Tomato, Reisotomate, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Fruits
3x Horned Melon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Vine Peaches, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Herbs
4x Basil, Sweet, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Blue African, , 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Thai, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Cinnamon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Basil, Red Rubin, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Chives, Common, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($6.00)
3x Lavender, Hidcote, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Oregano, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Rosemary, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Sage, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
4x Thyme, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Ornamental:
1x Passion Vine, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Coneflower, Cheyenne Spirit, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Rudbeckia, Golden, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Coming Soon:
Muscadine, Copper
Red Egyptian Onions

With the end of the plant materials list for the Saturday market we bring to an end this week’s episode of Lost In The Farmers Market.  Feel free to ask about any of our content at the booth or through this blog. As always, keep ‘em growing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Half Year Past



Welcome back to another episode of lost in the farmer’s market where we look into the ways and means of successful organic gardening with just a dash of comedic content to keep the topics from going to seed. As you may know with next week’s post we are heading into the second half of the year. This of course means the fruits of your labor for the summer harvest should be starting to produce results or are very close so now is a good time to talk about protecting your hard work and how to keep the produce coming. Before we get into that lets talk precipitation, this week the test gardens have received at least 1.1” of precipitation on average which has been supported by a number of brief showers. This comes on the heels of last week’s significant rainfall which is a good thing. Since the major rains in the area tend to be by way of thunderstorms this also means gardens in the area have been receiving atmospheric nitrogen. Adequate water is essential to the success of any garden that is designed to produce food for a house hold or for sale.

The discussion of production isn’t complete without a bit on fertilizer. Now as you might figure if your vegetable crops have been in place for a few months they might need a little boost in preparation for the difficulties of August. July is right around the corner and with it the oppressive heat and common drought of August. This basically sets the stage for a possible case of nutrient deficiency, or a soil fertility issue. Usually in the context of a garden it’s a localized problem take for instance the issue of blossom end rot in tomatoes which in truth is a calcium deficiency.  Most problems can be resolved or prevented with regular applications of water-soluble slow release organic fertilizers which when used in the right measure put back what you remove. It also has to be said that mono-cropping and not making use of crop rotation will only make the issue of nutrient deficiency worse in the long run. On a local note, at the Test gardens one of the tomatoes involved in the trials this year has already exhibited a case of blossom end rot. The real twist to this is that it’s a potted plant that is being grown in fresh soil and thus I have to point out that even with good potting soil you can have nutrient issues. I’ve resolved the issue with hydrated lime suspended in slightly acidic water from the rain barrels and the problem has not recurred but it does highlight that gardeners should always be wary. The link below goes to a document published regarding the varied symptoms of various nutrient deficiencies and is a rather informative read or reference.


Keep in mind in the case of the tomato that suffered blossom end rot even when potted, it was the San Marzano paste tomatoes. They might have been the first large tomato harvested had the entire first batch not suffered end rot. I suspect pate tomatoes just need more calcium in general as this happened last year also.  This is the life of the test garden; you react to whatever situations happen as they come about with the information at hand.

But this leads to the second topic of the week, how does one handle losses to birds and squirrels and such? A lot of visitors at the booth have stated that they often find their tomatoes with bites out of them in the middle of the yard (squirrels). Others have mentioned the birds getting them and basically leaving them still on the vine half eaten/pecked to death. At the test gardens I have problems with critters in both cases and have found a decent way to solve the problem at little or no cost. Some folks get decoy owls, or those weird inflatable balls that have bright colors, some get fox urine, of dangle old CD’s up or foil strips. The problem is birds and squirrels quickly adapt to these things, and let’s face it netting over your crops is a massive pain in the rear end. Admittedly I’ve never used a single one as the frustrations with these methods that are voiced at the booth at the farmer’s market as well as when I’m out doing landscaping have ruled out these options. So many people could not be so dissatisfied if it was effective. With that said this is how I handle it, instead of fancy and expensive stuff I will often ‘jacket’ the fruit of crops that are vulnerable to birds and squirrels.


Before you ask no, this is not a micro-greenhouse technique.

The use of plastic zip lock type sandwich bags protects tomatoes because for some reason the birds cannot quite tell they are ripe and the squirrels tend to leave them alone probably because of the plastic. I should say that in the bottom of each bag I cut three 1” slits to allow the fruit inside to breathe and to prevent water from collecting inside. The alternative means of ‘Jacketing’ a crop can be seen in the below picture.


Figs require a different method as they will not tolerate plastic.
For the White Ischia figs that ripened within the last few days (this is early, I think) it posed the problem of dealing with the bird population. Last year I field tested the use of muslin bags over the fruits that were gently tied to the branches of the fig bushes with great success. This year the process was repeated and for the early harvest I only lost two ripe figs to birds out of 23 which is a remarkable success rate. Basically this version allows the fruit to breathe but also removes the ripening fruit from sight so it’s not as much of a target. This method has only been tested with the figs, because of their slow ripening habits. Unlike other fruits figs generally are ripe when the fruit are very swollen, have a slight gloss to their skin and are very soft to the touch. I might add figs sag when ripe as if too heavy for their stems to support. The end result of all this  effort can be seen in the next picture.


Last week’s Mexico midget and Cherokee purple tomato harvest plus the first five figs of the year.
It does payoff to be vigilant, but it also pays off to be wise about how you manage your crops. As a final note for this post before we get to the market stuff, someone last week asked about caterpillars and the “eggs” they leave on the soil. Catapillars have this biological mechanism that allows them to fling their feces a distance away to prevent wasps from finding them. And so you get what I found in the house this week a caterpillar on one of my rhipsalis that seeming came from nowhere the following occurred right after.

Why Hi Mr. caterpillar, have seen you in a while.

What the hell? Did you just crap all over the living room?
Needless to say I don’t know how he got on that plant as it’s never been outside but he had to go and there was a cleanup after the fact. For note this is probably the first time we've resorted to toilet humor at LITFM, it was a barrier that needed breaking anyway.

But now I must move on to the Farmers Market stuff and indeed we appear to have a decent weekend coming up. Thought eh weather has a chance to throw a thunderstorm like it has had every day for the last two weeks that should not prevent you from hitting up the market. For those who have not heard the Fayettville Farmer’s Market is located at 325 Franklin Street, in downtown Fayetteville in the front parking lot and lawn area of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum. The market runs on both Wednesdays between 2pm and 6pm and on Saturdays between 9am and 1pm. This gives all of you two chances to get the freshest foods in Fayetteville and to hit up my booth for information and  GMO-Free, organic plants for your garden. Without further ado here is this Saturday’s Plant list.

Southward Skies: A northern guide to southern Gardening
This is the second edition of my book, which was published using data compiled from several years of test garden operations. It’s written to aid gardeners of all skill levels in successful garden methods that are targeted for the south east but had proven to be a valued resource for gardens across the eastern coast. It’s certainly a good gift for that gardener you know or for yourself if you’d like to have a reliable field guide. The book costs $25.00 and we do take checks for this item, you can even have it signed.


Vegetables
2x Amaranth, Tricolor, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Cucumber, Armenian, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Cucumber, Poona Kheera, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Eggplant, Casper , 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Eggplant, Louisiana Long Green, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Jalapeno, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Habenero, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Sweet Banana , 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Pepper, Carolina Wonder, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Tomato, Brown Berry, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Tomato, Martino’s Roma, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Tomato, Rainbow Cherry Mix, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Tomato, Red & Yellow Currant, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Tomato, Reisotomate, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Tomato, Underground Railroad, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Fruits
2x Cape Gooseberry, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Ground Cherry, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Horned Melon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Vine Peaches, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Herbs
4x Basil, Sweet, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Thai, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Cinnamon, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Basil, Red Rubin, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Artemesia, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Chives, Common, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Fennel, Black, 7” pot ($6.00)
2x Lavender, Hidcote, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Oregano, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Parsley, Italian, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Rosemary, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Sage, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Thyme, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Ornamental:
1x Passion Vine, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Coneflower, White Swan, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Coneflower, Cheyenne Spirit, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Coneflower, Magnus, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
3x Rudbeckia, Golden, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
1x Rudbeckia, Irish Eyes, 3.5” pot ($3.00)
2x Rudbeckia, Summer Sun, 3.5” pot ($3.00)

Coming Soon:
Black Hungarian Pepper
Potatoleaf Hillbilly Tomato
Japanese Black Trifele Tomato
Muscadine, Copper

I admit this episode was a tad wordy however it is now at it's end, and I hope you enjoyed it. Next week caps off the real summer series, as we document things like the pepper trials and other stuff going on around the gardens. As always folks watch for lighting, carry an umbrella and never ever allow a caterpillar as a house guest they  seriously think the world is toilet paper. As always folks keep 'em growing!