Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ain't no time for the summertime blues!

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market. For this week’s episode we are spotlighting a specific garden annual that is native to the United States. If you believe the agricultural chemical companies this annual plant is one of the scourges of the perfectly trimmed lawn. Then again I like to suggest that the perfectly trimmed lawn is the scourge of the landscape as it is thoroughly impossible to maintain because it is unnatural. The very idea of having a neatly mowed lawn around your property comes from the deception of wealth.  Anyone who was rich enough did not need to grow a garden to supplement their food supply and thus could afford to demonstrate their wealth by having a lawn. In practice lawns serve no real purpose other than erosion control, and realistically the amount of fertilizers and chemicals needed to maintain a lawn is prohibitive. Of course, the golf industry isn’t helping at all, as they often get legal allowances that let them skirt drought restrictions and chemical runoff laws. 

All that leads us back to the topic, what is a gardener to do about drought, and what specific crop is commonly found as an annual in your lawn. The answer is a group of plants commonly called the Purselane group, their scientific name is Portulaca and they are a native succulent annual that prefers the hot season and tolerates a wide variety of poor soils. You may have seen Purselane before at the garden center because fancy-flowering versions look like the picture below.

Portulaca sp. – Flat leaf Purselane [Variety unknown]
Purselanes are known for their large ‘cactus’ flowers, but this variety has been bred to be exceptionally flamboyant. The specimen pictured was cultivated from a stem cutting. Fortunately Purselane is easily cultivated from stem cuttings and responds well to rooting hormones. But commonly Portulaca will self-propagate from seed and if sown in the right spot will form regular mats of vibrantly colored flowers. The most common variety of Purselane grown this way is commonly called Moss Rose, and it’s scientific name is Portulaca grandiflora. Moss Rose is edible, but the thin needle like leaves are hard to harvest and so moss rose is primarily used as a annual ornamental.

Portulaca oleracea – Flat leaf Purselane (Red Grunner and Goldgelber)

            The flat-leaf Purselane group is known as Portulaca oleracea. Flat-leaf Portulaca has wide flat leaves that are easy to harvest and make for a great crunchy addition to a salad or if you have enough of them and interesting thing to add to a stir-fry. It is only very recently that the Industry has picked up on these easy to grow plants and begun hybridizing a wide array of bloom colors. Fortunately purselanes are easy to grow, drought resistant, and free of pests so they make for a good garden option. With that said below you will find the Market list for both Wednesday and Saturday.

The Fayetteville City market occurs twice weekly at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum on 325 Franklin Street. The Wednesday market runs from 12:00 to 5:00 pm and the Saturday Market runs from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. If you look below; the new plant list for this week includes some new selections.

4x Purselane, Red Gruner - $4.00
4x Purselane, Goldgelber - $4.00
3x Pepper, Flashpoint Habanero - $3.00
8x Pepper, Novelty - $5.00

3x Tomato, Pink Stuffer - $3.00
3x Tomato, Grand Rapids Cherry- $3.00
3x Tomato, Traveler 76 - $3.00
3x Tomato, Black Krim - $3.00
3x Tomato, Cherokee Purple - $3.00
3x Tomato, Brandywine - $3.00

2x Sweet Basil - $3.00
4x Cinnamon Basil - $3.00
2x Milkweed (A. tuberosum) - $ 4.00
2x Milkweed (A.incarnata) - $ 4.00

2x Small Aloe Vera - $3.00
6x Medium Aloe Vera - $4.00
2x Large Aloe Vera - $6.00

Monday, July 6, 2015

Special Delivery

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market. This episode will be posted late simply because of the Holiday weekend.  For those not in the USA, this weekend is Independence day which is a celebration of the end of the American Revolution, and the series of events that led up to it and came immediately afterwards. I hope that all you readers out there have a happy and safe 4th of July.

First off we have the above image. This is a picture of the ‘turning area’ at the headquarters. It high lights one of the points of confusion between northern and southern gardens. In the south, the number of pine trees means that the cheapest available mulch is what is called pine straw.  At the store it might cost 3-5 dollars per bale, but if you have pine trees you get it for free. As far as mulches go, pine straw is light, cheap, and if it’s harvested from long leaf pines it lasts for roughly 2-3 years. Mulch acquired from bark, or chipped hard wood by comparison lasts 1-2 years on average depending on type. The point of mulch is twofold; firstly it limits or stops erosion by water by acting as a physical barrier to hold the soil in place. Secondly, mulch acts as a slow releasing soil improvement since mulches from pine straw, bark or wood chips all eventually decay leaving behind organic materials that help improve topsoil quality. In the picture above a lot of moderate quality pine straw has been used to cover what was bare sand soil. In doing so, the soil beneath the pine straw can only erode at a limited rate. This means that even with restricted vehicle traffic, the erosion issue in this area has been successfully abated at the cost of using 204 cubic feet of pine straw. Eventually the pine straw will break down and need to be patched or replenished but until then it looks good. For note, if you notice there is no pine straw under the truck. This lack of pine straw there is intentional as pine straw still contains pine resin and potentially can still catch fire if exposed to a source of heat such as a hit vehicle engine. Also, this is why I balk at the use of Rubber mulch; it does not break down and only leaches zinc into the soil making it a poor choice for residential use in the garden.

But speaking of soil and such with the entry into the month of July, it is now that we must keep a wary eye on our nightshade crops for that summertime scourge known as blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is a ‘disease’ that actually is a nutrient deficiency. For some reason in the peak of summer members of the nightshade family, particularly tomatoes  might start getting blackened bottoms on fruits while they are in the green stage typically. The long-term solution to this problem is to use a little fast-acting lime, oyster shells or, eggshells. The short term and fastest solution is to crush one regular strength antacid tablet in a cup of water and apply the mixture to the single effected plant and repeat process for each other affected plant.  Why this nutrient deficiency strikes is unclear. It is known that bloom end rot will attack potted plants even if they are growing in new potting soil and plants planted in your garden beds with equal opportunity. It seems to strike different plants every year and with no set pattern. It’s one of those summertime vigilance things that all of you out there should pay attention to. But don’t worry, here’s the good news, garden photography!

So here we have an improvised irrigation system for one of the figs. This fig came into my possession in fall of last year, I don’t outright recall the person’s name but they were moving had this brown turkey fig potted up in a 16” pot and could not take it so it was offered to me. I carted the bush away brought it home and it the cold weather set in before I could get it planted. As seen in earlier images it was finally planted near the growing trays so it could make use of the fertilizer runoff and be much easier to maintain. The bucket is an old brewing vessel that proved unneeded. Inside of it is a layer of large stones and a single small hole was bored in the bottom so water or fertilizer placed inside drips out slowly right at the roots of the target plant. The lid is weighted so it cannot blow off and the old non-functional airlock ensures air exchange. With a two-gallon capacity if can mimic a good ½” to 1” rain depending on climate conditions roughly speaking.

In this image some of the surplus rudbeckia have decided to bloom, I think they’re one of the Indian summer types I sold last year. They were in bad shape when planted and I didn’t expect them to survive winter.

In this image we have a mix of three types of cone flower, some Echibekias which are a rudbeckia-Echinacea hybrid and in the upper left the leaves of perennial cabbage.

I think this is a Sumerina Yellow Echibeckia, the last image had an orange one.

Vaccinium ashii – Rabbit Eye Blueberry
It’s that time of the year and the blue berry crop is off the charts already. My four bushes are so loaded with berries they’re bent over from the weight. I’ve already harvested a pound and a half.

Lilium sp. ‘Rio Negro’ – Asiatic Lily
Honestly, they’re dark pink! With a name like Rio Negro I expected dark red or, a darker shade, but then I’m not complaining at all.

Lilium sp. ‘Purple Prince’ – Asiatic Lily
Ok so this Asiatic lily is at least sort of purple it’s not nearly as flamboyant as Rio but still very nice. Obviously this is an overdue post, so there is no farmers market info attached, stay tuned for this week’s post where I’ll include the plants list and introduce you to a garden plant you may not have considered before.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The end of June 2015

Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmers Market. I have to open this post with a bit about weather safety. As you may realize, the recent weather has brought us a lot of rain, but also with it comes a bit of danger. As those of you who live in Fayetteville might have noticed, the thunderstorms while excellent at providing much needed rain, are also perfect conditions for high winds, potential tornadoes, flash floods and or hail. There is also the risk of downed trees, and flying debris to consider. In our last storm we received 1.6” of rain and the one before that 2” and the mega storm two weeks ago 3”, this poses several problems. The fertilizer you applied in your fields may have washed out, yet you’re getting a mega-dose of atmospheric nitrogen. Likewise with all the water flowing through you may have lost some topsoil. These storm cycles are excellent for certain crops such as figs but terrible for more delicate fruits. In the end I advise that all of you who read this remember to take caution during storms, the severe weather advisories seen on TV and the Radio are no joke even if the weird sound effects on the radio ones make them seem so.
With that in mind I did not attend the Saturday market this week because of the weather, we had a line of ugly storms come through on Friday evening and they persisted into the early morning hours of Saturday. Honestly, with the high daytime temperatures and the thunderstorm activity, I think we can officially call it Monsoon season. Despite this, as you know, we are in the middle of transfer season, the spring veggies are nearing their end, but the summer herbs, and perennials are just about to begin. I’ll keep a variety of peppers tomatoes and a few other odds and ends available, but expect more of the fine summer specials, and of course aloe vera plants in three sizes for your medicinal enjoyment. The new plant list should be available and posted up here later in the week.  In the next post I’m going to show you some tricks to help keep your garden irrigated in these difficult weather conditions. For this week I finish this post with a photo or two.

Aloe barbadensis/vera – Medicinal Aloe
This is ‘Big Mother’ the oldest aloe in the collection and the largest potted house plant I own. I’ve had this plant for about five years, and for most of that time it has been in an small 6” pot. The aloe plant was so heavy that it used to top over its old pot so I had to put it in a large thick-walled container made out of terra cotta and weigh it down with stones so it would not tip over. Earlier this year ‘Big Mother’ was repotted finally to a much larger 12” pot as seen in the picture. All the little aloes I’m selling came from this one plant and as you can see, this aloe is now free of pups.  Grown 100% organically, you will have a hard time finding healthier plants.

Adenium obesum – Desert Rose
The desert Rose is one of those plants that a plant enthusiast seeks out for the reward of its blooms. Sort of like a Holiday cactus in use, the Desert rose validates the effort to find one by blooming once a year with stunning blooms that are pink, red or some shade in-between. A well cared for Desert rose will bloom twice a year or in the case of mine twice a year and on every stem. The blooms can be so heavy that the stems bend and desert roses can get so large that they resemble a small shrub with corky bark. As for care, you barely water or fertilize this succulent and treat it like a true tropical. This puts a cork in the bottle for this weeks post, check back for another post later detailing the current plant selection and DIY irrigation tricks.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Riders On the Storm!

Welcome back to another Thunderstorm-Straddling episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. As you can tell the heat is on and summer officially begins on Saturday, More so the 4th of July occurs the following Saturday so I hope all of you are prepared for a super-happy Fun time week because between those two events it’s going to be off the charts. For today’s topic first I have this image as taken through my office window at the headquarters.

This thunderstorm was an on and off affair lasting a little over an hour and was full of the expected thunder and lightning. But some of you may be wondering what the fuss over a thunderstorm is and that is a simple question to answer. From a basic perspective thunderstorms occur when a mass of cold air meats a mass of warm air causing the fronts to mix and respond with precipitation and of course thunder and lightning. But one other advantage is that the Atmospheric pressure creates both wind and extracts nitrogen from the atmosphere which is delivered to the fields and garden in a soluble form in rain. This alone makes thunderstorms important because they basically both water and fertilize the land. After a series of thunderstorms everything looks super green because all the plants have gotten a nitrogen boost and nitrogen causes a growth spurt and intense greening in plants. Too much nitrogen can cause a plant’s cells to burn out, where as too little causes most plants to become pale and lack vigor. The problem is that nitrogen is capricious, in that it never stays in the soil and thus even the USDA doesn’t bother testing soil samples for it because they know there will be no accuracy in the readings.

Typically we apply nitrogen in a water-soluble form known as Urea nitrogen, which is called urea because we first identified it as a chemical in *drum roll* urine. Fish in a fish tank exchange their urea through their gills which is why when you change the water in your aquariums the water makes for a decent fertilizer. Other creatures exude urea through the skin (amphibians) and in their bodily wastes (birds). If you’ve ever been to a place like Flow & Grow in town, you might see some of the Sunleaves brand bird guano and bat guano fertilizer products. In this case both often have high nitrogen levels but also respectable potassium and phosphorous content. This is because of those two animal’s particular diets. Sea birds eat fish, and fish inherently have a fair amount of urea in their systems. Likewise bats often eat insects and from their chitin exoskeletons calcium, phosphorous and potassium can be extracted through digestion.  In order for these wastes to be processed into fertilizers often they are dried and sterilized so that no pathogens are passed to the user. This leads to one thing that has to be said.

I do not recommend any of you out there using your own bodily wastes as fertilizer or compost due to the risk of transmitting communicable diseases such as typhoid and cholera and or parasites. There are systems like the Bio-toilet out there that allow you to compost your own bodily wastes but if you are going to embark on this I really, suggest you do thorough research first. Oh and make sure you wash your hands…seriously it’s gross.  Moving along there is one happy side effect of having a thunderstorm and that is that frequent but non-drenching rains promotes what I like to call advantageous volunteers. In the new bed that is still under construction a bumper crop of crab grass has appeared and is helping hold the soil in place but in between it a number of edibles have emerged.

This is red Calaloo or a type of amaranth. It volunteered in the new bed from last years seed no doubt. Some see amaranth as a weed, I see it as an edible forage plant with many native edible relatives plus it’s a useful drought tolerant garden plant with an interesting color.

Check this out, of all the rotted sweet potatoes, one somehow survived the winter to sprout in the new bed from the compost I used to build this bed up. I doubt I’ll get anything out of it but it’s still cool to see a success story.

I don’t know the species but I like that some form of squash or gourd is creeping out of the new bed purely on a volunteer basis, this is the most developed out of several examples of volunteering squash in the bed.

This wraps up this week’s post, the market report for this Saturday’s market is on the prior post and this Saturday marks the first Saturday that I am offering Medicinal Aloes for sale. So stop on by and get your instant herbal burn relief.