Sunday, April 1, 2012

“Spring Shenangins!”

April has arrived, and today’s article is sponsored by the makes of the Chia pet who have a new product, the Chia Pundit, available in the likenesses of Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olberman! The spacious noggin planters allow you plenty of room to grow enough of whatever you prefer to feed a small neighborhood!
No, hold the phone that was not really a product but then again Chia pet did do an Obama and Clinton planter so who knows if they’re already brewing that up! Yes today is April Fools day and what could be a better way to highlight the date then to briefly talk about some odd garden devices that get a lot of press but have dubious value.

Topsy Turvy Tomato planter
This one looks great and all but it has one major problem, tomatoes don’t like wet foliage, and as of yet no average gardener can actually confirm the claim of bigger or better tomatoes. It’d be smarter and cheaper per plant to top-dress your beds with compost yearly, and plant your tomatoes an inch deep on the stem. additionally the claim of improved flavor and color by virtue of gravity is unfounded as the cellular-vascular system of most plants would inherently be pumping the good stuff right to the fruiting bodies anyway regardless of position.

Cow pots
Apparently someone somewhere thought making biodegradable pots out of cow manure was a good idea. While composted cow manure makes for an excellent source of soil replenishment, the cow pots seem a bit well much. The part that makes this odd is one has to ask, what do they use to clear out the plant pathogens and how exactly do they make the pots paper-like and firm?

Fertilizer Enhanced potting soil/ Garden soil
This is complete corporate shenanigans, I’m sure you have all seen that miracle grow commercial where they show this patch of terrible dirt and talk about how bad it is and how it will ‘Hold your plants back”. After the commercial talks about your soil and briefly about their product they go on to show a picture of a scraggly plant grown without their soil and a lush gorgeous plant grown with their soil.  The obvious scam here is that magically their peat-based fertilizer laced soil with stuff to aid in moisture retention will solve all the problems. The truth is good quality soil shouldn’t need integrated fertilizers or moisture retention product to produce those results.

Extended Control Pesticides/Herbicides
I’ll admit I don’t have much use for pesticides or herbicides except in the case of handling poison ivy, fire ants or the rare wasp/hornet’s nest that is in a bad location. However the real issue with the extended control products is the lack of extended control. For example in the industry it is a well known fact that a pre-emergent herbicide stops doing it’s job the moment the surface it its applied to is scratched or otherwise physically disturbed. Extended control pesticides and herbicides are the same, they stop working the minute the surface they are applied to changes. So spraying leaf litter beside your house for insects becomes useless the moment the leaves are blown away. Up to 6 months indeed, and the herbicides are no different but of course the makers of these products generally do not warn you of the exact things that counter their product’s strengths.

Chemical Industry ‘Problem Solver’ Books
Yes Ortho we mean you, you’re the worst offender, though Miracle Gro, and a few others are equally guilty. Obviously these books are good for their color pictures of the weed disease or pest problems. The books are bad in that apparently the solution to every nuisance no matter how trivial is to buy and use only their products

However today at LITFM, we are talking about preparedness.
As the weather grows warmer, and the rains will be come less frequent now is the bet time to start your last batch of slow-developing plants for summer and your most heat tolerant spring food plants such as lettuce. The gardeners reading this in more northern climates fortunately have more time to start their cool-season plants. Seed starting aside, now is an excellent time to transplant your seedlings to larger pots in preparation for their placement outside.  There is one phenomenon to note that occurs as a side effect of the act of transplanting seedlings. Your seedlings if grown expressly under a humidity dome will likely wilt when the dome is removed after transplanting, if watered well after transplanting then this form of plant-drama will pass.

Seedlings aside we all know the garden centers are brimming with vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruiting shrubs.  We as responsible urban farmers should pay more attention to the USDA’s last frost dates for spring which vary by region as noted below.

Last Spring Frost Date:
  1. In the north Mother’s day or about May 15th. (New Jersey)
  2. In the south: Easter or about April 14th. (North Carolina)

 And lastly remember to enrich your soils before plant, with compost or some sort of composted manure product in direct proportion to your soil use in the winter. If you grew winter crops, then use more enrichment to put back what you took out, and in respect merely top-dress as needed if you did not. Tilling is not a necessary process if you have an established bed but may be useful for building a new bed during the first addition of organic materials.

Just some events to note, on May 12th is the Urban farm tour, I’ll have a booth and of course you can expect some cool stuff for sale and freebies!  In the next edition of Lost in the farmers market I will be talking about the annuals you thought you knew. As always if any of you readers out there have a question or want to request a topic be covered feel free to post a comment or request it at the neighborhood grange meeting. Lastly for you grangers reading this, a full list of plants for sale at urban farm day will be available at the meeting. Thank you again for reading, keep ‘em growing!

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