Sunday, February 26, 2012
Part One: Things to Consider
Welcome back to another weekly installment of Lost in the Farmer’s Market! Before I start today’s topic I wanted to recap some of what was discussed at the Neighborhood Grange meeting for those in the Fayetteville area who could not be present and those who wanted the full details of what was said.
1. Raised bed versus Mound bed design
I briefly expounded on Marsha’s comments on garden design by covering the science of bed designs. The two styles she specifically discussed; the mound and raised bed styles have the following advantages and disadvantages.
Mound bed advantages:
-Can be placed over any soil.
-Can be any shape.
Mound Bed Disadvantages:
-Lawn grass and weed encroachment.
-Fertilizer residuals flush out of the soil readily.
Raised Bed Advantages:
-Soil stays warmer Longer.
-Walling material stops or slows soil erosion by water and wind.
-Great variance in height allowing for handicapped access.
Raised Bed Disadvantages:
-Higher cost to build.
-Cheapest designs limit gardener to angular shapes.
-More difficult to flush out residuals from fertilizers.
2. The combinations of plants for better productivity.
We talked on combining plants that help each other as Marsha put it plants that give, put back, and help sustain. I listed two trios of plants that do this and Marsha herself noted a very important one.
-Cabbages, Legumes, Strongly Scented Herbs.
-Tomatoes, Carrots, Basil.
3. Neglect-tolerant plants
At the request of a fellow ‘granger’ I discussed briefly some garden produce plants that are neglect resistant. Due to time constraints I could not cover the full list of ‘easy-care’ plants.
1. Cabbage Family (Leaf group)
2. Southern Peas
3. The Solanum group (Pepper, Eggplant, Wonderberry, Garden Huckleberry/ Physalis: Ground Cherry & Tomatillo/ Ipomoea Sweet Potato)
5. Jerusalem Artichokes (Helianthus)
1. Mint Family ( Rosemary, Mint, Sage, Basil, Savory)
2. Borage Family (Borage, Comfrey)
4. Apiaceae (Parsley, Parsnip, Dill, Fennel, Carrot.)
5. Aster Family (Tansy, Coneflower, Feverfew, Artemesia, Tarragon, Santolina)
5. Kiwi / Loquat / Blackberry (tied for 5th)
1. Prickly Pear
3. Aster Family (Coreopsis, Rudbeckia, Zinnia, Marigold, Eupatorium, Sunflower)
5. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Now with the recap handled for today’s neighborhood grange meeting I present today’s LITFM article!.
It is late February, all the seed catalogs have arrived, and now you’re no doubt itching to do something. The weather seems to mock you by being gorgeous one day then the next cold wet and miserable. In the north it’s a deep freeze and you’re being driven crazy by cabin fever. In the south, the weather seems to be toying with you. Thus the quandary comes along with that gardener’s itch. The itch I mean can’t be cured by an over the counter cream from a pharmacy, no it’s the want to grow something, anything! This is an urge all of us of the green thumb suffer with, its February spring is so close we can literally throw a rock and hit it in the eye; it cannot come soon enough. What is a gardener to do in such a case, well thankfully several things!
If your plants need it now would be a good time to perform repotting, most house plants are not actively growing and will suffer less transplant shock in the winter from such actions. Here is the Basic method to transplanting a houseplant or overwintered outdoor plant.
1. Obtain a pot no more then 1” larger in diameter.
2. Use a soil mix of the same type as you used in prior potting of the plant.
3. Lay out newspaper over your work area.
4. Turn the plant sideways and carefully tap the sides of the pot to loosen roots and soil.
5. Carefully wiggle the plant and the root ball out of the pot, if it fails to loosen repeat step 4, and make sure to tap the bottom of the pot also.
6. With the plant out of it’s old pot carefully loosen any visible roots by gently scraping the edges of the soil/root ball with a hand. This may shed some soil so be prepared to add this old soil to the compost pile.
7. Put enough new soil in the new pot to raise the plant’s root ball to within ½” of the rim of the new pot.
8. Backfill the new pot with new soil making sure to occasionally pack the new soil around the plant’s root ball to ensure no air pockets exist.
9. Carefully finish filling the pot and place some of the soil over the exposed root ball.
10. Water the plant gently and keep it away from direct sunlight until it shows active growth.
In the garden if there are any plants you want to transplant now also is the time to do this, the process is about the same as indoor plant repotting. The difference is that you need only worry for air pockets in the planting hole and making sure to enrich the soil in the new location.
For those of you enthusiasts who like starting their garden plants from seed, now would be the time to start a few specific plants. The problem with February as a month is that April and May are so far off that most of the cold season plants don’t do as well when started now. But the slow-growing plants and the hot seasonal plants will need the extra head start. Some things to start from seed now include the following.
3. Slow-growing Herbs (Sage, Rosemary, Rue, Lavender)
4. Hot season leaf greens (Strawberry Spinach, Amaranth)
5. Slow developing annuals
You will likely need a heat mat to get your seed started and barring that you can set seeding flats or trays atop the refrigerator to mimic the soil warming of a heat mat. Once seeds emerge you should keep them in a sunny but warm location and keep a close eye on their development and watering needs. Until you see the emergence of the first true leaves refrain from using fertilizer, and keep watering to an as-needed basis with little excess to prevent fungal disease. Many a flat of seedlings has been lost to the notorious ‘Damping-Off’ a fungal disease that occurs when seeds are sown too densely and kept far too moist.
As a final note to today’s article it is a good idea to perform your major garden improvements now rather then later. The logic behind this is simple enough as the weather is both cool, acceptable and rains fall regularly enough to reduce post installation maintenance thus warranting the extra labor time. In short, it is easier to labor now then later when the heat is on and thus your rewards will both be greater but can be had at lesser overall effort.