Wednesday, April 4, 2018

At last we have spring...maybe


            Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market, where we take a look into varied topics regarding sustainability, horticulture and organic practices. Continuing our tradition of shifting to garden topics as the weather warms this week’s post begins with an updated photo of the Memorial bed within the test gardens.

Thalia turned out to be color changing, a nice surprise.

This picture bears some explaining, in a prior post I may have noted that the test gardens were planned to be expanded every year for five years and the addition of these daffodils are part of the 2018 expansion. The variety is called Thalia and when I bought two bags of fifteen bulbs last fall the picture on the front of the package indicated that they would be pure white thus matching the motif of the memorial bed. When they came up and bloomed they were almost a bright butter-yellow sort of color and for the briefest of moments I thought the package had been mislabeled. Little did I know, each one actually fades to a warm white making them an interesting addition to the garden and within the color standards of the garden.  You can bet that more photos will be posted up here when the other bulbs planted in this garden start blooming. Speaking of things that bloomed unexpectedly in one way or another the second photo of this post is below.

In most instances sage seems to dislike our weather.
This is common sage or Salvia officinalis, and sage in general has a somewhat difficult time in our climate either due to our high heat, humidity or lack of a properly cold winter. However, when we do have a cold winter like we did this year Sage will bloom and that alone makes growing sage very much worth the effort and frustration. For those who have never seen common sage bloom it has the most gorgeous sky-blue flowers that are only rivaled by those of Chicory (chichorium intybus). Unfortunately, in the test gardens I have to replace my entire sage row every few years because they peter out no matter what I do. While they are here they provide seasonings for the soup kits and their gray-green foliage provides contrast against the nearby black fennel. Speaking of things that give me difficulty, take a look at the picture below.

Now that I can get it to grow I have no idea what to do with it.
This strange looking but super healthy plant is Rhubarb which is also known by it’s scientific name, Rheum rhabarbarum. Honestly with a scientific name like that no wonder we stick to calling it Rhubarb, though I must admit this is one of those plants I had very little success with until recently. As it turns out rhubarb seems to like being in a very large pot that’s filled with potting soil that’s been spiked with compost and other organic soil amendments. It doesn’t seem to like receiving afternoon sun. It also seems impervious to exceptionally cold temperatures so remaining in a post exposed isn’t a problem during it’s dormancy over the winter. Though the picture doesn’t do it justice, those leaves are a foot long, and for some strange reason the stems aren’t bright red. Even so, I am not complaining because this deciduous perennial is going to be a conversation piece for the Annual garden tour which is slated to be the first Sunday of May. 

For note this is where the advertising starts because it keeps the Test Garden’s supplied and running tests so you don’t have to. If you want to get some GMO-free, Organic vegetables, herbs and fruiting shrubs come on down to the Fayetteville City Market on 325 Maxwell Street in downtown Fayetteville between he Hours of 9:00 am and 1:00 pm on Saturdays. Barring bad weather, I’ll be there selling the following spring offerings while supplies last.

Plants Available Now:
Lettuce, Parris Island – $3.00
Kale, Lacinato/Dinosaur – $3.00
Kale, Scarletbor - $3.00
Kohlrabi, Purple Vienna - $3.00
Peppers, Sweet Banana - $3.00
Peppers, Tobasco - $3.00
Swiss Chard - $3.00
Tomato, Brandywine - $3.00
Tomato, Black Krim - $3.00
Tomato, Golden Jubilee - $3.00
Tomato, Glacier - $3.00
Tomato, Mountain Spring - $3.00
Tomato, Sungold - $3.00
Tomato, Sweet 100 - $3.00

Basil, Genovese - $3.00
Basil, Thai - $3.00
Burnet, Salad - $3.00
Chamomile, Roman - $3.00
Chives - $3.00
Fennel, Bronze - $3.00
Lemon Grass - $3.00
Lavender, English - $3.00
Oregano, Italian - $3.00
Parsley, Italian - $3.00
Rue - $3.00
Savory, Winter - $3.00
Shiso, Red - $3.00
Tansy - $3.00
Thyme, English - $3.00

Mulberry, Dwarf (2 gal pot) - $15.00 (last one in stock)
Raspberry, Heritage (2 gal pot)

Coming Soon:
Santolina (aka Lavender-Cotton)
Hops, Zeus
Hops, Cascade
Figs, (assorted) (0.5 Gallon pot)
Raspberry, Heritage (2 gallon pot)

If the market isn’t your thing or your schedule does not allow you to go there my premium exotic house plants can be purchased in attractive clay pots with unique embellishments at LeClair’s General Store. LeClair’s General Store is located on 1212 Fort Bragg Road in Fayetteville North Carolina.

This is their Facebook Page:

The Visit NC page’s Listing:

Most recent deliveries to Leclairs:
1x 6” standard pot - Purple Glory Bush, Tibouchina granulosa
2x 6.5” rimless pot – Zebra Plant, Aphelandra squarrosa
2x 4” standard pot – Shark’s Tooth Cactus, Crassula corymbulosa
2x 4” standard pot – Creeping Pineapple, Abromeitiella brevifolia
2x 3.5” standard pot -  Pagoda Cactus, Crassula capitella
2x 3.5” standard pot – String of Lemons, Senecio citriformis

These days I am generally at the store at least twice a week, maintaining stock and/or delivering new materials so if you go to visit the store there is a fair chance I’ll be present to answer your questions. If not, you can always send me questions through this blog or visit the farmer’s market or pay attention to what Sustainable Neighbors is doing at the link below.


            This brings to a close the seventh LITFM post of the new year, stay tuned the next episode which should be posted roughly around the 18th of April.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Genesis of a Viewpoint


Welcome back to another episode of Lost In The Farmer’s Market, where we take a look into varied topics regarding sustainability, horticulture and organic practices.  Now this week’s topic was supposed to cover a look at the diversity of the prickly pear family but due to non-

photogenic plant stock and some delays in writing this post the topic has changed just a little bit. Firstly, Easter is this upcoming Sunday and that is the unofficial last frost date in North Carolina. This means yes you can get out there and really start gardening like you mean it, but I would exercise some caution and be mindful of the weather forecasts as our weather has been a bit wobbly this year. Weather woes aside this week’s delayed topic has to do with something around which a lot of big industry revolves. I thought it’d be wise to cap off spring 2018 with a discussion of what defines a weed. You would think the definition of a weed was a very simplistic one but depending on whom you ask the definition varies widely. If you talk to an herbicide company (e.g. Ortho) the list is fairly broad it’s often anything that dares to compete with the grass in your lawn including some species of grass such as non-hybrid Bermuda grass. If you ask a lawn care company (e.g. Truegreen) they are going to tell you what the aforementioned herbicide company did, but they are also going to add to the list just to make an extra few bucks spraying for things that aren’t even a hazard. A third perspective which is much closer to the truth is that of an Agricultural technology college, where the definition is simply that a weed is ‘A plant that is in the wrong place’. This education-oriented answer is one I have personally espoused for a number of years because it is one of the fairer definitions. It is never the fault of a dandelion that it’s seed held aloft on tiny filaments landed where it did due to a fickle wind current. These things cannot be helped, you simply cannot sterilize every inch of soil nor deadhead every bloom or spray every ‘weed’. A perfect weed-free yard is physically impossible it’s an unattainable dream sold to the home owner by a corporate-industrial sales team that wants you to very much become reliant on their product.

But this leads to another interesting definition, and it is one that I think is the best way to define a weed. While I do not recall who said it, ‘A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.’ is an absolutely accurate definition. I would add in that a weed is also a plant whose virtues have been forgotten and are possibly so unprofitable for a corporation to market that it has been intentionally discredited. A good example of this can be potentially found in the Tropical Soursop which is a relative of the native Pawpaw and the equally tropical Cherimoya. Soursop is said to have anti-cancer compounds in it but the research on it’s efficacy is sparse at best. The big pharmaceutical companies can’t market it because they can’t patent a naturally occurring plant and they can’t reproduce its active compounds in a lab. So aside from providing fruit, it’s a plant that could be called a weed because there is no money to be made. I suppose this is the modern face of greed, it’s not about helping people it’s about making stacks of dollars with little regard to the suffering of others. This single-mindedness is abhorrent to me and I am not even a party to it; it is a vile sort of slow state of self-destruction. But, shaming the industry isn’t the point of this article, I want to introduce you to something some of you out there might find surprising.

Taraxicum officinale – True Medicinal Dandelion

This is a sign of the times, a true dandelion that was carefully dug out of the yard and nurtured from last fall through to now. Taken from a survive or die situation this perennial herb is stately when it’s getting all that it needs and it doesn’t have to struggle every day just to make due. It’s a far cry from some of the straggly ones you see in the yard isn’t it? I repotted this in late January and found it’s taproot was easily as big as it’s upper leaf mass. If you’ve never seen a Dandelion’s taproot let me tell you, it’s the color of a fresh parsnip, and can be curled, gnarled or perfectly straight and this one’s was curled and healthy. Some of you who read this are probably wondering why I’m even bothering to grow this. The answer is simple I tried to grow dandelions from French stock (richters seed, 2011) that was bred for big roots so that I could grow my own ingredients for stew (leaves), wine (flowers) and well coffee (roots) and virtually none of the seeds ever sprouted; the few that did simply didn’t make it very far as the southern heat scorched them into oblivion. I tried all kinds of things, with no success which is somewhat ironic because the Chicory (Chichorium intybus) seed that I ordered and grew from the same lot sprouted and is now a perennial feature in a section of a raised bed. I gave up on the dandelions for a while so that I might try other things but in the last two years, true dandelions started to appear in the yard voluntarily. Ironically, they are growing in the back yard where I mow very little and along side varying forms of Dock (Rumex sp.). The Dock family is also known as Sheep Sorrel which amongst weeds has had its virtues proven as it has a cousin that is a showy foliage-based garden perennial in the form of Bloody Dock (Rumex sanguinea). I admit to not knowing why or how the Dandelions suddenly started appearing and growing successfully but I would imagine our weather has something to do with it given that it’s been colder in the winter and warmer in the summer over the last decade or so. It may be that the cold was enough to allow seed that lay dormant in the soil for decades to finally sprout and these Dandelions have been here the whole time waiting for their chance.

On a personal level I’ve come to believe with good supporting evidence that the best definition of a weed is simple. A weed is something that represents all the things that money cannot control, it’s the source of medicine that cannot be owned that actually cures the ailments of the many while it also denies the accumulation of unnecessary wealth. As a final note on the topic I should note that in the Fayetteville area there are two very similar common garden ‘weeds’ that often get mistaken for dandelions. The first is called Prickly or Wild Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) which is a member of the daisy family and is actually a wild cousin of the lettuce we buy at the market. Wild lettuce is edible but I do suggest consulting a credible publication on how to prepare it (see below).
 
Wild lettuce has a close relative called prickly lettuce, both are in the aster family.
Cat's Ear Dandelion is often more common than true dandelion in Fayetteville.
A second look-alike is the Cat’s Ear Dandelion (Hypochoeris radicata) which as far as I know can be used medicinally and may be edible. This comes with the proviso that you should thoroughly research the edibility of a given ‘weed’ and its preparation methods before you eat it. A good credible publication which I use to determine both edibility and preparation is the Field Guide To North American Edible Wild Plants by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman. I don’t know if this book is still in print but it should be available on Amazon or a similar online service as a hardcopy since it definitely predated the e-reader fad. This brings to a close the second post of March 2018 and while this post was delayed due to a internet outage, it’s better late than never given the circumstances and borrowing wifi.

For note this is where the advertising starts because it keeps the Test Garden’s supplied and running tests so you don’t have to. If you want to get some GMO-free, Organic vegetables, herbs and fruiting shrubs come on down to the Fayetteville City Market on 325 Maxwell Street in downtown Fayetteville between he Hours of 9:00 am and 1:00 pm on Saturdays. Barring bad weather, I’ll be there selling the following spring offerings while supplies last.

Plants Available Now:
Parris Island Romaine Lettuce – $3.00
Lacinato/Dinosaur Kale – $3.00
Italian Parsley – $3.00
Kohlrabi, Purple Vienna - $3.00
Chives - $3.00
Salad Burnet - $3.00
Savory - $3.00
English Thyme - $3.00
Oregano, Italian - $3.00
Fennel, Bronze - $3.00
Chamomile, Roman - $3.00
Rue - $3.00
Lavender, English - $3.00
Mulberry, Dwarf  (2 gal pot) - $15.00


Coming Soon:
Basil, Sweet Genovese (in April)
Swiss Chard
Sage
Santolina (aka Lavender-Cotton)
Hummingbird Mint, Golden Jubilee
Tomatoes
Peppers
Hops, Zeus
Hops, Cascade
Figs, (assorted) (0.5 Gallon pot)
Raspberry, Heritage (2 gallon pot)


If the market isn’t your thing or your schedule does not allow you to go there my premium exotic house plants can be purchased in attractive clay pots with unique embellishments at LeClair’s General Store. LeClair’s General Store is located on 1212 Fort Bragg Road in Fayetteville North Carolina.

This is their Facebook Page:

The Visit NC page’s Listing:

These days I am generally at the store at least twice a week, maintaining stock and/or delivering new materials so if you go to visit the store there is a fair chance I’ll be present to answer your questions. If not, you can always send me questions through this blog or visit the farmer’s market or pay attention to what Sustainable Neighbors is doing at the link below.


            This brings to a close the sixth LITFM post of the new year, stay tuned the next episode which should be posted roughly around the 4th of April assuming the internet outage issue is solved.